Step by step history: Samatya

Not much, only forty to fifty years ago, a large section of the district of Koca Musta Paşa expanding over to the shore was named Samatya. This name came from Psematia, which meant sandlot. Formerly a storage point for sand, it got this name due to the sand obtained from the shore. To the south of this district are city walls which used to be taller but got damaged in time.


Currently known to the young generation only due to nostalgic television series or store signposts, Samatya was once one of the most colorful districts of İstanbul. When Samatya is in question, the Samatya Square is worth mentioning above all. Below the train station which we know as the historical gate of Samatya, the square is right in front of us. Fish stalls and pubs are lined up along both sides of this broad square, which smells of history. 
Develi Restaurant, a location associated with Samatya, is right ahead. The square links five streets to each other and looks like as if all streets of Samatya are flowing into it. 
Up the steps to the left is the now closed-down Polis Headquarters of Samatya. The building which, as a resident told us, was also a police headquarters during the Ottoman era serves the Police Department now. The slope up ahead leads us to Mehmet Akif Primary School. 

Let us also mention Sen Cinema, which currently serves a company as one of its offices, as we pass through Orgeneral Nafiz Gürman Avenue which is parallel to Samatya Square. Winter and summer cinemas were the sole source of entertainment available to residents of Samatya before radio and television were introduced. The hospital which used to be Samatya Social Insurances Hospital is located on the same avenue too. 
There are two structures in Samatya which were built by Architect Sinan. The first one Aga Bathhouse, which on this very avenue we are in. Aga Bathhouse is now a link of a big market chain. The exterior is covered with marble and its historical structure has been disturbed. The interior does not reflect the original either.

“Ate and Drank Mosque"
At the top of the slope, we see the second work of Architect Sinan on Marmara Avenue. This is Abdi Çelebi Mosque which has gone through some repairs and restoration. Some call it the “as if I ate and drank” mosque.


Abdi Çelebi Mosque

The story of this name is as follows: In the past, the poor and needy would save up money by cutting down on their food and beverage expenses to build a mosque in their district and they would say “It is as if I did eat”. For example, one would not purchase apples even if he loved to eat them. Instead this person would add this money he would otherwise spend on apples to the money he saved for building a mosque, say “It is as if I did eat apples” and sufficient amount of money would eventually be saved and a mosque built.
The Surp Kevork Armenian Church, a nice example of interreligious friendship, is located past Abdi Çelebi Mosque. The interreligious understanding of the past and today can be seen in the ringing bells and the sound of azan blending into each other as well as the people who see the deceased to their final destination from these two places of worship regardless of what religion they are a member to. The Surp Kevork Church is the first patriarchate of the Armenian Community.

The Surp Kevork Armenian Church on the left and Abdi Çelebi Mosque on the right

Armenian Patriarch. Remaining the church of the patriarchate until 1641, it is still open to religious service.

A public bazaar has been opened on Marmara Avenue each Saturday for hundreds of years. The Children’s Office, which used to be Çınar Police Headquarters, is located at the end of the avenue. The Fatih Branch of Association of Support for Modern Life which teaches many youngsters a lot of skills and prepares them for life is also located here.

Other notable locations of the district include the mosques of Ramazan Efendi, Etyemez, Hacı Kadın; Anarat Higutyun Armenian Catholic Primary School, Sahakyan Nunyan Armenian Primary and High School; Kocamustafapaşa Primary School and Samatya Church which serves the Syriac community.

The frequent fires that hit Samatya throughout history and the earthquake of 1894 prevented the historical works of this district from surviving destruction. And the several remaining wooden buildings, unfortunately, turned into concrete within the last 50 years of urbanization the district has gone through.