City in Thrace, European Turkey, 102 miles north of Constantinople. The name signifies in Turkish "forty churches."
Kirk-Kilisseh is an ancient Greek city, and it contained no Jews when Sultan Murad II. conquered it in 1436. Archbishop Melissinos Christodoulo relates that in 1674 Sultan Mohammed IV., after having taken Bessarabia from the Poles, brought a large number of Jews from Kaminiec to Kirk-Kilisseh, where he placed a garrison of 2,000 spahis. The descendants of these Jews are called "Eskenazi," which seems to prove that Kirk-Kilisseh originally contained Jews of Spanish-Italian origin, if one may judge from their names—Mitrani (from Trani in Italy), Rodrigue, Castiel, Ḥasdai, and Shaprut. The oldest epitaph in the local cemetery, dated 5423 (=1663), is that of a rabbi, Abraham Molina, originally from Uskup.
During the Turco-Russian war of 1877-78, the Jews of Kirk-Kilisseh joined with their fellow citizens, and with the Jews from Yambol who had taken refuge in the city, in bravely defending the place against the attacks of Circassian pillagers.
At present the community numbers about 1,000 Jews in a total population of 15,000. It possesses an ancient synagogue, two schools containing 200 pupils (boys and girls), two benevolent societies, and a reading-room.
Kirk-Kilisseh being very rich in vineyards, the Jews, like their fellow citizens, are engaged in the autumn in wine-making. During the remainder of the year they follow different trades. Three Jews of the city are officials of the local government.
At Lule-Burgos in the neighborhood of Kirk-Kilisseh there are sixty Jewish families, and at Baba-Eski ten families.
- Melissinos Christodoulo, ΠεριγραΦη 'IστοριογραΦικη 'Eπαρχιας σαραντα 'Eκκλησιων, Athens, 1881.