“…denuded of all help, and deprived of human alliance, we were spiritually led on by holding fast to our hopes in the Mother of the Word, our God, urging her to implore her Son, invoking her for the expiation of our sins, her intercession of our salvation, her protection as an impregnable wall for us, begging her to break the boldness of the barbarians, her to crush their insolence, her to defend the despairing people and fight for her own flock…” writes Patriarch Photius in the second of his two homilies on the siege of Constantinople by the Rus’ and Sirarpie der Nersessian, in his 1960 Dumbarton Oaks Papers article titled Two Images of the Virgin, quotes him. I couldn’t find better introductory remarks for a BLOG POST on the marble Icon of The Interceding Theotokos at Dumbarton Oaks. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1291145?seq=15#metadata_info_tab_contentspage 72 and https://www.doaks.org/resources/bliss-tyler-correspondence/art/bz/BZ.1938.62.jpg/view
One more confession… the title of this BLOG POST was a decision that troubled me. At Dumbarton Oaks Museum the marble Icon of the Theotokos is presented as Virgin Hagiosoritissa Relief. The Glory of Byzantium Exhibition Catalogue uses a similar name Icon of the Virgin Hagiosoritissa. I thought, this is it…until I started reading Sirarpie der Nersessian article Two Images of the Virgin in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, and I changed my mind! The author presents in detail the different styles, whereabouts and use of Interceding Theotokos Icons in every medium! Bottom line… I was not convinced the Marble Icon of the Theotokos is of the Hagiosoritissa type… and the title changed to The Interceding Theotokos at Dumbarton Oaks.
For a Student Activity on The Interceding Theotokos at Dumbarton Oaks, please… check HERE!
“The frequent fires that have caused such terrible destructions in Constantinople have, in some respect, facilitated archaeological investigation and the study of Byzantine monuments. As is well known, the byzantine churches that have been converted into mosques usually stood tightly surrounded by wooden houses in the center of labyrinthic Turkish quarters. Following the disappearance of these obstructive houses, many Byzantine monuments have emerged as isolated ruins in the midst of wide open spaces… This has been the case with the monastery of Lips to which the Empress Theodora added towards the end of the thirteenth century the church of the Prodromos, intended as a mausoleum for herself and the family of the Palaeoplogi…” writes Theodore Macridy as an introduction to his article… and I am indebted for all the information he provides for the Lips Monastery in Constantinople and the Theotokos Panachrantos Church BLOG POST https://www.jstor.org/stable/1291214?origin=crossref&seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
It was a summery June day of 907 (or 908) and Emperor Leo (Leo VI, called the Wise, 866-912) was on his way to the inauguration ceremony of a new Church dedicated to the Mother of God “Πανάχραντος.” The streets were quiet in the Lykos valley where Patrikios Constantinos Lips decided to commission his new Church taking into consideration novel architectural ideas. Constantinos Lips, aristocrat and military official, is at the peak of his career and he wants the Church of Πανάχραντοςto to reflect his status and… ambitions...
The Church of Theotokos Panachrantos, or the North Church as is popularly known, is the oldest example of the cross-in-square domed type of Church Architecture in Constantinople. It is also a religious structure with a tripartite sanctuary to the east, and north to the west. The north and south vaults of the church terminate in huge windows that gloriously illuminate the interior of the church. The eastern vault extends over the church’s apse, creates a spacious Bema and is flanked by two tiny but elegant, quatrefoil structures that serve as the Prothesis and the Diakonikon. Apparently, the walls of this impressive church were further enhanced with marble veneering, both inside and outside. The Church of Theotokos Panachrantos was domed but the four columns supporting the vaults are missing, although three column bases survived the church’s probable fire destruction, and remain in their original positions. Equally interesting is the three-bay Narthex of the Church, which culminates, on its narrow sides, in shallow niches. Originally, the Narthex was preceded by a narrow exterior porch that covered the main entrance to the narthex. http://constantinople.ehw.gr/Forms/fLemmaBodyExtended.aspx?lemmaID=10907
The original Church of the Panachrantos, incorporated in its original design plan, had six additional Chapels. Two of them, single-naved, flanking the Prothesis and Diakonikon, are now lost in their initial state. The North Chapel suffered the most. Today only a part of its apse has been discovered and unearthed as the result of archaeological excavations. The Southern Chapel, on the other hand, located next to the Panachrantos Diakonikon, was partially saved, serving as the Prothesis of the, attached, thirteenth century Church of Saint John. Four more Chapels existed on the roof of the North Church. These Chapels, partialy destroyed during the fire of 1917, were not visible if you were inside the Church. Two of these Chapels, in quatrefoil shape, were situated over the western corner bays of the naos, and two more Chapels, located over the Diakonikon and Prothesis, were to be seen at the east end of the building. Access to the roof was through a staircase inside the tower south of the Narthex. https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/lips
The North church provides probably the largest and the most “outstanding collection of Middle Byzantine sculptural decoration in Constantinople” write Cyril Mango and Ernest J. W. Hawkins in their 1964 DO article. What survived shows “a wealth of carved ornaments both inside and outside… (unique quality in execution, and the use of) …an endless variety of motifs – highly stylized palmettes, and “bouquets” of different forms, fleurons, stars and crosses (peacocks and eagles) – (that create) a sense of unit on the decoration as a whole.” The style of sculptural rendering is crisp, with sharp ridges that are carefully “smoothed down to the flat background upon which the forward contours of the motifs are repeated.” Mango and Hawkins proceed to an amazing description of amazing discoveries. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1291216?origin=crossref&seq=6#metadata_info_tab_contents, pp. 304-311
The Church Constantinos Lips, built in the early 10th century, survived time, devastating fires and invasions. Attached to it, Empress Theodora, widow of Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (r. 1259–1282), established a second Church dedicated to St. John the Baptist known today as the “South Church.” Constantinos’s Church was now part of a prestigious Nunnery, a Xenon and the Burial “ground) of the Paleologean family. (…to be addressed)
During the Ottoman period the Lips Monastery (South Church) served as a Mescit (a small mosque) and later, in 1636, after a fire in 1633, the South Church was upgraded to Camii while the North Church was converted into a Tekke (a dervish lodge). Two more fires down the path of history…the building was abandoned… but excavations in 1929, and a thorough restoration between the 1950s and the 1960s by the Byzantine Institute of America, gave it new life, so that today, known as Fenari Isa Camii, serves once again as a mosque.
The moment was grave… it was the 22nd of July 838, hot and humid, and Emperor Theophilos, was besieged by the army of Caliph al-Mu’tasim near the hill of Dazimon. Earlier on “while the sky darkened and rain begun to fall in torrents… (he) saw that his opposite wing was in difficulties and (omitting to tell his junior commanders what he was about to do) led 2,000 men round behind the center to reinforce it… his unexpected disappearance immediately gave rise to a rumour that he had been killed. Panic broke out, followed – as always – by flight; and when the rain stopped and the light returned Theophilos realized that he and his men were surrounded.” The moment was grave… but when the Khurramite soldiers in the emperor’s entourage reportedly began planning to surrender the Emperor to the Arabs, Manuel the Armenian, Domestic of the Schools, commander of the elite tagma of the Scholae and de facto commander-in-chief of the entire Byzantine army, seized the Emperor’s horse by the bridle and threatening the confused emperor with his sword, forcibly broke through the Arab lines, and brought Theophilos to safety in the nearby village of Dorylaeum. Although Byzantine military history is not my forte when I researched the history of the Unidentified Byzantine Building in Constantinople known today as Kefeli Mosque and the name of Manuel the Armenian came up, I was intrigued and I did my reading… John Julius Norwich, Byzantium – The Apogee, 1993 Penguin Books, pp. 48 and Warren T. Treadgold, The Chronological Accuracy of the “Chronicle” of Symeon the Logothete for the Years 813-845, DOP Vol. 33 (1979), p. 180, 181 https://www.jstor.org/stable/1291437?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3Ae308c8234dcf2fe514aff96de764bb09&seq=23#page_scan_tab_contents
It seems that there is a bit of a controversy between Byzantine Chronographers of what was the fate of the brave general… Some of the Chronographers report that Manuel the Armenian died of wounds that he received in the fateful battle of Dazimon (most probable) and was buried in the Monastery of Manuel in Constantinople, traditionally identified with the Kefeli Mosque. Other chronographers narrate how Manuel survived the battle, returned to Constantinople, took part in the second battle of Dazimon, and died, in the late 850s, a devoted Iconodule, during the reign of Emperor Michael III. Warren T. Treadgold, The Chronological Accuracy of the “Chronicle” of Symeon the Logothete for the Years 813-845, DOP Vol. 33 (1979), p. 182, 183 https://www.jstor.org/stable/1291437?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3Ae308c8234dcf2fe514aff96de764bb09&seq=23#page_scan_tab_contents
Kefeli Mosque’s history is intriguing, to say the least. It is not yet established if it was originally part of the Byzantine Monastery of Manuel, founded in the mid 9th century, rebuilt by Patriarch Photius, restored once more by Romanos I Lekapenos and used by Emperor Michael VII to retire after his deposition. Scholars are not even sure if the ΚΤΗΤΩΡ(founder) of the Monastery was indeed Manuel the Armenian, and if the Monastery was founded within Manuel’s residential complex. More importantly, scholars can not be certain if the surviving building was originally a Church or a Monastic refectory. It seems that all scholars agree that it was never the Katholiko of a Monastery.
The building was a basilica, according to Paspates a “κτίριον δρομικόν” and recent studies describe it as an interesting example of how the early Christian Basilica form developed or adapted during the Middle Byzantine period. It is believed that Kefeli Mosque was a 3-aisled basilica building with an apse (polygonal outside, but semicircular inside with two niches) facing north.
It’s bitter cold, a snowy Sunday in the συμβασιλεύουσα του Βυζαντίου and I enjoy reading “Notes on the Atik Mustafa Paşa Camii in Istanbul and its frescoes” by Thomas F. Mathews and Ernest J. W. Hawkins in Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 39 (1985), pp. 125-134. My goal is to prepare for a new POST, titled… Unidentified Byzantine Church in Constantinople known today as Atik Mustafa Paşa Camii. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1291520?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
References to early 20th-century bibliography and logical deductions lead Mathews and Hawkins to a first acceptance that the Atik Mustafa Paşa Camii is “the earliest Constantinopolitan example of a cross-domed church (and indeed the first Constantinopolitan church after Iconoclasm).” The authors further studied the articulation of the East End of the building, the design of the Apses (p. 127), the windows in the apses, drew comparisons to many Constantinopolitan churches for plausible similarities and drew the conclusion that the Atik share the most similarities with “the Theotokos of Lips (church) of 907 and the Myrelaion 920-22. With these churches the Atik shares the basic plan of three triple-faceted apses in which surfaces begin to be broken up by windows and niches set at varying levels.” Further comparisons (pp.127-128) on where apse windows were placed and the lack of horizontal cornices enhanced the belief that Atik Mustafa Paşa Camii “while closely related to the Lips and the Myrelaion, seems to represent an earlier stage in the evolution of apse design. Very likely it belongs to the second half of the ninth century in the new surge of church building known from literary sources to have followed the defeat of Iconoclasm in 842 and the accession of Basil I in 867.” https://www.jstor.org/stable/1291520?seq=4#metadata_info_tab_contents
The Dumbarton Oaks Paper by Mathews and Hawkins is an inexhaustible source of information I enjoyed reading. Groundwork accomplished, I feel ready for a future trip… στηνΠόλη!
“The empress Eudocia, in her eagerness to honour God, was the first to build a temple to the divinely inspired Polyeuktos; but she did not make it like this or so large, not from any thrift or lack of resources—for what can a queen lack?—(5) but because she had a divine premonition that she would leave a family which would know how to provide a better embellishment. From this stock Juliana, bright light of blessed parents, sharing their royal blood in the fourth generation, did not cheat the hopes of that queen, who was mother of the finest children, (10) but raised this building from its small original to its present size and form, increasing the glory of her many-sceptred ancestors.” The Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuktos has it all… a 6th-century magnificent building, in ruins today, with intricate decoration, a documented 76-line poem in Greek Anthologia (AP 1.10), stories of greed and looting, excavations in the 1960s, extensive Bibliography from around the world and currently, an Archaeological Site, frequently overlooked(?)…https://chs.harvard.edu/CHS/article/display/3263.mary-whitby-the-st-polyeuktos-epigram-ap-1-10-a-literary-perspective and https://topostext.org/work/532
Empress Eudocia, according to the poem, was the first to build a small Church dedicated to Polyeuktos and Anicia Juliana, great-granddaughter of Eudocia, was the family member “which would know how to provide a better embellishment.” What an interesting family affair! To further elaborate on the early history and topography of the Church… it was constructed between 524 and 527, on the northern branch of Constantinople’s Mese, between the Forum Tauri and the Church of the Holy Apostles, near the Column of Marcian and the Aqueduct of Valens, in near proximity to the Palace of Anicia Juliana. https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/polyeuktos and http://constantinople.ehw.gr/Forms/filePage.aspx?lemmaId=11784
An accidental discovery in the 1960s, led to excavations in the area Saraçhane of modern Istanbul… which brought to light the foundation of a monumental church while inscriptions on several of the unearthed sculptural blocks, in fact, they were magnificently decorated extracts of the donor’s inscription, allowed Cyril Mango and Ihor Ševčenko to identify the archaeological discovery as the Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuktos. Excavations on the site of the Church lasted six seasons (1964-69) and it was a joined effort between the Istanbul Archaeological Museum (represented by Nezih Fıratlı) and Dumbarton Oaks, Centre for Byzantine Studies of Harvard University, under the directorship of Professor Martin Harrison. Mango C., Ševčenko I., Remains of the church of St. Polyeuktos at Constantinople, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 15, 1961 https://www.jstor.org/stable/i255238 and https://www.academia.edu/2122854/Martin_Harrisons_Excavations_in_Istanbul
At the time she commissioned the Church of St. Polyeuktos, Anicia Juliana, “sharing …royal blood in the fourth generation,” was the noblest and the wealthiest woman in the Empire. She lived in a magnificent palace in the area of the Church and “raised this building from its small original to its present size and form, increasing the glory of her many-sceptred ancestors.”At the entrance of the church, outside the narthex, archaeologists discovered five more inscribed plaques where we read… “What choir is sufficient to sing the contests of Juliana who, after Constantine, embellisher of his Rome, after the holy all-golden light of Theodosius, (45) and after royal descent from so many forebears, accomplished a work worthy of her family, and more than worthy / in a few years? She alone has overpowered time and surpassed the wisdom of the celebrated Solomon, raising a temple to receive God, the richly wrought and gracious splendour of which a great epoch cannot celebrate.”
There is no doubt Anicia Juliana was Emperor Justinian’s political and artistic, if I may add, adversary. Her dedicatory poem at the Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuktos is a blunt challenge. Her Imperial lineage and wealth was a test to match for Justinian and his ambitions… According to Gregory of Tours, and well-recorded in Byzantine Legacy… “the Emperor Justinian requested the wealthy Juliana to make a contribution to the public treasury. She feigned to be willing to do so and invited the Emperor to visit her in her house after a given period of time during which she might be able to bring her treasure together. Meanwhile, she called in craftsmen, handed them all her gold and directed them to cast it into plaques which were to be affixed to the roof of Hagios Polyeuktos. After this had been done, Juliana invited the Emperor to come and, having taken him to the martyr’s church, pointed to its roof. My povertyis contained in this work. Do with it whatever you please…” she allegedly said, and thus avoided Justinian’s rapacity. What a story… https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/anicia-juliana and http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E00655 and http://www.anastasiaashman.com/anastasiaashman/tag/Gregory+of+Tours
The Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuktos was one of Constantinople’s most admired monuments for over five hundred years. “The church was certainly still in use in the 10th century, as it was one of the landmarks visited by the emperor during his Easter procession.” Then… we can only guess… the ornate Church of Anicia Juliana was gradually abandoned and valuable building materials were taken and used in the construction of other Constantinopolitan churches, such as the Pantokrator Monastery. In 1204 the Crusaders seized Constantinople and the Church, abandoned at the time, fell into ruins and many of its decorative architectural pieces were removed to Venice, Barcelona and Vienna.
After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, “houses and a mosque were built in the now completely flattened space of St Polyeuktos’ church. This occupation of the location lasted until 1940 when the mosque was demolished. In 1960, during construction works in the area, some parts of the architecture of St Polyeuktos were unearthed” and a new period for the history of the Church started as a significant Archaeological Site “both due to the wealth and variety of the findings, and the architectural type of the church discovered.” http://constantinople.ehw.gr/Forms/filePage.aspx?lemmaId=11784
“The Vienna Dioscurides is a Byzantine Greek illuminated manuscript copy of “Medical Material” by Dioscorides, which was created in 515 AD. It is a rare surviving example of an illustrated ancient scientific and medical text… The original “De Materia Medica” or “On Medical Material” was first written between 50 and 70 CE by Pedanius Dioscorides. It is a pharmacopeia of medicinal plants and was widely read and used for more than 1,500 years… This specific manuscript copy was created in the Byzantine Empire’s capital, Constantinople, for the byzantine imperial princess, Anicia Juliana. She was the daughter of Anicius Olybrius, who had been one of the last Western Roman Emperors… The manuscript was presented to the princess in gratitude for her funding the construction of a church… The dedication miniature portrait of Anicia Juliana is the oldest surviving dedication portraits in a book…” I couldn’t better encapsulate the manuscript’s identification. The Vienna Dioscurides is one of the “canvases” I use for my Course on Cultural Geography of Greece and specifically my Lessons on popular Greek Plants like Dioscurides and Krithamo. https://joyofmuseums.com/ancient-manuscripts-and-historically-influential-books/vienna-dioscurides/
Anicia Juliana (462 – 527/528 AD)was an incredible woman, a prominent member of the up-to-date ruling Roman Imperial Dynasties. She was the daughter of Emperor Anicius Olybrius of the Western Roman Empire, the wife of the Magister Militum of the Eastern Roman Empire, Areobindus Dagalaiphus Areobindus and the mother of Olybrius Junior, a Roman Consul. Anicia Juliana was the wealthiest woman in the Roman Empire and the greatest patron of the Arts at the time. She is the ktitorissa of religious edifices, the Church of Hagios Polyeuktos in Constantinople, built by the year 527, the most sumptuous of all, and the recipient of a magnificent manuscript, a copy of De Materia Medica by Dioscurides, known today as Vienna Dioscurides. https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/anicia-juliana
Pedanius Dioscurides (c. 30-90 AD) was a Greek physician, pharmacologist and botanist who served in the Roman army of Emperor Nero during the1st century AD. He was a native of Anazarbus in Asia Minor and studied medicine at the nearby school in Tarsus. Following the Roman Army, Dioscurides collected information and samples of local medicinal plants and about 70 AD he published De Materia Medica, a five volumes treatise on the “medicinal properties of over one thousand natural medicinal substances; most of these… botanical in origin, but drugs of animal and mineral origin…” as well. The book’s subtitle, “On the Preparation, Properties and Testing of Drugs, sets the empirical, scientific tone of this work… Dioscorides didn’t accept anything on faith, or on the reputation of established authorities; he checked everything out and tested every drug clinically. He personally travelled and researched the local folk medicine uses of every herb… The presentations of every herb and medicinal substance in Dioscorides’ herbal were very thorough. It included plant names, synonyms and illustrations; plant habitat and botanical descriptions; properties, actions and uses of the drug; negative side effects if any; administration and dosage recommendations; directions on harvesting, preparation and storage of herbs or drugs…” One can only admire the painstaking work done by Dioscurides and the reasons why De Materia Medica “has been the prime authority and source work on herbs and other medicinal substances in the history of Western Civilization, and quite possibly in the history of the world.” http://www.greekmedicine.net/whos_who/Dioscorides.html
Simply put… the Vienna Dioscurides is one of the most beautiful Byzantine Manuscripts in the world! The c. 512 AD Codex, written in vellum folios and magnificently illuminated, was created in a workshop in Constantinople, and granted, as a gift of gratitude, to the Imperial Princess Anicia Juliana for her patronage in the construction of a church in the quarter of Honoratae. The Vienna Dioscurides is one of the “canvases” I use for my Course on the Cultural Geography of Greece and specifically Lessons on popular Greek Plants like Dioscurides and Krithamo. Please CHECK my POWERPOINT HERE!for pictures of manuscript folios and interesting FACTS about it.
Crithmum Maritimum, according to Dioscurides, Krithamo and Rock Samphire today, grows on rocky beaches where there is a little sand and strong, salty winds. This is one of the plants presented in the Constantinopolitan Codex of Anicia Juliana, described as having detoxifying properties, good to treat liver, intestinal and renal dysfunction. Dioscurides refers to it as “λαχανεύεται εφθόν τε και ωμόν εσθιόμενον, και ταριχεύεται εν άλμη.” I use the illumination of Crithmum Maritimum in Dioscurides’s manuscript in my Cultural Geography of Greece Class to discuss the Plant’s characteristics and create an Inter-Disciplinary Activity my students enjoy doing… as you can see HERE! for the Activity’s instructions and HERE!andHERE!for samples of student work. https://www.itrofi.gr/fytika/votana/article/1623/kritamo-votano-toy-gialoy-poy-dynamonei-anosopoiitiko-kai-einai-gemato
«The Byzantine church known as Saint Mary of the Mongols, or Theotokos ton Mougoulion, was once the katholikon of the Monastery of the Theotokos tes Panayiotisses. It is situated in the modern quarter of Istanbul known as Fener, and is unique for being the sole Greek Orthodox sanctuary that has served the same function in Christian Constantinople as well as in Muslim Istanbul. Despite its unique status, the building has not received as much scholarly attention as other Byzantine religious monuments of similar historical importance…” writes Edmund C. Ryder, back in 2009/10. https://journals.sfu.ca/jmh/index.php/jmh/article/view/260/263
My new POST on the surviving Byzantine Churches in Constantinople takes me to Mouchliotissa or Theotokos ton Mougoulion or Saint Mary of the Mongols. The name has an “exotic” appeal upon me, the fact that it is still Greek Orthodox in practice enhanced my interest… the journey… was fascinating. Right from the beginning, I wanted to establish my sources, scant on the church’s architecture, but informative and well written. Η Αρχιτεκτονική της Παναγίας του Μουχλίου στην Κωνσταντινούπολη by Charalambos Bouras https://ejournals.epublishing.ekt.gr/index.php/deltion/article/viewFile/4126/3901.pdf and The Despoina of the Mongols and Her Patronage at the Church of the Theotokos ton Mougoulion by Edmund C. Ryder https://journals.sfu.ca/jmh/index.php/jmh/article/view/260/263
I love and use, for the purposes of this POST, the photographs taken by Nicholas V. Artamonoff from 1930-1947. I couldn’t find contemporary photos that surpass the atmospheric ambience of this unique place. I am grateful to ICFA (Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives), part of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (an Institute of Harvard University located in Washington, D.C.) for making this Collection available to the world… to regard and admire… http://images.doaks.org/artamonoff/collections/show/27
Ch. Bouras describes “The Panaghia Mouchliotissa as a tetraconch, aisleless, domed church with a slightly later tripartite narthex.” Drawings by Poridis reveal that major architectural changes took place, most probably “during the eighteenth century, in order to increase its size to house a larger congregation.” For example, “the south conch and a large part of the narthex were demolished to make way for the addition of a large hypostyle room roofed with Ottoman pointed domes and an exonarthex.” Originally, “the Mouchliotissa was a tetraconch church with a narthex and two unusual features: the size of each conch was increased by opening three smaller niches in the thickness of the wall, and the dome was supported on four arches carried on columns at the four corners of the central square.” These features, Bouras continues, are rare in Byzantine architecture of the time, “enliven the interior space enhancing its visual interest and imparting a certain originality.” https://ejournals.epublishing.ekt.gr/index.php/deltion/article/viewFile/4126/3901.pdf
I always felt for the well-bred Byzantine Princesses whose destiny was to play a role in Byzantine diplomacy through marriage. Maria Paleologina was no exception. She was the illegitimate daughter of Michael VIII Palaeologus, the skilful Byzantine Emperor who accomplished in 1261 the dream of all Byzantines: reconquering the City of Cities, Constantinople. The new Emperor needed strong allies in the East and Maria Paleologina (1258/9-1282), barely 8 years old was “dispatched” to marry Khan Hulagu of the Il-Khanate of Persia, the conqueror of Baghdad, who dreamed of triumphing over the entire Muslim East…
While in Cappadocia, February of 1265, Maria and her magnificent entourage learned of the death of Khan Hulagu and her new proposal to marry Hulagu’s son and successor, Abaqa. Maria continued her journey… arrived in Persia, married the Khan, grew up in the Khan’s harem and succeeded in turning Abaqa into a protector of Christians until his death… Maria Paleologina or “Despina Khatun, for the Mongols, was revered for her kindness, wisdom and strong leadership. Sources portrayed her as leading a pious life and being quite influential in politics…” When her husband died and his brother, the Muslim Tekuder, became the new Khan… “Maria managed to escaped in time from his control and return to Constantinople… (where) unmoved by the pageantry of the court in Constantinople decided to embrace the religious life…” She used her considerable wealth to found the convent of Theotokos Panaghiótissa in 1285, where, as a respected widow, remained until her death.
“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
The amazing Monastic Complex of Pantokrator, however, built by Emperor John II Komnenos, served a dual purpose… to honour the wishes of Empress Piroska-Eirene, tending to the needs of the “poor, sick, and suffering souls…” and be used as a mausoleum for the Komnenos Imperial family.
As you look at the elegant domes crowning all three Pantokrator Churches, your eyes slowly tumble down to embrace the graceful arches… allow your imagination free to envision the splendour that once graced their interiors, and ponder over the lives of all Byzantine Royals entombed under their stylish vaults.
The North Church, dedicated to Mary Eleousa was built after the death of Empress Piroska-Eirene, between 1124-1136, by Emperor John II Komnenos. The Church, built within the Monastic complex of Pantocrator, was dedicated to services offered by lay clergy but open to a wider congregation and attended by laymen. Smaller in size compared to the South Church, it follows a similar architectural style to the South Church and according to scholars, it was equally resplendent in its interior decoration. https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/pantokrator-monastery
The smaller Middle Church, the last to be built, bridged and opened to the two original, free-standing, side Churches. Dedicated to Archangel Michael, affectionately called the Heroon, the Middle Church was the smallest of the three Pantokrator Churches and served as an Imperial Mausoleum. The architectural style and use of the Heroon, capped by two elliptical domes, was probably inspired by the roughly contemporary, Crusader Martyrium of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem as the arrangement of the Imperial Burials in its interior further testifies. “While several Arcosolia are still evident in the western bay, the identities of their occupants remain unresolved. The only exception is that of Emperor Manuel I (1118-1180), whose black marble sarcophagus was located in the passageway from the South Church to the (middle) Chapel. It is likely that its two domes had two separate functions, the one in the east serving as the liturgical area, and the western one, where the tombs were located, functioning as a funerary space.” https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/pantokrator-monastery and http://constantinople.ehw.gr/Forms/fLemmaBodyExtended.aspx?lemmaID=11770
The Emperors and Empresses buried in the Heroon spared no funds in embellishing the Pantokrator Churches with amazing examples of monumental Art as well as items of luxurious Minor Arts. Visitors to the Monastery of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ the Pantokrator describe it as impressive in importance, resplendent in its decoration and dazzling in luxury! Unfortunately, “…under Latin rule of the city (1204-1261), the region in which the monastery stood belonged to the Venetians, who transported many of the holy utensils, relics and icons of the monastery to Venice.” It is most probable “that some of the panels of the Pala D’Oro in San Marco originally came from the Pantokrator Monastery. While it was originally ordered from Constantinople by the doge Ordelaffo Falier in 1102, it was reworked following the Fourth Crusade’s sacked Constantinople in 1204.” http://constantinople.ehw.gr/Forms/fLemmaBodyExtended.aspx?lemmaID=11770
The Treasury of San Marco, Venice, Basilica di San Marco, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1984) is informative and Free to Download ONLINE companion Catalogue of the synonymous Exhibition that took place in New York in 1985. Sergio Bettini’s article Venice, the Pala D’Oro, and Constantinople is “illuminating” to say the least, on how the Palla D’Oro is connected to the Monastery of Pantokrator. (Please read pp. 33-64) https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/the_treasury_of_san_marco_venice
After Hagia Sofia, present-day Şeyh Süleyman Mescidi or popularly called Zeyrek Camii, is the second-largest religious structure from the Byzantine Empire to survive in Istanbul.
“The most important imperial foundation from the Komnene age is the Monastery of Pantokrator, which continues to this day to impress both the scholar and the casual visitor. It is as clear to those who visit its three churches, which despite repeated devastation still inspire admiration for the perfection of their construction and the elegance of their decoration, as to those who read its Typicon that John II Komnenos and his empress Eirene spared no cost to erect a splendid monastery complex, which absorbed a number of smaller foundations, mainly in the environs of Constantinople, and to make generous provision for its upkeep and operation…” writes Sofia Kotzabassi in her preface for the 2013 Volume on The Pantokrator Monastery in Constantinople. I couldn’t agree more! https://www.academia.edu/32217856/The_Icon_of_the_Three_Holy_Hierarchs_at_the_Pantokrator_Monastery_and_the_Epigrams_of_Theodore_Prodromos_on_Them
Overlooking the Golden Horn, built on the slopes of the 4th Hill of Constantinople and in the company of such great buildings like the Church of the Holy Apostles and the Aqueduct of Valens, the monastic complex of Pantokrator with its churches, library and hospital, stood formidable and impressive. What an amazing structure… Founded by the Byzantine Emperor Ioannes II Komnenos (1118-1143) and his Hungarian princess-wife Eirene, and built between 1118 and 1137, the Pantokrator Monastery served in various ways the Orthodox Byzantines, the Catholic Venetians during the Latin rule of Constantinople, and since 1491?, converted into a Mosque, it still serves the Moslem Turks, known today as Şeyh Süleyman Mescidi.
The Typikon of the Monastery of Pantokrator (Christ the Almighty), a key document that still survives, helps us understand the importance of the monastic complex, its role in the city’s milieu, and the rites followed by its residents. Reading it, we learned that the Monastery “housed 80 monks, of whom 50 were choir brothers. The monastic complex included a 50-bed hospital with a medical school and a gerokomeion (old-age home) for 24 elderly men.” In addition, the Monastery served a leprosarium constructed at some distance from the main complex. The Monastery of Pantokrator consists of three churches: the South Church, the North Church, and the Middle Church or the “Heroon.” The South Church dedicated to Christ the Pantocrator is the oldest and the largest of the three. This POST will focus on the Pantokrator Church, its architecture and amazing decoration. A second POST, coming up soon, will discuss the “Heroon” and its connection to the Venetian Pala d’Oro. https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/pantokrator-monastery
A characteristic example of late-12th century architecture, the South Church dedicated to Christ the Pantokrator served as the Katholikon (main church) of the monastic complex. It is the largest cross-in-square church in Constantinople, with a central dome originally supported by four columns of red marble, probably spolia (replaced with piers by the Ottomans), a tripartite bema (triple apse), and a narthex. “The dome is supported by a sixteen-sided drum, each side was pierced by a window. The side aisles had galleries, from which only the southern survived. The narthex, which projects to either side, also had a gallery. It was covered with five groin-vaults, the middle one of which was later altered to a dome. At the same time, the exonarthex was added. The prothesis and the diakonikon are simple square rooms, each with a projecting apse.” http://constantinople.ehw.gr/Forms/fLemmaBodyExtended.aspx?lemmaID=11770
The Church was beautifully decorated… sparing no expense. What remains is just a glimpse of its original splendor…
Wall revetments of yellow, white, porphyry and verd antique marbles decorated the entire church. Stained glass windows, a medium we associate mostly with Western Medieval Art, covered the windows of the Church presenting geometric patterns and full figures. Was that enough of a decoration? NO! The emperors of the Komnenian dynasty and their spouses were such generous donors, the Church was filled with icons and artefacts in gold and enamels, manuscripts and embroidered silk vestments. As for the upper part of the church walls, they were covered with precious and shining mosaics. Finally, the brilliant Opus Sectile floor decoration which included scenes of hunting, bucolic interludes, mythological creatures, but also a disk with the zodiac cycle and aspects from the story of Samson… Can you imagine its beauty, eight hundred years ago…
Interesting to Read: Notes on Recent Work of the Byzantine Institute in Istanbul by Arthur H. S. Megaw, from Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 17 (1963), pp. 333-371 Published by: Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University.