Between ritual and restoration: Remembering and reclaiming Ionia's religious architectural heritage
Following the Balkan Wars, the First World War, the 1919–1922 Greco-Turkish War, and the 1923 mutual and compulsory Population Exchange between Greece and Turkey, millions left their towns and villages behind and their homes, schools, and religious buildings were re-used by incoming refugees from the other side or were left in ruins. In the last two decades, a number of old church buildings across Anatolia have been reused, on the initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as sites of sporadic or periodic religious services. During the same period, many of these buildings have been restored as cultural centers. A range of stakeholders were involved in these two processes, including the local authorities, religious bodies, and professional experts, all pursuing their own priorities and interpretations. How do rituals—in the form of religious services—and restoration activities become entangled in competing relationships with buildings and with the past? The situation in the Izmir region offers insights into the complex involvement of space, matter, form, and ritual in the making of meaning and heritage, and can inform discussions about the legacy of the Population Exchange and heritage preservation in regions overridden by antagonistic nationalisms and uncontrolled development.