“A former Byzantine church, now known by its Turkish name Vefa kilise camii, stands on Tirendaz Caddesi on the neighborhood of Vefa on modern Istanbul, only a few hundred metres away from the aqueduct of Valens. In the Byzantine period this area was located between the 7th and 10th regions of Constantinople. Several proposals have been put forward the dedication and identification of this church. In the 16th century, Pierre Gilles was the first to suggest that it was a church dedicated to St. Theodore. Other identifications have included a church of the Theotokos, the church of St Procopius τηςΧελώνης, and the monastery of Gorgoepekoos. Vefa kilise camii is one of the least documented monuments of the Ottoman period, and so it is not exactly clear when it lost its function as a Christian church. This event must have occurred before 1494, when it was recorded as having a medrese with fifty students… Excavations at Vefa kilise camii and a partial cleaning of the mosaics were carried in 1937 by Hidayet Fuat Tagay and Miltiadis Nomidis, but their work was published only in 1990 by Cyril Mango.” Writes Haluk Çetinkaya… an informative introduction for my new POST on the Unidentified Church in Constantinople known today as Vefa Kilise Camii. https://www.persee.fr/doc/rebyz_0766-5598_2009_num_67_1_4834 As promised, my goal is to present short POSTs on all Byzantine Churches of Constantinople. This is my second attempt with lots of unanswered questions!
The first question to address is its Byzantine identification… “Frequently visited and recorded by 19th-century scholars and travellers, the building is sometimes identified as the church of St. Theodore (Ἄγιος Θεοδόρος ἑν τὰ Καρβουνάρια), based on the 16th-century account of Pierre Gilles, who noted a church of that dedication somewhere in this area.” The French natural scientist, topographer and translator, Pierre Gilles “In his four books on the topography of Constantinople, …describes initially the geographical location, the natural environment, the water supply and the climate of the region. He then reviews the city’s mythological and historical past, and subsequently, for each one of the seven hills of the city, describes the monuments, walls, gates and towers. He comes back to the most ancient monuments on every hill and ends with the description of Galata and the Ottoman monuments.” http://rhegium.tripod.com/vefa.html and https://eng.travelogues.gr/collection.php?view=153
Identified or not, Vefa Kilise Camii is a Komnenian cross-in-square domed church of moderate size (each side is nine meters long), with an inner narthex and a three-domed exonarthex to the west. Beautifully built in a method described as “recessed brick technique”, the masonry of the building consists of alternate courses of brick and stone. The hidden brick row behind extraordinary thick bedding mortar is the characteristic of this building technique and a dating factor for the church as this construction method was popular from the second half of the 11th century to the end of the 12th century. https://www.qantara-med.org/public/show_document.php?do_id=838&lang=en and https://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/fineart/html/Byzantine/index.htm?https&&&www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/fineart/html/Byzantine/home.htm
In 1937 under the direction of M.I. Nomides and the Ministry of Mosques, mosaics decorating the domes in the exonarthex were revealed, depicting, in the southern dome, the Virgin Theotokos surrounded by prophets and two imperial officers with prophets. Unfortunately, as of 2007, they have disappeared almost completely. Another note to add: Vefa Kilise Camii is one of the least studied Byzantine monuments of present-day Istanbul with the interior of the church proper, never been de-plastered and explored for remnants of its original history and decoration. https://www.triposo.com/poi/W__110311532 and http://rhegium.tripod.com/vefa.html and https://tarihivefa.blogspot.com/2019/02/vefa-molla-semsettin-gurani-kilise-cami_18.html
For a PowerPoint on the Unidentified Church in Constantinople known today as Vefa Kilise Camii, please… Check HERE!