The Ephorate of Antiquities of Chios delivered lessons in respect for history and its rise, giving the local community of the island and its visitors a renovated, emblematic Ottoman monument of the city, the Hamidieh mosque, also known as Bayrakli mosque.

It is a small neighborhood mosque, one of the so-called mejits, that is, neighborhood prayer places, built according to the inscription at its entrance in 1892 with the sponsorship of Sultan Abdul Hamit II, also known as the “red sultan”. Since the Armenian genocide took place during his time.

So in this religious Muslim space connected to the Armenian genocide, after the Treaty of Lausanne and the departure of the Muslim Turkish element from Chios, a numerically large family of Armenian refugees was housed on the island. The Kioskerian family.

And it is particularly moving to read the history of people on the walls of a building, when it turns into a palimpsest monument of the history of an entire city. Because as she says Olga Vasi, archaeologist head of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Chios at APE BEEon the occasion of the renovation of the Hamidiye mosque “during the excavation that preceded the restoration, the history of the site, the history of the neighborhood of the fortress was read”.

The Hamidie mosque is located inside the fortress of Chios, a place that is identified with the ancient city of Chios and all its later periods. Large parts of it are built of ancient architectural members, while the part that faces southeast, that is, towards Mecca, steps on a building remnant from which an ancient inscription was walled in the past and which was believed to be the rest of an arch of a Genoese Catholic church that, bibliographically data were placed at this point. However, this case was not confirmed, just as the existence of a “myth” in the economic history of France, the flamboyant Jacques Kerr, who lent money even to the French king and who died in Chios, injured during a trip from Genoa in Chios. So Jacques Kerr died and was buried in the Genoese Catholic Church that was supposed to be under the Hamidie Mosque. During the excavation a grave was found but it was not the grave of the French tycoon but a simple grave and nothing else.

Of particular value in the “reading” of the monument, the initials S.K and G.Z carved on a stone on the floor of the church’s exonarthex belonging to Stavros Kioskerian of the refugee family who lived in the mosque and to his friend Giorgos Zymarakis, later a well-known painter . Together with the recorded testimony of the refugee Nouritsa Kioskerian who talks about the settlement of both the mosque and the area by the refugees of Minorasia and her family who made pastourmades, which she hung to dry on the railings of the exonarthex.

The mosque in implementation of the Treaty of Lausanne was sold by the Exchangeable Property Fund managed by the National Bank to a refugee family. At some point due to debts of a family descendant, it was transferred to Ionian Bank which merged with Pistois Bank and which in turn became ALPHA BANK. In 2010 – 2011, the Bank, given that the mosque had been declared a protected monument, donated it to the Ministry of Culture, whose department in Chios prepared the relevant restoration study. The latter was financed in 2018 and the implementation of the project began, which was completed with delays due to the measures to combat the corona pandemic.

The Hamidiyeh mosque did not have a minaret like all places of worship in the category of medjit, but an exterior. During the renovation work, large parts of the interior decoration were reconstructed, the exterior was systematically preserved, while the inscription with a passage from the Koran above the alcove of the mosque that “looks” towards Mecca and which refers to the Virgin Mary and the visits to that of High Priest Zacharias in Solomon’s Temple. There, according to the Christian scriptures, the High Priest found food that was brought to her cell by the angel of the Lord and according to the Koran, it was sent by God.

The project entitled “Reuse of Hamidie Mosques in the Castle of Chios” was included in the Special Purpose Development Program for the Northern Aegean 2017-2020 of the Ministry of Economy and Development and was implemented with accountability and self-trust by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Chios, with a budget of 400,000 euros. The mosque has been classified as a protected monument (Government Gazette 386/B/15-4-1999) and according to the original design, it will now be used as a place of culture and a shelter for cultural activities.

Already, since the beginning of the week, the Ephorate of Antiquities of Chios, in collaboration with the Artistic Organization DIO, is organizing the exhibition “The Past is a Foreign Country” with 12 invited artists from Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Iran and Cyprus. Through their works, the artists reflect on the palimpsest stories of the island and examine cross-border cultures, collective traumas and forms of healing.

The exhibition will last until the end of August, and will operate simultaneously in two places, in the Hamidiye Mosque and the Ottoman Baths (which are also located inside the Castle of Chios). The exhibition will also be accompanied by an extensive public program with screenings, talks, performances, guided tours and educational activities throughout its duration.