The Festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary


Dormition of Blessed Virgin Mary from the Nave of Chora Church of the Redeemer, Istanbul

Today the Church worldwide celebrates the death of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  it is referred to as the Dormition or Assumption of the Virgin Mary.  The picture is of a mosaic in the Narthex of the ancient Byzantine Church in Istanbul, Turkey.

Mary is shown dead on her bier.  Behind her stands Christ holding her soul, represented as a baby in swaddling cloths.  Over Christ’s head hovers a six-winged seraph.  Around stand the apostles, evangelists and early bishops.

Mary accompanied Jesus during his ministry, was there at the cross as he died.  After Jesus’ ascension she is mentioned as being with the disciples as they prayed in the upper room.  Presumably too she was with them at Pentecost as described in Acts chapter two.   We know very little about her life after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, her son.

Mary may well have come to live in Ephesus, Asia Minor, in the first century with the Apostle John.  Through the ages Mary has been much revered in what is now modern day Turkey.  Mary is depicted in the ancient churches throughout Turkey.

One of the bible readings for today is from Revelation.  It is an alternative account of the birth of Jesus written by the Apostle John.

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.

​ A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.  Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.  (Rev 11:19-12:6, 10)

Collect for today
Almighty God,
who looked upon the lowliness of the Blessed Virgin Mary
and chose her to be the mother of your only Son:
grant that we who are redeemed by his blood
may share with her in the glory of your eternal kingdom;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen


Florence Nightingale – Born 12 May 1820 – International Nurses Day 2020

Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910)

This is a re-post of the original article on Florence Nightingale as today in celebration of the 200th anniversary of her birth today has been declared as International Nurses Day.  For further information

In this time of the Covid19 pandemic emergency hospitals in UK have been named after Florence Nightingale.  Highlighting the importance of her life work in establishing nursing as a recognised profession.

There are hospitals in Turkey named after Florence Nightingale. She is known in Turkey because of her contribution to nursing reform and the establishment of sanitary hospitals which began when she had a leading role in setting up the hospital where soldiers wounded during the Crimean war were nursed. Her hospital was established by the British Army in Selimiye Barracks[1](Selimiye Kışlası), Haydarpaşı, Istanbul. In the aftermath of this experience Florence Nightingale contributed much to the training of nurses, the establishment of sanitary hospitals and barracks.


The Anglican Church commemorates the life of Florence Nightingale on 13 August, the day she died in 1910. She was born in Florence, Italy on 12 May 1820 and named after the city of her birth. Her parents were on a three year tour of Europe when she and her sister were born. Florence’s father inherited his fortune from an uncle who had owned a lead mine and country estates. Florence’s paternal grandfather had been a Sheffield Banker. Because of his rich inheritance Florence’s father didn’t need to work so he was able to introduce his family to fashionable places in Europe, they also owned two mansions in England – Lea Hurst, Derbyshire and Embley Park in Hampshire. During ‘the season’ they also stayed in London. The Nightingales were part of a large extended family that they often met with for parties and social events.


In the 19th century a wealthy family like Florence Nightingale would help with education and medical care or nursing of the sick or dying in their area. During her life-time Florence Nightingale was involved in teaching in local schools near her parent’s home. She would also go with her mother to take food to those who were sick or dying.


One story is told about her tending to a sheepdog called Cap. This probably happened when she was about 6 years old near Embley, the family home. The then vicar, Jarvis Trigge Giffard, of the local Anglican Church, St Margaret’s, East Wellow attests to the story. Cap, a shepherd’s collie, was discovered by Florence on the downs near Embley. The account says that:

‘Stones thrown by schoolboys had broken his leg, and the shepherd had intended to put him out of his misery by hanging him. However, with the guidance of the local vicar, Florence administered to the wounded animal, placing hot cloths as fomentations to reduce the swelling, thereby saving his leg and ensuring that Cap would continue as a working farm dog.’[2]


From this and other incidents during Florence Nightingale’s early life it became clear to her that she found great pleasure and satisfaction in caring for others who were sick and needy. As she grew older she became increasingly dissatisfied with her life of family parties, visits to London and travel abroad. In the 19th Century a woman of Nightingale’s social background was not expected to be educated or have a profession. Women of her class were expected to be accomplished in music, drawing and caring for a household but definitely not engage in nursing or hospital management.


Florence Nightingale’s family were Unitarians, but they would often worship at a local Anglican Church if there wasn’t a Unitarian Chapel nearby. Florence’s paternal grandmother was a devout Anglican who although married to a Unitarian continued to worship according to the Anglican tradition. This grandmother was devout and would say her prayers upon rising in the morning and again after lunch. Florence recalled many years later how:

‘We children,… knew that grandmother went up to say her prayers & we could hear her voice in the passage, speaking to God with such passion and earnestness – as if he were in the room, which he certainly was.’[3]

It seems that nominally Florence Nightingale would remain an Anglican although she ceased to attend church regularly as early as her thirties.


Her first sense of vocation, of God calling her to serve was on 7 February 1837 when she was only 16 years old. She recounts how ‘God spoke to me and called me to His service.’[4]This sense of calling would sustain her for many years. Her sense of vocation and calling continued to develop. Particularly at a retreat in Rome and while visiting Egypt her sense of vocation grew and developed.  During the retreat in Rome and at other visits to the Convent[5]she spoke with the Madra Santa Colombe who led the convent:

“Listening sympathetically to what Florence told her of her life at home, she had responded: ‘It is no good separating yourself from people to try and do the will of God. That is not the way to gain his blessing. What does it matter even if we are with people who make us desperate? So long as we are doing God’s will, it doesn’t matter at all.’”[6]


At the end of the ten day retreat Florence Nightingale recorded in her journal the following dialogue with the Madre:

‘MADRE: Did not God speak to you during this retreat? Did he not ask you anything? FLORENCE: He asked me to surrender my will.

MADRE: And to whom?

FLORENCE: To all that is upon the earth.

MADRE: He calls you to a very high degree of perfection. Take care. If you will resist you will be very guilty.’[7]


Florence and the Bracebridges returned home in 1850. Some months after their return Florence began to feel that she had never been away and she felt the old aimlessness assert itself. She wrote to her father: “‘Everything here is in statu quo atmosphere like a warm bath …,’”[8]


During a visit to Egypt in 1850 she had a moment of spiritual and intellectual epiphany which Bostbridge describes thus:

‘The lesson she derived from this was clear. God makes laws which mankind breaks, and man’s evil, equated with his error, is a necessary agent of the teaching through which God will bring each and every one of us to perfection.’[9]


These spiritual experiences during her life, coupled with meeting others interested in changing hospitals, schools and sanitation helped to prepare her for her future role in the nursing world in Britain and the world. In July 1851, while the Bracebridges were at a nearby spa, taking a cure, Florence Nightingale went for two weeks to Kaiserswerth where she observed their hospital, school and the way that nursing care was offered in a protestant context.


Her first real opportunity to work in the Nursing world was in 1853 when she was appointed the Superintendent of the Institution for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen, in Harley Street, London. This gave her the opportunity to put into practice what she had observed in hospitals in Europe and develop her skills as an administrator that would be so important during her time at the Military Hospital in Selimiye Barracks, Istanbul. In order to take up the position in London, she not only had to be appointed by the management committee of the hospital but also have her father’s expressed permission. He agreed for her to take up the appointment and committed to paying her an annual allowance of £500.   There was much family discussion and opposition to this move but eventually her family agreed to her taking the job as Superintendent.


The Crimean war broke out in March 1854. In October of 1854 Sydney Herbert, the Secretary of State for War asked Florence Nightingale to lead a nursing mission to Selimiye Barracks[10].   Very swiftly nurses were appointed and arrangement made for thirty-eight nurses, Florence Nightingale and the Bracebridges to accompany the group to the Military Barracks on the Asian side of the Bosphorus opposite to what was then known as the City of Constantinople. In the eighteenth century the barracks were in an area known as Scutari. The modern name is Selimiye or Haydarpaşa.


The barracks is still in use as a military establishment and stands proud overlooking the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea. There is still a Museum there in memory of Florence Nightingale’s role in nursing the British Soldiers who fought in the Crimean War.


When the women arrived at the hospital they set about cleaning and making shirts. The promised supplies had not arrived and proper food was not available. Eventually Florence Nightingale and her nurses brought order to the situation and were allowed by the army doctors to go into the wards and nurse the men. It was vital that Florence Nightingale won over the medical staff in order that they could work together effectively. It was during her time as nursing superintendent at the Scutari hospital that Florence Nightingale became known as the lady with the lamp because of her use of a lamp when she visited the wards to check on the men at the dead of night. Florence Nightingale returned to Britain in August 1856, she was revered by the British public as the Lady with the lamp who had cared for the sick and wounded soldiers and greatly improved the mortality rate.


On returning to London she used her experience and influence to bring about changes in hospitals and sanitation in military barracks. She was well respected and had an amazingly wide influence. Her determination to fulfil God’s calling on her life to serve was fulfilled not only in the results in better patient care for the sick and wounded from the Crimean War but in the years that followed when she studied reports, made recommendations and campaigned for change. She went on to write her Notes for Nurses and to set up a school for nurses.


God has created us all in his image and has a vocation that only we can fulfil. Let us take heart from the way Florence Nightingale struggled to understand her vocation and then fulfil her calling in the face of strong opposition to her parents and older sister. Her family did eventually support her in the call to go and provide good nursing care to the soldiers in the Crimean War and they were very proud of her success in fulfilling the government’s commission of October 1854. The world is a richer place because of women like Florence Nightingale who wrestle with God and follow his leading in their lives.


Prayer inscribed by Florence Nightingale in her copy of St Thomas A Kempis’ book:

‘What will happen to her, O God, I do not know;

all I know is that nothing will happen that You have not ruled,

foreseen and ordained from all eternity …

I make my sacrifice one with that of Jesus Christ my saviour.’[11]

[1]Often referred to as Scutari.

[2] Mark Bostridge, Florence Nightingale: The Woman and Her Legend. (Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition),  p. 46.


[3]Ibid p.32.

[4] Ibid p.54

[5] During her visit to Rome with Mr and Mrs Bracebridge in 1847/8. The Bracebridges would also accompany Florence to Istanbul when she worked at the hospital in Selimiye Barracks.

[6] Bostridge op cit p.120

[7] Ibid p.121

[8] Ibid p.122

[9] Ibid p.137

[10]These barracks are often referred to as ‘Scutari’ in modern Turkish they are referred to as the Selimiye Kışlası – which might be translated as the Sultan Selim III Barracks,

[11] These were the words of Madame Elisabeth, sister of Louis XVI, as she awaited execution as a prisoner in the Temple during the French Revolution. Using these words Florence submitted herself to the will of God. Idib p.210


Copyright © 2020 Rev Ros Wilkinson

Introduction to Christian Women in Turkey

Over the years I have been fascinated by the History of the Christian Church in what is now modern day Turkey.  In the first century Christian churches were established in many parts of what was then Asia Minor and is now Turkey.  The Apostle Paul was born in Tarsus and had a formative role in the establishment and development of the newly formed Church in Antioch (modern day Antakya).  The Apostle Paul visited many parts of Asia Minor and established Churches in Iconium (Konya), Atallia (Antalya) Ephesus (Efes) Troas (Truva) and other cities.

Turkey, because of it’s past history could be referred to as the ‘Other Holy Land’.  The Acts of the Apostles describes how The Apostle Paul, who was born in SE Turkey, travelled throughout Turkey and established churches in Konya (Iconium), Antalya and other ancient cities.  The Apostle Paul wrote letters to the Christians in Galatia and Ephesus and Colossae which are all in present day Turkey.  The Apostle John starts his Revelation with letters written to the seven churches which are again all in modern day Turkey.  The Apostle Peter wrote his first letters to people living in ‘…the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bythynia’ (1 Peter 1:1).  These provinces are all in what is now modern day Turkey.
Turkey is a country rich in Christian history.  Christians were first given the name of Christian in Antioch (Antakya) in SE Turkey.  The first century church was established in Turkey as well as the Holy Land and other Mediterranean countries.  The Apostle John moved from Jerusalem to Ephesus which is a ruined city on the west coast of Turkey.  He probably brought with him Mary the mother of Jesus and possibly Mary Magdalene.  After the Apostles died the church continued to grow and develop in Turkey.  St Polycarp was martyred for his faith in the year 156.  St Polycarp had known John the Apostle and his death marks the end of those who know the Apostles.  Other important figures in the early church such as The Cappadocian fathers also lived in central Turkey, in Cappadocia.
Constantine the great established his capital in what is now Istanbul in 330.  Constantine’s mother, St Helena, was from Bythinia, a Roman province in what is now Western Turkey.  Prior to Galerius’ (30 April 311) and Constantine’s (13 June 313) edicts Christians had been persecuted.  From 313 Christians were no longer persecuted for their faith.
Important councils of the early church were held in Turkey: Nicea (325 Iznik), Second Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople (381 Istanbul), Ephesus ( 431 Selcuk)  Chalcedon (451 Kadikoy).
Turkey was the home of Constantinople, Byzantium.  The Byzantine Empire came to an end when Istanbul was conquered on 29 May 1453 by Mehmet the Conqueror.   This marked the beginning of what is known as the Ottoman Empire that ended with the establishment of the modern Turkish Republic by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923.  Ataturk established the new republic as a secular state.
This book will look at Christian Women who lived in Turkey during New Testament Times, the early Church, pre-Constantine and in post-Constantinian Byzantium, the Ottoman Empire and in the early and later years of the Turkish Republic.  At the time of writing in the 21st Century there is a growing Turkish Protestant Church as well as the ancient churches.
The women you meet in the pages of this book will hopefully convey something of what being a Christian woman was like down the ages.  It will portray a group of women who were products of their age who lived out their faith in the context in which they found themselves.  Inevitably there are some women that have been left out but the author hopes that you will enjoy the selection and find the lives of these women inspirational and enlightening.


Over the next months I will be posting some little snap shots of the women who I will be focusing on.  I hope those who read the snapshots will eventually want to purchase the finished book and read for themselves, in greater detail about the lives of women in the 20 centuries since the church first came into being in Asia Minor.

Copyright © 2018 Rev Ros Wilkinson