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Largest Byzantine monastery in Istanbul to be converted into mosque

Largest Byzantine monastery in Istanbul to be converted into mosque


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In a move that has attracted significant criticism and controversy, the St John Stoudios (Imrahor) Monastery in Turkey, the largest Byzantine monastery in Istanbul, will be converted into a mosque and its name changed to the İmrahor İlyas Bey Mosque.

The Monastery of Stoudios, also known as the İmrahor Monument, was built in 462 AD and is one of the oldest surviving monasteries in the country. Historically, it was the most important monastery of Constantinople (modern day Istanbul), the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, and its laws and customs were used as models by the monks of Mount Athos in Greece and many other monasteries of the Orthodox world.

“I wouldn’t like to speak as a member of a council but my personal opinion is that cultural heritage shouldn’t be reflected as an antagonistic heritage. If we reflect it like this, it will damage societies on a macro level,” said Laki Vingas, acting as representatives of the Directorate General of Foundations.

Vingas added: “My personal view is that when you are trying to create a new vision you should be careful not to create new problems for the future.”

The monastery is currently in a state of ruin and the conversion will take place after it is restored. The renovation of the building, follows the same fate as that of other churches in Trabzon and İznik, which have already been turned into mosques.

The conversion of a building from the worship of one religion to the worship of another religion has attracted significant controversy over the centuries. Many believe that a place of worship should be retained for its original purpose and historical significance, while others maintain that if a building is in ruin and unused it is better to be restored and used for another religion than to be left to rot.

The conversion of non-Muslim places of worship into mosques occurred primarily during the life of Muhammad and continued during subsequent Islamic conquests and under historical Muslim rule. As a result, numerous Hindu temples, churches, synagogues, the Parthenon and Zoroastrian temples were converted into mosques. Several such mosques in Muslim or ex-Muslim lands have since reverted or become museums, such as the Hagia Sophia in Turkey and numerous mosques in Spain.

However, Muslims are not the only ones to carry out such conversions. There were many occasions of non-Christian places of worship being converted into churches in the early history of Christianity, which continued during subsequent Christian conquests and Christianization, many involving the destruction of pagan temples.


    Largest Byzantine monastery in Istanbul to be converted into mosque - History

    Click to read the article in Turkish

    Following a Presidential Decree that foresees the opening of Chora Museum to worship as a mosque, the images of Jesus Christ, frescoes and icons in the museum have been covered up with a white curtain.

    Located in today's Fatih district in İstanbul, the building was constructed as a monastery in 534 during the Byzantine period. After İstanbul was taken over by the Ottomans in 1453, it was converted into a mosque in 1511, just like Hagia Sophia in İstanbul. Serving as a mosque for 434 years, it was converted into a museum by a Council of Ministers decree in 1945, after the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923.

    İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İMM) Vice Secretary General Mahir Polat has announced it on Twitter, indicating that "the covering of frescoes and mosaics of the Chora, one of the masterpieces of the world history of art, will destroy the character and artistic value of the building."

    Polat has compared the before and after of the Chora in two pictures, attaching the note, "The project [is undertaken by] the ministry and its institutions that manage and protect the cultural heritage of Turkey."

    Dünya sanat tarihinin baş yapıtlarından Kariye fresk ve mozaiklerinin kapatılması ne yazık ki yapının karakterini ve sanatsal değerini öldürecek vasıfısızlıkta.

    Solda eski hali, sağda yeni hali. Proje Türkiye kültür mirası yöneten ve koruyan bakanlık ve kurumları. pic.twitter.com/ijItpmLxCz

    — Mahir Polat (@mhrpolat) October 27, 2020

    Contents

    The complex is placed in Fazilet Sokağı, in the district of Fatih, in a popular neighborhood which got its name (Zeyrek) from the Mosque, and less than one km to the southeast of Eski Imaret Mosque. It is picturesque but (as of 2007) decayed and dangerous in the night hours.

    Byzantine period Edit

    Between 1118 and 1124 Byzantine Empress Irene of Hungary built a monastery on this site dedicated to Christ Pantokrator ("Christ Almighty"). [1] The monastery consisted of a main church (which became the katholikon, or main church, of the monastery [2] ) also dedicated to Christ Pantocrator, a library and a hospital. [3]

    After the death of his wife, shortly after 1124, Emperor John II Komnenos built another church to the north of the first dedicated to the Theotokos Eleousa ("the merciful Mother of God"). This church was open to the population and served by a lay clergy. [2] Finally (the terminus ante quem is 1136 [4] ) a south courtyard and an exonarthex were added to the complex, [2] and the two shrines were connected with a chapel dedicated to Saint Michael, [5] which became the imperial mausoleum (heroon) of the Komnenos and Palaiologos dynasties. [1] Besides many Byzantine dignitaries, Emperor John II and his wife Eirene, Empress Bertha of Sulzbach (also known as Eirene, and wife of Manuel I Komnenos), and Emperor John V Palaiologos were buried here. [3] [ dubious – discuss ]

    During the Latin domination after the Fourth Crusade, the complex was the see of the Venetian clergy, and the icon of the Theotokos Hodegetria was housed here. [6] The monastery was also used as an imperial palace by the last Latin Emperor, Baldwin. After the Palaiologan restoration the monastery was used again by Orthodox monks. The most famous among them was Gennadius II Scholarius, who left the Pantokrator to become the first Patriarch of Constantinople after the Islamic conquest of the city. [7]

    Ottoman and Republican period Edit

    Shortly after the Fall of Constantinople the building was converted into a mosque, and the monastery was converted for a while into a Medrese. [8] The Ottomans named it after Molla Zeyrek, a scholar who was teaching there. [8] However, due to its importance in Byzantine history, Zeyrek was one among the few buildings of Istanbul whose ancient denomination was never forgotten. Among others, the church of Pantokrator is remembered by Pierre Gilles in his classic work about Constantinople, written in the sixteenth century. After the completion of the Medreses in the Fatih complex in 1471, the students abandoned Zeyrek, [9] and the rooms of the monastery occupied by the Medrese vanished later. [3]

    Until a few years ago, the edifice was in a desolate state, and as a result it was added to the UNESCO watchlist of endangered monuments. In recent years it has undergone extensive (albeit still unfinished) restoration. [10]

    Today Zeyrek Mosque is - after Hagia Sophia - the second largest extant religious edifice built by the Byzantines in Istanbul.

    To the East lies the Ottoman Konak (Zeyrek Hane), which has also been restored and is now open as a restaurant and tea garden.

    The masonry has been partly built adopting the technique of the recessed brick, typical of the Byzantine architecture of the middle period. [11] In this technique, alternate courses of bricks are mounted behind the line of the wall, and are plunged in a mortar bed. Due to that, the thickness of the mortar layers is about three times greater than that of the bricks layers. [12]

    The south and the north church are both cross domed with polygonal apses having seven sides, and not five as was typical in the Byzantine architecture of the previous century. The apses have also triple lancet windows flanked by niches. [1]

    The southern church is the largest. To the East it has an esonarthex, which later was extended up to the imperial chapel. The church is surmounted by two domes, one over the naos and the other over the matroneum (a separate upper gallery for women) of the narthex. The decoration of this church, which was very rich, disappeared almost completely, except for some fragments of marble in the presbyterium and, above all, a beautiful floor in opus sectile made with colored marbles worked in cloisonné technique, where human and animal figures are represented. [13] Moreover, fragments of colored glass suggest that the windows of this church were once made of stained glass bearing figures of Saints. [14] The mosaics of the interior, representing the apostles and the life of Christ, were still visible - although defaced - in the 18th century. [15]

    The imperial chapel is covered by barrel vaults and is surmounted by two domes too.

    The north church has only one dome, and is notable for its frieze, carved with a dog's tooth and triangle motif running along the eaves line.

    Close to the Mosque is placed the small Şeyh Süleyman Mescidi, a small byzantine building belonging also to the Pantokrator Monastery.

    As a whole, this complex represents the most typical example of architecture of the Byzantine middle period in Constantinople. [1]


    What has the reaction been?

    Unesco has said it "deeply regrets" the decision to turn the museum into a mosque and called on the Turkish authorities to "open a dialogue without delay."

    The organisation had urged Turkey not to change its status without discussion.

    The head of the Eastern Orthodox Church has condemned the move, as has Greece - home to many millions of Orthodox followers.

    Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said it was an "open provocation to the civilised world".

    "The nationalism displayed by President Erdogan. takes his country back six centuries," she said in a statement.

    The court ruling "absolutely confirms that there is no independent justice" in Turkey, she added.

    But the Council of State, Turkey's top administrative court, said in its ruling on Friday: "It was concluded that the settlement deed allocated it as a mosque and its use outside this character is not possible legally."

    "The cabinet decision in 1934 that ended its use as a mosque and defined it as a museum did not comply with laws," it said.

    The Church in Russia, home to the world's largest Orthodox Christian community, immediately expressed regret that the Turkish court had not taken its concerns into account when ruling on Hagia Sophia.

    It said the decision could lead to even greater divisions.

    While the move is popular with conservative religious supporters of President Erdogan, Turkey's most famous author, Orhan Pamuk said the decision would take away the "pride" some Turks had in being a secular Muslim nation.

    "There are millions of secular Turks like me who are crying against this but their voices are not heard," he told the BBC.


    Turkish court ruling paves way for Hagia Sophia to be turned into mosque

    A Turkish court paved the way Friday for the former Byzantine cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul to be turned back into a mosque.

    Turkey’s highest administrative court ruled July 2 to revoke the 80-year-old decree that declared the sixth-century building a museum. The ruling was announced July 10.

    Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to make the final decision on whether Hagia Sophia will revert to a mosque -- a cause he has loudly championed.

    Christian leaders in the Middle East and Europe have spoken out in favor of maintaining the status quo at the historic site.

    Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said Turkish people have the responsibility "to make the universality of this wonderful monument shine," given that as a museum it is “the symbolic place of encounter, dialogue, solidarity and mutual understanding between Christianity and Islam.”

    Patriarch Bartholomew addressed the place of Hagia Sophia in his homily during Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Istanbul June 30, Fides news agency reports.

    Hagia Sophia belongs “belongs not only to those who own it at the moment, but to all humanity,” he said.

    The Eastern Orthodox Christian leader warned that converting it to a mosque “will push millions of Christians around the world against Islam.”

    “A threat against Hagia Sophia is a threat to all of Christian civilization, meaning our spirituality and history,” Patriarch Kirill of Moscow said July 6. He said the former basilica of Constantinople is “one of the biggest monuments of Christian civilization.”

    “What could happen to Hagia Sophia will cause deep pain among the Russian people,” said the Russian Orthodox patriarch.

    U.S. leaders have also objected.

    “The Hagia Sophia holds enormous spiritual and cultural significance to billions of believers of different faiths around the world,” U.S. Ambassador At Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said on Twitter June 25.

    “We call on the government of Turkey to maintain it as a UNESCO World Heritage site and to maintain accessibility to all in its current status as a museum.”

    Hagia Sophia, which means “Holy Wisdom,” was built in 537 under the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. For a time it was the largest building in the world and the largest Christian church. It served as the cathedral of the Patriarch of Constantinople before and after the Great Schism split Western and Eastern Christianity into Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

    After the Ottoman capture of Constantinople in 1453, the cathedral was converted into a mosque. Under the Ottomans, architects added minarets and buttresses to preserve the building, but the mosaics showing Christian imagery were whitewashed and covered.

    In 1934, under a secularist Turkish government, the mosque was turned into a museum. Some mosaics were uncovered, including depictions of Christ, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, Justinian I, and the Byzantine Empress Zoë Porphyrogenita.

    It was declared a World Heritage Site under UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. When the museum becomes a mosque, it is believed that the mosaics will have to be covered during Muslim prayers, as well as the seraph figures located in the high basilica dome.

    Turkey’s population of 82 million is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim. Non-Muslim minorities make up only 0.2%, and the Christian population is split among several Orthodox and Catholic Churches, as well as other groups.


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    Hagia Sophia Mosque, the glory of architecture in Istanbul

    The Hagia Sophia Mosque is one of the most beautiful and famous unique architectural symbols in Istanbul, as it is a living example of Byzantine architecture, and for about thousands of years this temple was considered to be the largest church in the world.

    Hagia Sophia became the largest church in the world and showed the world the cultural and religious value of Istanbul. After the conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453 by Sultan Mehmed II, the church was converted into a mosque, and it remained like this until it was converted into a museum after the proclamation of the Turkish Republic and Ataturk’s coming to power.

    In 1985, the UNESCO World Heritage Organization listed Hagia Sophia as a World Heritage Site.

    A quick look at the history of the Hagia Sophia Mosque in Istanbul

    The Temple was built by order of Constantine II, the Byzantine Emperor, in 360 AD, and Istanbul was then known as Constantinople, where it was the center of the Byzantine Empire.

    The church was named as the Hagia Sophia, but after a few years the fire broke out in the chuech and its surrounding areas, and the temple was badly damaged during this time. The Hagia Sophia was rebuilt in the sixth century, and was reopened to the public.

    In the year 405 AD, several sections were added, the most important of which were the five altars. In 532 AD, the Church was destroyed again due to the famous Battle of Nika, which destroyed the present Istanbul to the ground. Archaeologists later discovered the remains of Hagia Sophia to find the lower floors of the building, which are now open to the public.

    In the fifteenth century, after several years of war between Muslims and the Byzantine Empire, under the leadership of the Ottoman king Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror, Constantinople was occupied by Muslims. Constantinople became the center of the Ottoman caliphate and was renamed Islamabad, and four minarets were built and it was converted into a mosque.

    Under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Mosque has taken on a new shape in the new era, by turning it into a Museum.

    Hagia Sophia building in Istanbul

    The dome of this mosque is 56 meters above the ground and 33 meters in diameter. It is located on the four main pillars. The dome is considered one of the most important parts of this mosque that attracts attention even before entering it. The reason behind the high rise of the building was the tendency of the dome builders to show the concept of attachment and closeness to the sky and God.

    It should be noted that in the architecture of the Hagia Sophia mosque, the arches and columns are very beautifully coordinated, and the impressive four pillars, which resemble the base of the elephant, carry the four arches of the mosque including the dome.

    There are 40 windows nextin the leg of the dome in the mosque, where sunlight shines to the building and the dome is 18 meters deep.

    Another reason for the importance of Hagia Sophia is that the architect Sinan, one of the most famous architects of the Ottoman period, worked on it during the Ottoman era and rebuilt many parts of it. until the Hagia Sophia Museum has become a symbol of Istanbul and perhaps Turkey, and a source of pride for the Turkish people.

    If you visit this mosque, you will not only find a large hall of worship, as you will see a magnificent building consisting of various parts:

    The altar:

    It does not matter if you consider the Hagia Sophia a church or a mosque, in both cases the altar will be the most important part of it. To see the Golden altar, you must go to the southeast. There are candlesticks on either side of the altar, brought by the King of Hungary.

    The tiles:

    One of the highlights of the Hagia Sophia mosque is its elegant tiles that tell different stories. If you visit museum with a skilled tour guide, he will tell you all the stories behind these tiles. The most important part of these tiles is the part that was added to the building during the Ottoman era.

    The domes:

    Hagia Sophia Mosque has a famous dome, which is 55.60 meters high, and you will definitely feel its greatness when you stand under it. It’s good to know that this dome was destroyed several times by the earthquake, and has been rebuilt. We must also say that the main dome is made of brick and marble.

    The Minbar:

    The minbar is one of the pillars of mosques. It was built during the era of the Ottoman Empire. To see this minbar, you have to go to the right side of the mosque altar.

    The courtyard of the mosque:

    Hagia Sophia has a very interesting open air area, because the ablution area is located in the courtyard and tourists are always photographing in this place.

    Minarets of the Mosque:

    This mosque contains 4 minarets with attractive decorations and a height of about 60 meters.

    The tombs:

    In the Square there are many tombs of the Ottoman Sultans.

    How to get to the Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul?

    Now that you are somewhat familiar with this beautiful Museum, here are the ways to get to this famous building:

    What is the distance from Taksim Square?

    One of the most common questions travelers ask, is how far is the museum from Taksim Square and Istiklal Street? The two popular places are about 100 meters away and you can walk from Taksim Square to Sofia.

    • Going through the Istanbul Metro:
      The nearest metro station to Hagia Sophia is Marmaray Sirkeci Metro Station, which is 700 meters from the mosque and can be reached in about 5 minutes on foot.
    • Going through using the tram line:
      The nearest tram stop to Hagia Sophia is called Gülhane station, which is about 3 minutes’ walk away.
    • Address of Hagia Sophia Mosque in Istanbul:
      Turkey, Istanbul, Fatih area, Sultanahmet, Hagia Sophia Square, Hagia Sophia Museum

    Information about visiting the Hagia Sophia Museum

    Before visiting this Mosque, we recommend that you consider the following:

    The ticket price :

    For adults: 60 Turkish liras
    For children under 12 years: Free

    Visiting hours:

    From April 15 to October 30: 9:00 to 19:00
    From October 30 to April 15: From 9:00 to 17:00 visit to the Hagia Sophia Mosque
    The museum welcomes visitors and tourists every day of the week except for Monday

    Tourist attractions near the museum

    If you go to Hagia Sophia, you can easily walk to Topkapi Palace within 5 minutes’ walk. This museum is just a 10-minute walk from the famous Gülhane Park. The magnificent Sultan Ahmed Mosque or Blue Mosque is just a few steps away from this museum.

    Converting from museum to mosque

    On the tenth of July 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a resolution stipulating the cancellation of the Governing Council’s decision in 1934, which stipulated the conversion of the Hagia Sophia from a mosque to a museum, and thus it was opened to the public for the worshipers.


    Long-lasting influence

    Parts of the massive system of aqueducts and cisterns that provided Constantinople with water can be found in parking lots and along roadways, lining the sides of soccer stadiums and playgrounds, and sitting beneath carpet shops and hotels. A faded inscription under the eaves of a building, a telltale piece of brickwork, or a chunk of carved marble half-covered by weeds might be the only visible hint of a particular structure’s Byzantine past. But these hidden layers belie long-lasting influence.

    “The Istanbul of the Ottomans and of today both owe their existence to Constantinople and its transformation under the Byzantines from a sleepy trading post to a major city and imperial administrative center,” says Kutlu Akalın, a professor of late antique and Byzantine history at Istanbul Medeniyet University. Many key Byzantine sites and pieces of infrastructure retained their importance under the Ottomans and into the modern Turkish Republic, even as their appearance, use, and meaning was transformed. That process created the strata of history and culture that make Istanbul both fascinating and fraught.

    The site of the Hippodrome, where Byzantine crowds cheered their favorite charioteers and later Ottoman soldiers and horses trained for battle, is now a quiet park. The grand Fatih Mosque, named for the sultan who conquered Istanbul for the Ottomans, was built over the site where Byzantine emperors were buried centuries earlier. The roads of the Sultanahmet tourist district are still aligned to the Byzantine street plan.

    But there are also smaller continuities in daily life, according to independent historian Axel Çorlu, including much of Istanbul’s street food and its famed meyhane culture of boozy nights sharing small plates of food in tavern-like restaurants.

    “Every time a modern Istanbulite bites into stuffed mussels on the street, they’re basically eating Byzantine cuisine,” says Çorlu. “But I once ended up dumped on the side of the road by an angry taxi driver after telling him that the kokoreç [a dish of grilled intestines] he likes to eat was actually a Byzantine food.”

    Çorlu chalks up the driver’s response to an educational system and popular culture that often gives Turkish people an “us vs. them” sense of identity. Anything predating the Ottoman era is seen as “other,” if not downright pernicious. These kinds of attitudes, Çorlu and other experts argue, have led to the neglect of Byzantine-era monuments and the erasure of this critical historical era from the predominant story of Istanbul.

    “Turkey’s Byzantine heritage is an emotional matter that also gets projected onto contemporary politics due to its association with the idea of Ottoman conquest,” says archaeologist Alessandra Ricci, a professor at Istanbul’s Koç University. Many Orthodox Christian communities, the Greek one in particular, still feel a connection to the Eastern Christian capital of Constantinople. And although Greece and Turkey are neighbors and NATO allies, they’re also frequent adversaries, currently embroiled in a heated dispute over natural gas resources and maritime borders. “As a result, many Turks have difficulty embedding this heritage in their cultural understanding of the city,” Ricci says.

    As evidence, she cites the lack of Byzantine objects on display at the Istanbul Archaeological Museums. The city also failure to build a planned museum to house artifacts from 37 Byzantine shipwrecks discovered in 2005 during construction of a subway station.

    Other scholars note the erasure of Byzantine history during restoration work at various churches-turned-mosques. A prominent example is the former Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, an important monastic center built in the sixth century and today known as the “Little Hagia Sophia” (Küçük Aya Sofya) Mosque.

    “Too many of Istanbul’s Byzantine monuments, like Küçük Aya Sofya, have been overly restored within an inch of their lives, with no serious analysis or documentation done of what is discovered during the restoration process,” says Robert Ousterhout, a professor emeritus of the history of art at the University of Pennsylvania. “So we end up with a new mosque but don’t learn anything new about the building’s history.”

    Ousterhout spent nearly a decade studying and restoring the former Monastery of Christ Pantokrator (now the Molla Zeyrek Mosque) before political winds shifted. The restoration was halted from 1998 to 2001, then resumed for a time before the Directorate of Pious Foundations under Turkey’s current government took over the project in 2006.

    “We had argued all the way that this was a building that could be both be a functioning mosque and a historic site, restored with sensitivity toward its past and representing history in all of its messiness,” Ousterhout says. “But if you go into the building now, you see very little evidence that it was ever a Byzantine structure.”


    Byzantine Monuments Surviving in Istanbul

    This is a history, not a guide book. Readers visiting Istanbul may however like to know what monuments still survive from these early centuries of Byzantium. The following list is not absolutely complete, but it includes all monuments, or remains of them, that could conceivably be of interest to the non-specialist.

    *** Buildings of world importance, worth going to Istanbul to see.

    * Interesting, but too small or too ruined for the average short-term visitor.

    Unstarred items are ruins or vestiges, listed more for their curiosity value than anything else.

    This list would have been nowhere near as comprehensive as it is but for the encyclopaedic knowledge of Mr John Freely, whose Strolling through Istanbul (London, 1987) has been of invaluable assistance.

    Built by the Emperor Valens in 375 as part of his new system of water supply to the capital, bridging the valley between the Fourth and Third Hills. It was originally some 1,000 metres long, of which about 900 metres remain.

    Behind the mosque of Murat Pasha at the corner of Millet Caddesi and Vatan Caddesi, a number of vaulted chambers only recently discovered and thought to date from the sixth century.

    *** St Sophia The seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Church of the Holy Wisdom was first dedicated by Constantius, son of Constantine the Great, in 360. The present building is the third on the site, redesigned by Justinian after the Nika riots of 532 and dedicated by him on 26 December 537. There have been inevitable restorations, but the Great Church remains structurally much the same as in his day, the principal differences having been occasioned by it's conversion into a mosque after the Turkish conquest of1453.

    *** St Eirene Just inside the first courtyard of Topkapi Palace, the Church of the Holy Peace was one of the earliest Christian churches in Byzantium. Rebuilt by Constantine the Great or his son Constantius, it served as the patriarchal cathedral until the building of St Sophia nearby. Like the latter, it was destroyed by fire in the Nika riots but was rebuilt again by Justinian and rededicated in 537. Usually locked, but permission to visit can be sought from the Director of St Sophia. The rewards are great.

    *** SS Sergius and Bacchus Now a mosque known as Kucuk Aya-sofya, standing just at the point where the Hippodrome, if projected further along its present axis, would meet the Sea Walls. Begun by Justinian and Theodora in 527, it is therefore earlier than St Sophia or St Eirene.

    · St John of Studium Near the junction of the Land Walls and the Marmara, founded in 462 and thus the oldest church surviving in the city - insofar as it has survived, for it is now a ruin open to the sky. Of the famous monastery, perhaps the greatest spiritual and cultural centre of Byzantium, nothing remains.

    · Martyrium of SS Karpos and Papylos Just below the modern Greek church of St Menas, where it now serves as a carpenter's shop. A large circular domed chamber of brick, dating from the fourth or fifth century.

    · St Polyeuktos Beside the huge Sehzade Basi intersection just west of the Aqueduct of Valens, built between 524 and 527. A ruin, but an impressive one.

    · Theotokos in Chalcoprateia Of the once great and splendid fifth-century church there remains only the aspe and a length of crenellated wall beside Alemdar Caddesi, some 100 yards west of St Sophia.

    o ** The Basilica Cistern (Yerebatansaray) Built by Justinian after the Nika revolt in 532. The grandest and most beautiful of all the covered cisterns in the city, with 12 rows of 28 columns. Now magnificently restored, and not to be missed.

    o ** Binbirderek Off Divan Yolu to the left, about a quarter of a mile from St Sophia. The name means 'The 1,001 columns' there are in fact 16 rows of 14, the full height being some 14.5 m. The cistern may have been begun in the reign of Constantine the Great, though it was probably enlarged in the fifth or sixth century. Open to the public, but pitch dark, dank and filthy.

    o Open Cistern of Aetios On the Fevzi Pasha Caddesi, just short of the Mosque of Mihrimar. Built in 421 and measuring 224 m by 85 m, it has now been converted into a sports stadium.

    o Open Cistern of Aspar Immediately south-west of the Mosque of Sultan Selim I. Built in about 470 by Aspar, and covering 152 square metres, it is now occupied by a sunken kitchen-garden and farm buildings.

    o Open Cistern of St Modus In the Altimermer district. Built during the reign of Arcadius (491-518) and extending over 25,000 square metres, it is the largest of the early Byzantine reservoirs in the city. Now vegetable gardens and orchards.

    · Covered Cistern of Pulcheria Opposite the south-east corner of the Cistern of Aspar. The attribution is uncertain, but the date is almost certainly fifth or sixth century. Four rows of Corinthian columns. Not open to the public.

    · Covered Cistern of the Studium At the south-east corner of the outer precincts. Now a junk store, but quite impressive with its 23 Corinthian columns in granite.

    · Column of Arcadius On Cerrah Pasha Caddesi, in the second street on the right beyond the mosque. Only the plinth remains of the column erected in 402 by the Emperor, on the model of the Column of Constantine. Inside, a staircase leads to the top of the ruin, where a short length of the column (demolished in 1715) can still be seen.

    · Column of Constantine Erected by Constantine to mark the dedication of the city. Still standing, but in a sorry state.

    · Column of the Goths In Gulhane Park, behind and below the Palace of Topkapi. A granite monolith with a Corinthian capital, bearing the inscription FORTUNAE REDUCI OB DEVICTOS GOTHOS, 'To Fortune, Returned owing to the Defeat of the Goths'. Erected probably by Constantine the Great, but possibly by Claudius II Gothicus (268-70).

    * Column of Martian (Kiz Tasi) Some 200 yards south of the Fatih Mosque. Erected, according to the inscription, by the Prefect Tatianus in honour of the Emperor (450-57). It has since been credited by the Turks with the power of telling true virgins from false ones.

    Now known as At Meydani, this centre of popular life in Constantinople has preserved its essential outline, together with the central spina containing the Obelisk of Tutmose III (1549-1503 BC), the base of the Serpent Column from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and the rough pillar of stone which the inscription on its plinth compares, somewhat optimistically, to the Colossus of Rhodes.

    All that remains of this charitable foundation described by Procopius is a jumble of ruins (with a few reconstructed columns) between St Eirene and the outer wall of Topkapi Palace.

    * The Great Palace Built by Constantine the Great, it remained the principal residence of the Emperors until the Fourth Crusade in 1204. Little remains in situ except the ruins of the old marine gate of the Bucoleon, marked by three large windows framed in marble, now part of the Sea Walls. The fascinating **floor mosaics can be seen in the new Mosaic Museum.

    Palace of Antiochus Some 300 yards west of St Sophia on Divan Yolu, the ruins are all that is left of the palace of a great fifth-century nobleman. It was later converted into a martyrium for the body of St Euphemia of Chalcedon.

    * Palace of Romanus Some 200 yards south of the Tulip Mosque are the ruins of what was once the Bodrum (Subterranean) Mosque, previously a Byzantine church which formed part of the monastery of the Myrelaion. The huge rotunda below the terrace next to it was built in the fifth century as the reception hall of a palace, but never finished.

    Later it was roofed over and used as a cistern, on which the palace of Romanus was built.

    The oldest part of the walls which surround the city to the west of the Golden Horn dates from the time of Constantine but by far the greatest length - including almost all the present Land Walls - is essentially the work of Anthemius, Prefect of the East under Theodosius II, who completed them in 413. The Land Walls and those along the Marmara are continuous those lining the Horn have largely disappeared.


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    The complex is placed in Fazilet Sokağı, in the district of Fatih, in a popular neighborhood which got its name (Zeyrek) from the Mosque, and less than one km to the southeast of Eski Imaret Mosque. It is picturesque but (as of 2007) decayed and dangerous in the night hours.

    Byzantine period Edit

    Between 1118 and 1124 Byzantine Empress Irene of Hungary built a monastery on this site dedicated to Christ Pantokrator ("Christ Almighty"). [1] The monastery consisted of a main church (which became the katholikon, or main church, of the monastery [2] ) also dedicated to Christ Pantocrator, a library and a hospital. [3]

    After the death of his wife, shortly after 1124, Emperor John II Komnenos built another church to the north of the first dedicated to the Theotokos Eleousa ("the merciful Mother of God"). This church was open to the population and served by a lay clergy. [2] Finally (the terminus ante quem is 1136 [4] ) a south courtyard and an exonarthex were added to the complex, [2] and the two shrines were connected with a chapel dedicated to Saint Michael, [5] which became the imperial mausoleum (heroon) of the Komnenos and Palaiologos dynasties. [1] Besides many Byzantine dignitaries, Emperor John II and his wife Eirene, Empress Bertha of Sulzbach (also known as Eirene, and wife of Manuel I Komnenos), and Emperor John V Palaiologos were buried here. [3] [ dubious – discuss ]

    During the Latin domination after the Fourth Crusade, the complex was the see of the Venetian clergy, and the icon of the Theotokos Hodegetria was housed here. [6] The monastery was also used as an imperial palace by the last Latin Emperor, Baldwin. After the Palaiologan restoration the monastery was used again by Orthodox monks. The most famous among them was Gennadius II Scholarius, who left the Pantokrator to become the first Patriarch of Constantinople after the Islamic conquest of the city. [7]

    Ottoman and Republican period Edit

    Shortly after the Fall of Constantinople the building was converted into a mosque, and the monastery was converted for a while into a Medrese. [8] The Ottomans named it after Molla Zeyrek, a scholar who was teaching there. [8] However, due to its importance in Byzantine history, Zeyrek was one among the few buildings of Istanbul whose ancient denomination was never forgotten. Among others, the church of Pantokrator is remembered by Pierre Gilles in his classic work about Constantinople, written in the sixteenth century. After the completion of the Medreses in the Fatih complex in 1471, the students abandoned Zeyrek, [9] and the rooms of the monastery occupied by the Medrese vanished later. [3]

    Until a few years ago, the edifice was in a desolate state, and as a result it was added to the UNESCO watchlist of endangered monuments. In recent years it has undergone extensive (albeit still unfinished) restoration. [10]

    Today Zeyrek Mosque is - after Hagia Sophia - the second largest extant religious edifice built by the Byzantines in Istanbul.

    To the East lies the Ottoman Konak (Zeyrek Hane), which has also been restored and is now open as a restaurant and tea garden.

    The masonry has been partly built adopting the technique of the recessed brick, typical of the Byzantine architecture of the middle period. [11] In this technique, alternate courses of bricks are mounted behind the line of the wall, and are plunged in a mortar bed. Due to that, the thickness of the mortar layers is about three times greater than that of the bricks layers. [12]

    The south and the north church are both cross domed with polygonal apses having seven sides, and not five as was typical in the Byzantine architecture of the previous century. The apses have also triple lancet windows flanked by niches. [1]

    The southern church is the largest. To the East it has an esonarthex, which later was extended up to the imperial chapel. The church is surmounted by two domes, one over the naos and the other over the matroneum (a separate upper gallery for women) of the narthex. The decoration of this church, which was very rich, disappeared almost completely, except for some fragments of marble in the presbyterium and, above all, a beautiful floor in opus sectile made with colored marbles worked in cloisonné technique, where human and animal figures are represented. [13] Moreover, fragments of colored glass suggest that the windows of this church were once made of stained glass bearing figures of Saints. [14] The mosaics of the interior, representing the apostles and the life of Christ, were still visible - although defaced - in the 18th century. [15]

    The imperial chapel is covered by barrel vaults and is surmounted by two domes too.

    The north church has only one dome, and is notable for its frieze, carved with a dog's tooth and triangle motif running along the eaves line.

    Close to the Mosque is placed the small Şeyh Süleyman Mescidi, a small byzantine building belonging also to the Pantokrator Monastery.

    As a whole, this complex represents the most typical example of architecture of the Byzantine middle period in Constantinople. [1]


    Towards the middle of the ninth century, Princess Thekla, eldest daughter of Emperor Theophilus enlarged a small oratory, dedicated to her patron saint and namesake, lying 150 m east of the Church of Theotokos of the Blachernae. [2] In 1059 on this site, Emperor Isaac I Komnenos built a larger church, as thanks for surviving a hunting accident. [3] The church was famous for its beauty, and Anna Comnena writes that her mother, Anna Dalassena, used to go often and pray there. [3] After the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, the building was heavily damaged during the earthquake of 1509, which destroyed the dome. [4] Shortly after that, Kapicibaşi [5] (and later Grand Vizier) Koca Mustafa Pasha, executed in 1512, [6] repaired the damages and converted the church into a mosque. [7] Up to the end of nineteenth century, a Hamam, placed 150 m south of the building, also belonged to the mosque's foundation. [2] In 1692, Şatir Hasan Ağa built a fountain in front of the mosque. [2] In 1729, during the great Fire of Balat, the building was heavily damaged and repaired some years later. It was damaged again during the 1894 Istanbul earthquake, which destroyed the minaret, and reopened for worship in 1906. A last restoration occurred in 1922. [2] In that occasion, a marble christening font was brought to the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. [2] Inside the south apse of the building there is the türbe (tomb) attributed to Hazreti Cabir (Jabir) Ibn Abdallah-ül-Ensamı, one of the companions of Eyüp, [8] fallen nearby in 678 during the first Arab siege of Constantinople. [9]

    The building is 15 m wide and 17.5 m long, and has a domed Greek cross plan. It is oriented in a northeast – southwest direction. It has 3 polygonal apses, and the narthex has been destroyed. [10] The edifice has no galleries, and the dome, which has no drum, is almost certainly Ottoman, although the arches and the piers which sustain it are Byzantine. [11] The arms of the cross, the pastophoria, the Prothesis and Diaconicon are covered with barrel vaults, and communicate through arches. The north and south walls have a floor level with three arcades, a first level with three windows, and a second level with a window with three lights. [11] On the southeast side, the three apses project boldly outside with three sides. [11] The roof, the cornice and the wooden narthex, which replaced the old Byzantine narthex, are Ottoman. A cruciform font which belonged to the baptistery of the church and lay on the other side of the street [11] has been moved to the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. The dome piers, which form the internal side of the cross, are L-shaped. They are an example of the stage preceding that of the cross-in-square church with four columns. [11] Remains of frescoes placed on the south side of the building have been published. [12] Moreover, during the floor renewal in the 1990s, several tesserae have been found, showing the previous existence of mosaics panels and frescoes in the building. [13] Despite its architectural significance, the building has never undergone a systematic study. [14]


    Watch the video: Η Τουρκία μετατρέπει και τη Μονή της Χώρας σε τζαμί - Η ιστορία της. 21082020. ΕΡΤ (May 2022).