The word 'Relic' has different meanings :
an object surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical interest.
a part of a deceased holy person's body or belongings kept as an object of reverence.
a person or thing that has survived from an earlier time but is now outmoded.
It mostly known as with the meaning which is related with religion. I can't say those objects we share are religious objects but ' Relic' was the right word for us as those objects has an emotional value. They are not precious antiques, but they all have a story behind. Here in this section we would like to give you some information about our family relics and how we kept them until now.
Collecting and keeping old objects are not for everyone. Most of the people throw away them and replace them with new ones. That's why there are flea markets all over the world, and people who like to visit those markets and buy something.
Collecting and keeping are totally different. You can keep the collection of your grandfather or hairpins of your mother but that doesn't mean you are a collector. But of course if you have an interest in collecting you can continue and extend. That's what we did for some items in our heirlooms. For example : Coins. But for the other items such as shoes, pins, keyrings, brooches...we just saved them.
Of course many things threw away by mistake which upset us. But as a habit in our family we saved most of them. Also as we started to create this e-museum, we've talked with each family member to share those heirlooms.
Fez of Liborio Sanzoni, The Lace Pattern Book of Ashen, Baptise Cross of Sofia are one of the oldest heirlooms in our archieve which dates to 1910s.
It's really a perfect feeling to have, touch the Fez of the father of your grandmother. Liborio Sanzoni, the Italian ancestor of our family wore this Fez until November 1925. After the establishment of Turkish Republic, many reforms have been made in Turkey and wearing modern hats was one of them. Until that time, as Turkey is a cradle of civilizations, people from different religions, communities wore different hats to show themselves. The Fez also had different styles which showed the status in public. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk wanted to change this, and his idea was to have one kind of hat to be used.
Another heirloom in our family e-museum is the Lace Pattern Book of Ashen, the Armenian mother of Aleko Vafiadis. This book is one of the unique heirlooms in our archieve, as it's created by Ashen. She learnt to knit lace when she was 7 years old. The book has two tomes and contains nearly 250 different lace models. Ashen knitted those laces in the book in 75 years, from 1908 to 1983.
Ashen sewed those laces on special papers by herself and on 1983 her grandson Stavros Vafiadis rebinded them as books. On the tomes it writes ‘MODÈLES DE DENTELLES FAIT MAIN’ that means ‘Models of Handmade Lace’.
The good feeling with this heirloom, our family members used this book as a pattern book and after years they knitted many things.
Next heirloom in our archieve is the baptism cross of Sofia. It dates to 1920, made from nacre (mother of pearl ) and a silver Christ on it.
Baptism is a new path to a new life in Christianity, with a new name. When a baby borns they don't give a name and wait nearly for 6 months until baptism ceremony. This is not something we can do in Turkey as we have to inform the baby in one month for identity card. But the tradition continues in Greece. Anyway, after the baptism ceremony the godmother gives a cross to baby. We also have the baptism cross of Stavros Vafiadis with his name on it in our family relics.
The baptism cross of Sofia has an emotional meaning for us, as Sofia was one of the most memorable person in our family. Also the design of cross and its production date make it unique to save in better conditions.
There are also other heirlooms in our archieve, that has a story behind. Have you ever seen the pen that your ancestors signed their marriage certificate ? Most probably you will say no, and we know that it's hard to see. We were lucky because our family kept this set for many years.
Our grand ancestors Hurmuzios and Ashen married in 1920s and they've said 'YES' each other by signing the marriage certificates with the pen in the middle on the left photograph.
This set includes a pen and its holder, a letter opener and a bookmark. It has been made from nacre ( mother of pearl ) . As this is the second item that made from nacre, let's explain what nacre is. Wikipedia says that; Nacre also known as mother of pearl, is an organic-inorganic composite material produced by some molluscs as an inner shell layer; it also makes up the outer coating of pearls. It is strong, resilient, and iridescent.
This nacre set has been made in Jerusalem, so it also had a spiritual importance for Ashen and Hurmuzios Vafiadis. Maybe its one of the reason that they wanted to sign their marriage certificates with this pen to add a spiritual meaning. On the pieces of set you will see a red eyed dove probably stand for the holy spirit. Also on penholder you will see sculptured flowers.
As we've talked about Hurmuzios and Ashen, let's continue with another heirloom belongs to them, but now with a meaningful story.
On 19 January 1960, one of the main characters of our museum, our great ancestor Hurmuzios Vafiadis died at age 64. The reason of death was heart attack. Hurmuzios lived a good, rich life but had to survive with many difficulties. Conscription of Twenty Classes, Wealth Tax, 6-7 September 1955, also the difficulties during WWI and WWII. After his death his wife Ashen was too upset and she mourned for him a lot.
On the right you'll see, a golden framed nacre brooch with the photo of Hurmuzios on it. Ashen had this brooch made for his memory and wore until her death.
Old times, old people... Even mourning styles changed nowadays... Actually Greeks and Armenian widows wear black until their death to show their sadness for their husbands. The brooch is quite strange as it’s not a known tradition. It's one of the precious heirlooms in our collection as it has a romantic, emotional story behind.
As we've mentioned the date '6-7 September 1955' above, we would like to share an object in our e-museum which is related with this sad day : The Survivor
Our grand ancestor Hurmuzios was an important collector in 1920s and well known in Istanbul by auctioneers. As we know, before an auction they called Hurmuzios to show the objects, antiques to ask him if there is anything that he would like to have.
The plate on the left was a part of a big Chinese vase which has been bought from those auctions. Unfortunately we've never seen this vase, also we couldn't find it in photographs. As we know, during 6-7 September 1955 the house of Vafiadis in Ortaköy has been attacked by racists. Some assailants entered the house and broke down the objects around. The vase was broken, but the plate was safe.
After those days, this plate became one of the important objects for our family, as a survivor. It reminds us those days but also shows us to be a survivor among bad days.
Those are not the only heirlooms in our e-museum. We are still searching for more objects, wares and we accept the heirlooms from all our family members. If they don't want to share we just ask for a photograph of the object to keep in our e-museum. For more heirlooms please check the 'Family Relics : The Gallery' which updated regularly.
Written by : 2mi3, November 2018