History of the Cathedral



The Latin Catholic Apostolic Vicariate of Istanbul

The Catholic Parish of the Latin Rite of the Nord Sector of Istanbul

Served by the Secular Priests of the Vicariate until 1989

And by the Salesian Fathers of Saint John Bosco since Sunday 8th November 1989.


1846    BUILT UP IN THE HONOR OF THE HOLY SPIRIT by His Exc. Mgr. Julien Hillereau, Ap. Vic.

1865    COMPLATE RESTAURATION AFTHE THE FIRE by His Exc. Mgr. P.  Brunoni, Ap. Vic.

1875    CONSECRATED by His Exc. Mgr. A. Grasselli, Ap. Vic.










Our Cathedral, built in Roman style in 1845-46, has been the See for ten years, from 1934 to 1944, of the Apostolic Delegate Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who later became Pope with the name of John XXIII. and in 2016 has been canonized. His portrait, on the left of the cathedral was painted in 2000, when his name was given to the street behind our cathedral.

This cathedral is the main spiritual center for the Latin Catholics of the Vicariate of Istanbul, who is the Pastor (Apostolic Vicar – Bishop) of the Latin Community.

The Holy Spirit Cathedral gave a warm welcome to four popes, whose names are written on the commemorative plaques on the church walls.

A historical crypt is located under the central part of the cathedral, where among others, were buried Archbishop Mons. Julien Hillereau, who was the founder of the cathedral, musician Donizetti Pasha, the first conductor of the Imperial Band of the Sultan and Francesco della Sudda Faik Pasha, the imperial pharmacist. The painting which is behind the altar in the center, was painted in 1867 and represents the descent of the Holy Spirit.  This holy event gave its name to the Basilica Cathedral since its consecration on 5th July 1846.


This article has been written by J. Lazian for the occasion of the centenary of the inauguration of the Holy Spirit Cathedral, appared on the “Le Flambeau” magazine in June 1947:



The image which was published on the top of the original article


The Holy Spirit Cathedral

Among those who were enough lucky to across Taksim’s large square with its monument erected by Canonica, in order to reach the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, no one lived till today to see the actual limit of the city. Beyond it, there were green fields of the countryside where you could only see cemeteries; the Latin one and the Armenian one, Sourp-Agop’s Hospital, Harbiye and Artigiana’s barraks: a retirement home for seniors built in 1839. An innkeeper from Bologna called Jean-Baptiste Pancaldi who was settled in this area, gave his name Pancaldi to the actual great suburb as “Pangaltı”.

It’s in this deserted land that His Eminence Hillereau, who predicted that the city would encroach on the countryside, bought a large piece of land to build a church by the name of the Holy Spirit.

It was in 1846. This date should be kept in mind since it announces the start of the foundation of our Basilica-Cathedral, and also because it’s the starting point of the organization of the diocesan clergy of Istanbul who had been represented just by the passing priests, serving in the Apostolic Vicariate, embassies, notable families,  as chaplains or private tutors.

In 1782, His Eminence Fracchia from Genova bought from the Capuchin friars, the Saint George’s Church in Galata which became the Vicariate’s first church and cathedral. But since the believers left Galata to go to Pera, his succesor, His Eminence J.B. Fonton, from the Order of Friars Minor Conventual who became the Apostolic Vicar in 1799, moved his see to the Holy Trinity Church which was bought in 1802 from the Austrians and then gave it to the Armenian community in 1857.

Neither Saint George’s Church nor the Church of the Holy Trinity were parishes.

His Eminence Hillereau chose his coadjutor in the person of His Eminence Vincent Cassel who replaced him after his death. The latter would later on become the builder of the church.

On 5th July 1846, which was the date of the fifth Sunday after Pentecost, the bells of the new Holy Spirit Church were calling the believers to come to the ceremony of consecration which Mr De Bourquenay, the ambassador of France attended too. The next day the church was nominated as parish. The its limits were more or less the same as today, even after some modifications done in 1910 by His Eminence Sardi who established also Our Lady of Lourdes Church as a parish.

After a year, the parish gathered already 213 families which meant 949 souls. Its first parish priest was Father Jacques Barozzi, an eloquent preacher but also a doctor in utroque jure, a theologian and famous linguist.

After His Eminence Hillereau requested to Pope Gregoire XVI for sending to the Catholics of the city the relics of Saint Crispin the Martyr, who were solemnly carried and put on the altar of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows’.

Monsignor Hillereau was still the head of the Vicariate when Pius IX ascended to the throne of St. Peter, and whom the Sultan Abdulmecid had sent an envoy to congratulate him for his election, charging Monsignor Ferrieri, archbishop of Sida for going to the Sultan in order to present him his thanks and the gifts sent to him by the Holy Father.

A year after, in 1855 he died from cholera. His Exc. Mons. Hillereau had made build another church by the name of the Holy Name of Jesus’s or Saint John Chrysostom’s Church. His body rests in the crypt of the Church of the Holy Spirit.

Chosen to be the Apostolic Vicar, His Eminence Mussabini, the Archbishop of Smyrne who’d rather not be responsible of his new mission in order to only devote himself to his diocese, found himself dealing with the question about the foundation of the Institute of the Sisters of Sion. Father Theodore Ratisbonne declared his intention to create a boarding school in the building which was initially supposed to be the Bishop’s residence before it was rented to the Sisters of Charity. Since the latter accepted to give the building to the Sisters of Sion, they started directing the boarding school in 1857.

In 1885 Mons. Paul Brunoni, the Apostolic Delegate in Syria, was sent to Turkey as Apostolic Vicar. He could become the Apostolic Delegate only 10 years later. He had a very difficult episcopacy, maybe because of the form of weakness which he had as a consequence of an excessive kindness. From his time  still remains the construction of this beautiful church of Kadiköy, a total restoration of the Church of The Holy Spirit in which a great sound heard during the day of The Immaculate Conception in 1865 triggered worries concerning its solidity. The difficulty of gathering funds for this reconstruction, plus the difficulty to find workers after the epidemic of cholera became an extremely hard task for His Exc. Mgr. Brunoni. He could finally start the prayers of blessing on December 31st, 1865 wearing his liturgical ornaments in the presence of numerous parishioners whose amount doubled through those years.

Appointed as the Patriarch of Antioch and Honorary Canon of Saint Mary Major, His Eminence Brunoni was replaced by His Exc. Mgr. Joseph Plyum, a Dutch man from the Congregation of the Barefoot Clerks of the Very Holy Cross of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

A big disaster happened in the territories of the Apostolic Vicariate on June 5th, 1870. Around 2pm, a house got on fire in Valide-Cheshme. About 5 hours later 1/3 of the suburb of Beyoglu burned down. At that moment His Exc. Mgr. Pluym was at the Church of the Holy Spirit for the first vespers of Pentecost. He was told that Saint John Crysotome’s Church and the adjacent house of the Apostolic Delegation were in danger. Ağa Cami was a total blaze. Indeed the church was swallowed by fire. Only the holy objects, the sacerdotal and episcopal vestments and the most precious ritual objects were saved. Nothing was left of the Episcopal Residence and of the great and rich library. There were about 1000 victims. Rome also participated to the Government’s and the town council’s help and His Eminence Plyum gave money from his personal fortune without hesitation. Fourteen Nuns of the Charity strove to relieve the unfortunate victims of the disaster.

We owe to Monseigneur Pluym the Parishioner Girls’ School held by the Sisters of Sion but also the Boys’ School led by the Brothers of the Christian Schools. The latter was popular for a short time but lost its prestige when another school was opened in Taksim. The school’s doors were closed from 1914 to 1919 during WWI and then were re-opened until 1940 when it was definitely shut down. Mgr. Pluym had to exercise his mission particularly in difficult circumstances: indeed, his Episcopate was darkened by the schism of anti-hassounistes and by the extreme poverty of the Vicariate, especially after the fire.


He died on January 12th 1874 and was buried in the crypt of the Holy Spirit Church next to his Emminence Pluym. He was the one who consecrated the Holy Spirit Church with the presence of Mr Bourgoing, the Ambassador of France. And that moment Father Antoine Galibert established the principal altar made by an artist named Poirson. In the sepulcher of the altar, the relics of several saints like St Lino, the pope and martyr but also the first successor of Saint Peter, Laurent (martyr), Sébastien, the captain of the praetorian guard of Diocletian, and Saint Crispino are kept. The church was nominated Cathedral on January 20th, 1876.

Later Mgr. Galibert was chosen as the Bishop of Santorin. His Eminence Grasselli laid hands on him, assisted by His Eminence Hassoun and His Eminence Marengo, the archbishop of Athens. Father Dacus became the new parish priest and his very popular appearance is still remembered today. It is thanks to his memoire that we have all the interesting details of this story of the Vicariate today of one century long.

In 1880, Mgr Grasselli was called back to Rome. As he was admired for his erudition and loved for his amiability, his departure caused unanimous regrets. Fifty cars followed his car to Tophane where he embarked on the ship of the Embassy of France which had to carry him to the former Austrian Lloyd.

His successor, Mgr. Vincent Vanutelli did not stay long. As an excellent diplomat, he was nominated internuncio to Brazil two and a half years later of his arrival. But this short period was marked by diverse measures among which some of them were meant to be for a long time; such as the erection of the parish and the entrustment of the churches of Kandilli and Vaniköy to the secular priests, the definitive liquidation of the question of anti-hassounistes and the opening of Saint Louis Boys’ School which later became a seminary.

If you look up to the coffered ceiling of the basilica which reminds us of the churches of Rome, you will see the coat of arms of the Papacy, those of the Vicariate and also the coat of arms of the builders of the church: His Eminence Hillereau and His Eminence Brunoni. It is thanks to His Eminence Louis Rodelli’s initiative who came in 1883 just after His Eminence Vanutelli that we have these decorations made in 1884 and if you read the archives you are told that they’ve costed 20 Turkish pounds! At the same time Father Dacus endowed to the church its pulpit. His Emmience Rotelli’s passage was due to the renovation work of Saint John Chrysotome’s chapel where the translation of his relics, the improvement of organs, the consecration of the Church of Prinkipo and the foundation of the Greek-Catholic school Sympnia.

The Apostolic Delegates were passing by. In 1887 His Eminence Rotelli was named Nuncio in Paris. Rome chose his successor: His Eminence Auguste Bonetti, a Lazarist and Superior of the Mission in Salonika. We did not forget this man whose righteousness was worth everyone’s respect. He endowed to the Church of the Holy Spirit its new organs, which costed 15.000 francs, and this purchase was widely done from his own wealth.

I am of those who still remember the inaugural ceremony and the magnificent speech that in this special occasion a dearest Rev. Fr. André did, the former Superior of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus. It was during the time of His Eminence Bonetti that Salesian Fathers came here and opened this Monastery of the Prayer, called the Carmel, where we silently love God and we make the souls capable of rising over the human poverty to also love Him.

Then there was a series of events to which the Church of The Holy Spirit joined through special ceremonies: the jubilee of Léon XIII for the twenty-fifth anniversary of his crowning; his death which announced through the sounds of all the churches’ bells, from ten o’clock in the morning and for half an hour at noon and after the Evening Angelus; the election of Pie X when the Vicar-general, His Eminence Borgomanero who replaced His Eminence Testa after his death. Mgr Borgomanero’s nomination was announced to the Sultan and the Sultan put him in charge to transmit to the Pope his congratulations and expressed his satisfaction for the loyalty of the Turkish Catholics.

March 31st 1900. Mgr. Dacus was finishing his long charge by a pious death. He left nothing except 284 pounds which he bequeathed to the poor. He loved his parish and gave his functions as Vicar-general that His Emimence Bonetti had thought of giving to him. It is one of his successors, abbot Ammiragli that we owe the ring bell of the cathedral. About four years after His Eminence Dacus, His Eminence Bonetti was called by God. During three days the clergy, diplomats and believers paraded in front of the corpse of the Pasteur of the Diocese as a last tribute of their worship. In his testament he did forget neither the Cathedral, nor the poor people of Salonika, nor the local population, nor the institutions of charity nor the Little Sisters of the Poor whom he was appreciating in particular. The burial ceremony was a real appearance of respectful sympathy: all the authorities were represented there; the diplomatic corps was present as well as the leaders of the all religious communities, not only the catholic faithful. A double detachment of French sailors and different religious leaders gave honor too.

Seven months passed by before the arrival of His Eminence Jean Tacci Porcelli at the beginning of 1905. This Delegate embodied peace and the gentleness. I had the chance of reading a very emotional letter that he wrote to a priest from whom he had received a little bit precipitated resignation. The priest removed his resignation. Who can resist to his extreme kindness?

His Eminence Tacci led the ceremony of the fifteenth centenary of Saint John Chrysostom’s death. He was nominated as nuncio in Brussels in 1908, he did not have time to achieve his projects in the diocese.

At the arrival of Mgr. Vincent Sardi, on June 28th, 1908, big reforms were settled. Mr. Sardi was a restless and energetic man who enjoyed action and discipline. Besides he was a distinguished Latinist. I am happy for mentioning this pastor, whose appearance may seem a bit severe because for him duty was a priority, but in fact he was a comprehensive and paternal person, and I can, without a doubt, attribute this work in honor of his memory.

Mgr. Sardi had as a priest His Eminence Roch Collaro who afterwards named synodal examiner, Camérier and Prelate servant of His Holiness, apostolic protonotary and finally Vicar-general.

We owe to Mgr. Sardi a decree which minutely adjusted the religious ceremonies; the preparation through a committee the texts of catechism in the diocese in French, Italian and Greek; the printing of the new diocesan calendar, the publication of a weekly “The Bulletin of the Apostolic Vicariate” and the reform of the religious hymns. He reinforced the executive frame of the priests and got from Rome the title of minor Basilica for the Church of the Holy Spirit and set up the Chapter of the canons.

On January 11th, 1913 the internal skeleton of the bell tower, the woodwork supporting the bells started catching fire and it was destroyed together with the clock which was on the tower. A repair was required because of this accident and this was an opportunity to start the transformations in the cathedral that you can see currently. The stalls and the benches made out of oak were endowed to the church; and also the electricity was settled.

Several changes had occurred; His Eminence Braggiotti died; His Eminence Guillois was ordinated priest and His Eminence Borgomanero had been replaced by His Eminence Pompilj.

When Pie X died, His Eminence Sardi was still here but not for a long time, he was about to leave. The “Bulletin of the Apostolic Vicariate” published his beautiful farewell letter to the diocese and three months later, His Eminence Angelo Maria Dolci came to the Apostolic Delegation. Meanwhile the ceremonies organized for the election of Benoît XV were led by His Eminence Pompilj.

Mgr. Dolci was a very fine diplomat. He arrived here at the sounds of the canons which the rumbling was audible all over Europe. It was during war. He did his best to obey to the will of the Pope.

To soften the horrors he started the work hard to lighten people’s suffer regardless their race or religion and sent donations to the Turkish fighters, intervened to get the freedom of the political captives and to supply news of the prisoners to their families. Thus it is not surprising that everyone, even those who were not Catholic, joyfully responded to the idea to raise a statue of the Pontiff of Rome: benefactor of the humanity… This statue was set up on December 11th, 1921 in the courtyard of the church in presence of the authorities of the diplomatic corps and the big crowd of believers.

The fortification of the tower lasted for two years.

But the war had come to an end. It was necessary to thank God for the long expected peace. And on June 5th, 1922, with the recent International Eucharistic Congress of Rome (on May 25th, 1922) took place with the permission of the authorities, the magnificent Eucharistic procession, which grouped about 10 000 Catholics, ended with the blessing of The Very Holy Sacrament, first given outside and then in the Cathedral. We should  not forget the extra height of the bell tower, endowed with the new bells which His Eminence Dolci consecrated on January 14th, 1922, neither the naming as vicar-general of His Eminence Cesarano who replaced His Eminence Pompilj who left for Smyrna, where he died as the Apostolic Visitor, nor His Emminence Nicolas Carichiopoulo’s coronation, as the Bishop of Chio.

Mgr. Dolci stayed about nine years and it was a record. Thus it was not surprising that he was sent as Nuncio in Romania. His successor, His Eminence Ernesto Filippi stayed for a short time. One year after the departure of His Eminence Dolci, His Emmience Angelo Rotta arrived as the Apostolic Delegate. It was him who led the Coronation of His Eminence Filippucci, archbishop of Athens, assisted by Mgr. Roncalli, Apostolic Delegate in Bulgaria, and by Mgr. Nazlian, Visitor of the Catholic Armenians and Administrator of the Patriarchate. He inaugurated the workroom and endowed the church with iron doors and stone stairs leading to the court, gave His Eminence Guillois the functions of Chancellor and after leading the day of the

Priestly jubilee of Pie XI, was sent to Hungary where he was named Nuncio. Mgr. Charles Margotti who succeeded to His Eminence Rotta is the personification of what our current time considers as things of museum. This distinction does not exclude either simplicity or kindness. His Eminence Margotti was simple and good while remaining a great Bishop. He added just like his predecessors, some stones to the building. We owe him certain codifications of laws which interested ecclesiastical life, for whom he summoned a synod. It is him who preceded to His Eminence Cesarano’s coronation, the bishop of Manfredonia.

His Eminence Margotti’s departure gave us in 1935 the paternal and friendly Pasteur: His Eminence Angelo Roncalli. A man with an extended culture, smart spirit, charming conversationalist, skillful negotiator and, with all this, a really priestly soul. His Eminence Roncalli conquered everyone’s heart with his extreme kindness and his charity during the last war, to relieve as possible as the miserable ones with their pains and fears. He did not stop asking God to protect their land from the plague while making a public wish to raise up a silver statue of Saint Antoine of Padoue if he would intercede.

He wished to accomplish this desire himself if the circumstances would allow. He declared it before his departure to Paris where he was named as Nuncio two years ago.

Speaking about the successor of His Eminence Roncalli: His Eminence Alcide Marina, I need to announce his next departure to Beyrouth where he will be Nuncio. But these are nowadays things; it’s not the history yet.

After another centenary someone else will read this little article on “Flambeau” which is dear to our Catholics who need it. On its columns you can read the notes of Istanbul’s Vicariate which are appreciated. His Eminence Mgr. Marina left here more than a superficial memory: the long-lasting imprint of which is capable those charming souls with their kindness elevated with their humility and with their faith.

So, the co-workers of God followed one another and, as Saint-Paul said to the Corinthians: on the foundation which is Jesus Christ, one built, another one will still build. May the building of the Church of Istanbul be a building of gold and precious stones: may the work of each be shown in the light of the happy immortality so that pastors, priests and believers whose modest feather quickly tried to tell what they have accomplished during a century and tried to fix at least for a while the memories in the glory of God, they may receive their recompense.