It is with great joy and excitement that we welcome You to the new Asia Minor Civilisation Museum which has been established by the Board of Directors of the Holy Shrine of Saint John the Russian, funded mainly by NSRF, with the financial support of the Holy Shrine, and is permanently hosted in the thoroughly refurbished and appropriately converted building hitherto used as a pilgrims’ guest house.
Here are displayed everyday’s life relics and artefacts, which, through indescribable difficulties and extreme dangers, were brought to our land by the unjustifiably persecuted residents of Prokopi, Cappadocia in Asia Minor, after the Asia Minor Genocide against the Greeks and the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne.
Great awe overwhelms the observing and thinking visitors and pilgrims who realize that, the once wealthy refugees from Prokopi, decided to take in their very limited allowed luggage on this mandatory journey with no certain destination the relics of Saint John, gospels, chalices and icons, the testimonies of life and faith and they left many other valuable belongings behind, in their unforgettable homeland, from which they were so savagely uprooted..
Here, therefore, my dear and welcomed visitor, you are not simply seeing salvaged artefacts and fragments of a remarkable civilization which among other things, echo crucial historical events.
Here, you stand in front of a testimony of the soul. In order to understand it, knowledge or historical research or the study of archaeology and art is clearly not enough. Here, in this place, which is an extension of the House of God, the church of Saint John, a different approach is required and taught.
Enter with the utmost respect and fear of God. Stand respectfully. The holy Grace, which abundantly pours out to the heart, will guide You. It will initiate You. It will reveal to You mysteries and secrets previously unseen and unheard of.The greatness of Faith. The true beauty of life.
I entrust and leave You to that grace.
With all my love and honor,
The Metropolitan Bishop Chrysostomos of Chalcis, President of the Board of the H.Shrine
Hellenism in Prokopi of Cappadocia has a history of approximately 2,200 years. Starting from the 4th century BC the interior of Asia Minor, which includes Cappadocia, was gradually hellenized. The spread of Hellenism in the area of Cappadocia and the hellenizing of the local population and civilization came as a result of the conquests made by Alexander the Great and the establishment of the Greek States of his Heirs. Since that era, Hellenism in the area has been continuous and dominant in every aspect, demographic, financial and cultural. Nonetheless, a long period of Turkish occupation of the region resulted in the decline of the Greek presence, starting from the end of the 11th century to 1924 when the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey took place as dictated by the Treaty of Lausanne.
Prokopi (Ürgüp) is a small Cappadocian town. The name Ürgüp is the Turkish version of the Greek name of Prokopi. The town itself is situated on a plateau, 1,200 meters above sea level by the river Halys. The climate in the area is dry, with heavy and freezing winters accompanied by frequent snowfalls and hot summers. In close proximity to the town were the granite and soft-stone mines, which were used in the building of the houses.
The town’s biggest part is built in an amphitheatrical way perched on two big rocks. On the summit of one of those rocks an old fort was situated, and as a result Prokopi was dubbed by the locals “the Castle” and the inhabitants themselves “Castlites”. The older houses were hollows, meaning carved inside the rock of soft-stone, which also happened in many other Cappadocian settlements. The more recent houses were often built above the ground on the rock. Most of the hollows were abandoned as the years went by and were replaced by houses above the ground.
The population was a combination of Muslims, Turkish speaking Greeks, Orthodox Christians and a few
According to an article published in the “Xenofanis” magazine in 1905, the Muslims of Ürgüp numbered 10,000 and the Christians 5,000 inhabitants. However, the Christians that arrived in Greece as refugees numbered 604 families which included 2,321 individuals. The town’s quarters were divided according to ethnic and religious groups. Thus, 5 Christian and 12 Muslim districts have been documented. Ecclesiastically, Prokopi was under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Caesarea.
The town had three parishes, St. George, St. Basil and St. John the Russian. The holy relics of the latter Saint, whose worship was widespread in the surrounding area including Christians and Muslims alike, were kept in the last of the three aforementioned churches. During the 19th century, in Prokopi a Greek school where peer tutoring was practised (allilodidaktikon, in Greek) operated and a girls’ school numbering 250 pupils in total. In 1904 both schools were upgraded.
From then onwards they operated as a Greek seven-grade secular school for boys with 230 pupils and a Greek six-grade school for girls with 120 pupils while a kindergarten was also established. Apart from courses in the Greek language, according to the Patriarchate’s curriculum, the children were also taught the Turkish and French languages from the fourth grade. Other courses included gymnastics, singing, handcrafts and accounting.
Thankfully, the citizens of Prokopi and of Cappadocia in general, did not experience the brutal expatriation from their fatherland, as did the Greeks of Pontus, Smyrna and so many other Asian Minor towns where an important number of Greeks also lived.
They were given the opportunity to transport some of their valuable belongings to their new homeland in 1924. The remains of Saint John the Russian kept them company on that refugee journey. . Most of the refugees (exchangeable populations) from Prokopi were driven to Evia, at the Mehmet Aga region, where they established a new settlement, which was named after their old home now left behind.
His Eminence the Metropolitan Bishop of Chalkis Mr. Chrysostomos, President
- Elias Papageorgiou
- Dimitrios Tzimokas
- Nikolaos Enotiadis
- Apostolos Balatsos
- Sofia Stergiou
- Vassilis Maisoglou
- Marianthi Kontogianni
- Konstantina Gourli
CONTRIBUTORS TO THE CREATION OF THE MUSEUM:
Museum study & design carried out by: Ilias Papageorgiou, antiquities and works of art conservator, art historian
Pantelis Feleris, antiquities and works of art conservator, museum designer
Maria Kontaki, antiquities and works of art conservator, museum designer
Graphics design & creation of the museum’s trademark: Phivos Papageorgiou
Creation of cabinets & exhibition equipment by: M+Y Glass Solutions
Building restoration by: EVOIKI TECHNIKI A.E. CONSTRUCTION COMPANY