Once Upon a Time in Sarıyer

Few residents of Sarıyer know the tomb of Sarı Er (Baba). Perhaps none know of Father Sarıyan.

From the script in the tomb:*

“ This beautiful district of Istanbul was once known as Sarı Er, named after  a soldier who  had taken part in the conquest of Istanbul and who was buried here. His tomb is in Hamam (Bath) Street, surrounded by green railings and overlooking the street. In more recent years, a three storey building has been erected over it. Sarı Er’s real name is unknown, but his tombstone is inscribed ‘His Holiness Sarı Er’. Over time, local residents have changed ‘Sarı Er’ to ‘Sarıyer’. ”

From ‘ İstanbul Tarihi – XVII. Asırda İstanbul (History of Istanbul – Istanbul in the XVIIth Century)’. **

“ In Keğam Kirkoryan’s (Sevan) Büyükdere Ermeni Kilisesi’nin Tarihi (The History of the Armenian Church in Büyükdere), Istanbul, 1948, pp. 23-27, there is a detailed account of the Sarıyar Armenians’ conversion to Islam, as recounted by elderly local residents. According to this source, while shopping in the Sarıyar market one day, a janissary from Rumeli Kavağı slaps an Armenian shopkeeper, who, in a violent rage, kills the janissary. Subsequently, the Janissaries launch an attack on the Armenian district and its church. Meanwhile, Father Sarıyan, the church priest, escapes and takes shelter in the Patriarchate. Soon afterwards, a janissary who is friendly with the Armenians, warns them that the janissaries are planning a night attack to kill them. Hereupon, the Armenian village elders go to the Chief of the Janissaries. In return for his protection, he requires them to convert to Islam. In order to save their lives, they are forced to accept this condition. A few days later, unaware of the circumstances, Father Sarıyan returns to the village and tries to convert the Armenians back to their former religion. When this is heard, he is assaulted and seriously injured. He, too, accepts Islam but does not survive his injuries and dies. He is buried next to the bath in the market. His tomb has become a place of pilgrimage as the lodge of Sarı Baba. We think the name Sarıyar comes from the Father’s surname.”

* Gürel, Şevket; İstanbul Evliyaları, İstanbul 1998, s. 250. Ünver, Prof. Dr. A. Süheyl; İstanbul’un Mutlu Askerleri ve Şehit Olanlar, Ankara 1976, s. 102.

** Eremya Çelebi Kömürciyan, İstanbul Tarihi – XVII. Asırda İstanbul, Tercüme ve tahşiye eden: Hrand D. Andreasyan, Yeni notlarla yayıma hazırlayan: Kevork Pamıkciyan, İstanbul, 1988, s.268. 

See also: Elmon Hançer, Boğaziçi Ermeni Cemaati ve Kiliseleri, Geçmişten Günümüze Boğaziçi, İstanbul Büyük Şehir Belediyesi, 2008, s.275-277.

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