A Trip to the Cistern Underneath Kadir Has University By Touran Samii

A Trip to the Cistern Underneath Kadir Has University

The final field trip of our Byzantine art class took us to the wondrous backstreets of traditional Istanbul neighborhoods around the Golden Horn. We arrived at the Kadir Has University which houses a historic cistern in its undergrounds. The underground water system echoes Byzantine cisterns made of brick and mortar and often times, containing sand and shells. The structure consists of a series of degrading terraces and barrel vaults. Barrel vaults are an extension of a simple arch, creating a semi-cylindrical ceiling (Kleiner 161). Historically, barrel vaults in the Roman Empire were built using traditional ashlar masonry. Moreover, a growing vault is created by the intersection at right angles of two barrel vaults (Dr. Alessandra Ricci). The best examples of growing vaults can be found in the ruins of the Great Palace located in the Hippodrome, the city center of historic Constantinople.
Although this architectural structure is used to store water and is thus, waterproof, mold and algae is apparent on the walls of the cistern. This is due to poor ventilation that has also caused the structure to slowly decay. Thus, water vents and air circulation are essential to cisterns and their efficiency in storing and providing water to the city. More importantly, these aqueducts were connected to large water revenues, which illuminates the location of this cistern adjacent to ports along the Golden Horn. These harbors were crucial to trade, the movements of goods and ideas, to and from Constantinople. Constantinople was one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean with a geopolitical advantage due to its location between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara as well as the Golden Horn and Bosphorus River (Branning 4). In this way, it was a thriving metropolis and a powerful and influential actor that was not isolated from the greater Empire and beyond.
The beneficial location of this cistern also lead to its use as a tobacco factory constructed above the underground waterway in the 19th century. The tobacco factory was a function of European industrialization that occurred at the time. This factory was operated by women because of their ability to work with the fragile tobacco leaves. As an industrial entity with a large number of employees and a product that generates profit, this industrial unit had great implications for the surrounding neighborhoods. It produced a number of facilities such as businesses, a hospital, and schools and extended the trade network that was already in place.
Upon entering the cistern, I was amazed with the preservation of the structures, especially the rows of parallel columns still containing the decorative capitals. I was intrigued by the multiple layers of architecture and the amount of information they had when properly excavated by archeologists. Above the cistern, a museum sits which still includes the iron beams from the tobacco factory. This incorporation of the various uses of the space over the centuries was very well executed and interesting from an art historical perspective. I genuinely enjoyed walking into the depths of a cistern reminiscent of Byzantine times and around the museum, looking at the various artifacts.

Works Cited

Branning, Katherine. “Trade.” The Seljuk Han in Anatolia. 21 August 2001. Available Form http://www.turkishhan.org/trade.htm.

Dr. Alessandra Ricci. “Cistern Underneath Kadir Has University.” Istanbul. 19 December 2009.

Kleiner, Fred S. et al. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: The Western Perspective. 11th Edition. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing, 2008.

Published in: on January 9, 2010 at 23:26  Leave a Comment  

Polat Utku Kayrak Arha318 Field Trip 2

Although I was not able to join the second field trip due to the health reasons, I didn’t want to miss the chance to understand and examine the Byzantine art after the 8th century, basically iconoclasm. My friend Melis helped me to see those areas next week after the actual field trip date as I have fully recovered from the illness. The first place that we explored was Gul Camii (Hagia Theodosia) in Ayakapi in Istanbul. It was an ex-church converted into a mosque in 1499 after the capture of Istanbul by Ottomans. During the iconoclasm era, Theodosia opposed the removal of Christ icon on the gate of Great Palace so it is believed that church is also named as “Hagia Theodosia”. One of the most interesting details of the mosque was that, its plan was designed as the shape of a Greek Cross. The dome of the mosque was standing on the independent columns and in the east side of the building I encountered three apses, where the one on the center was a little big than the others. The niches in the apses show that those apses are reconstructed in the 13th and the 14th centuries.

After leaving Gul Camii, we headed to The Church of St. Mary of the Mongols in Fatih region again but in the neighborhood of Fener. The plan of the church is also very interesting that its central dome is surrounded by the tower. It has four apses on the each side of the church. This plan is called as tatraconch.

On the eastern side we can also see mosaics of an Icon representing the Theotokos. Again On the eastern side of the wall we can see a very huge representation of the famous “Last Judgment”. In this side of the church we can see other mosaics and Icons.

There are also several rumors about the underground tunnel of the church. It is said that this tunnel is reaching Hagia Sophia but there is no evidence about that.

The lobby is of the church called as ‘Narthex’ consists of three bays. Unfortunately the southern side of the church was demolished and does not contain the original structure of the church. If we examine the dome of St.Mary of the Mongols we can see that it is made upon a cross.

To sum up, those places that I have visited has preserved their originality and historical atmosphere much more than Hagia Sophia or the monuments of the Hippodrome. These places like St.Sophia or the base stone of Egyptian Stone have much more touristic purposes in Istanbul but thus those new places that were visited in the second field trip do not drive touristic purposes so they continue keeping their historical taste and atmosphere.

Bibliography ;

The city of Constantinople ,Michael Maclagan

Byzantine Constantinople, Nevra Necipoğlu

Constantinople from Byzantium to Istanbul,David Talbot Rice

Published in: on January 8, 2010 at 23:05  Leave a Comment  

my blog entry

nilay ozdemir
Second Field Trip:
İn our second field trip our starting point is Kadir Has University which was old tobacco company.Mostly women employers and Ottoman was a major producer of tobacco those times.This was a big industrial cooperation.The original part is made of steel which is seen as a major piece of modern industry. Before ,Habsburg, France were using this building and the desing of it by French architects.The place was one of the heels of Golden Horn by creating a flat platform.This company was important because there was a social dimension about this. Especiall, Cibali neighbourhood survived by this tobacco company. Last 20 years all things started to change and a piece of Industrial archeology starts bringing people to this neighbourhood. In other words, transformation started! Social justification that is seen as a strong effect on the life of this city. There are series of harbours,shipyards(fast ship builders, docking place,) and Ottoman empire realized about this and started to make an action…Tahtakale and Galeta areas became important. Population changed effectively.Moreover in this trip we moved on to the different buildings. Gul Camii, Kanli Kilise, Fethiye Camii are one of them. Gul camii The building is located in Istanbul, in the district of Fatih, in the neighborhood of Ayakapi (Gate of the Saint), along Vakif Mektebi Sokak. It lies at the end of the valley which divides the fourth and the fifth hills of Constantinople, and from its imposing position it overlooks the Golden Horn.It is one of the most important religious Byzantine buildings of Constantinople still extant, but its dedication and the date of its construction, which for long time appeared certain, are now disputed by scholars. It is either identified with the church belonging to the nunnery of Saint Theodosia. The building, since Stephan Gerlach visited it in the late 15th century, has always been identified with the church of Hagia.The building lies on a high basement, which was used also during the Byzantine period only for secular purposes. The masonary of the basement has been built adopting the technique of the “recessed brick”, typical of the Byzantine architecture of the middle period. In this technique, alternate courses of bricks are mounted behind the line of the wall, and are plunged in mortar bed.The building has a cross-in-square plan, which is oriented northwest – southeast. It is 26 meters long and 20 meters wide, and is surmounted by five domes, one above the central nave and four smaller placed on the four corners.The interior of the building was plastered and decorated in the 18th century. One enters through a wooden porch which leads to a low narthex surmounted by a barrel vault. From there a triple arcade leads into the tall nave, which is flanked by galleries forming the side arms of the cross. Carved inside each of the two eastern dome piers there is a small chamber. The south east chamber contains the alleged tomb of the Ottoman Saint Gül Baba.
The other intersting monument for me is Theotokos Panagia Mougliotissa (full name in Greek: Θεοτòκος Παναγιώτισσα (pr. Theotokos Panaghiótissa, lit. “All-Holy Theotokos”) or Παναγία Μουχλιώτισσα (pr. Panaghia Muchliótissa); Turkish name: Kanlı Kilise (meaning:Bloody Church), is an Eastern Orthodox church in Istanbul. It is the only Byzantine church of Constantinople that has never been converted to a mosque, always remaining open to the Greek Orthodox Church .The church, which usually is not open to the public and lies behind a high wall, is placed in the district of Fatih, in the neighborhood of Fener. It lies on Tevkii Cafer Mektebi Sokak, at the summit of a slope overlooking the Golden Horn, and near to the imposing building of the Phanar Greek Orthodox College. The complex lies behind a high wall, and it is usually not open to the public. Although it has always remained in Greek hands, the building has been modified much more heavily than those which have been converted into mosques. The dome rests on a cross formed by four half-domes. The narthex has three bays, whose central bay is covered by a barrel vault. On the south side, the church has been demolished and rebuilt, and the southern half dome and the southern bay of the narthex have been removed and replaced by three aisles. Under the church are visible excavations, and an underground passage which is said to reach Hagia Sophia (although the two buildings are several kilometers apart). Despite its historical importance, the church has never been studied from an architectural point of view.
Lastly, from my point of view Istanbul is full of monuments, buildings… etc that can harly be visited and I think there are many hidden ones that will be found in the future. I may see or not…


Published in: on January 8, 2010 at 22:45  Leave a Comment  

Ayşe Melis Yılmaz Arha318

The fieldtrip 2 was containing; The cistern underneath Kadir Has University, Cibali Campus, Gul Camii (Hagia Theodosia), The Greek Orthodox Patriachate and the church of St. George, The area of Balat/Fener, The Church of St. Mary of the Mongols, The Parekklesion of St. Mary Pammakaristos.
The first place was the museum in Kadir Has University. I think it was an important think that rich families collect the historical monuments because I cannot imagine what if they would be today. Probably most of them would be in other counties of damaged or even lost. Also this situation reminded me, a precious connection for me and this class, the kind of same movement of the rich families’ or dynasties’ trial in Byzantium, by having these important monuments as an indicator of their wealth. Even we can name it as the ideology ‘philanthropy’ it does not matter what the name it is, if we have these monuments today.
The building of the campus was interesting because it was turned from a tobacco factory but the factory was also constructed on a cistern which is still could not be brought out wholly. Because we could not take photographs, I am very sorry. The process of digging is really important because it will orient the historians to have a more accurate knowledge about the real construction years of that cistern. I can say that, it was the most interesting place for me in this trip because the monument was not restorated yet and I felt really a witness of a great historical process. With the researches I did, I also learned that there are generally three layers one over the other. One, the deepest of them is from 11th century as Byzantine cistern. There is an Ottoman bathhouse from 17th century and lastly, there is the tobacco factory lying on which is turned into a university and a museum today. But as I mentioned before, the accurate information is not found out that yet.
The other monument that I really liked is again Gül Camii. It was also very interesting because that it was another structure that had a cistern under it. But very sadly, it was filled with earth and also there was garbage on it. In this point, I really wish something happen about that area too. As another sad point, Gül Camii was not a mosque before but a church, but the changing of it was really unsuccessful. A cement construction for a highly precious structure is disappointing which is the especially entrance part of the mosque. In the article Gül Camii, it is also mentioned that there are some disputes about the exact construction year
In conclusion, I can say that this fieldtrip was more exciting from the first one because the historical monuments that we visit were still alive and it was really difficult to interpret the real condition of that monument with really few ruins. Generally the other monuments also very precious to understand the lifestyle and settlement of Byzantine and early İstanbul but the reason that I especially told about these two monuments is because they were not brought out and restorated yet. Lastly, as a last sentence that I can say I really appreciate to instructor for giving this course not only from the book but also in real.

Tarihce, Rezan Has Müzesi, http://rhm.org.tr/tr/tarihce.php

Ayşe Melis Yılmaz

Published in: on January 8, 2010 at 20:18  Leave a Comment  


Our second fieldtrip started on an early and very cold Saturday morning from a very old part of Istanbul, Cibali, neighborhood where Kadir Has University’s main campus is situated. Building of the Kadir Has University consists of 4 layers. At the bottom layer there is a Byzantine cistern dating back to the 11th century and on top of it, ruins of a historical hammam belonging to the Ottoman Empire dating back to the 17th century and The Cibali Tobacco Factory built in late 19th century on top of this foundation.

Constantinople, a capital city with no rivers and few springs, needed water reservoir to satisfy the water need of the city. Most cisterns were built between the late 4th century and early 7th century as population increased. Water was carried into open and covered cisterns and they supplied water to about 40 public baths as well as monasteries and churches. The major cisterns were usually placed on hills.

A Byzantine cistern called “The Dark Fountain/ Karanlık Çeşme” is located at the museum site, inside the Rezan Has Museum Golden Horn Cultures. This cistern is one of the few Byzantine constructions along the Golden Horn apart from the city walls. With its 48 columns and 24 domes, the Dark Fountain was built to meet the water needs of the district. The cistern was brought to light during excavations in 1944 by Istanbul Archaeological Museums.
As you go trough to cistern you can smell the moisture and see moss and fungus on columns. The ground of the cistern was covered with archeological soil because the place was used for storage and dumping in Ottoman period.

After the conquest of Istanbul, the cistern was used as a hammam in the 17th century and witnessed the historical events of that period. The Cibali Tobacco Factory which built on top of the Byzantine cistern was an important institution during the Ottoman Empire. It changed the neighborhood socially and economically. Its large factory building housed both tobacco processing and cigarette production. There were 2162 people working there, mostly women. It is presumed that the cistern was used as a shelter by the workers of the tobacco factory in the pre-republican period. The cistern also served as a warehouse for food. With the establishment of republic the control of the factory passed to the state. The factory, most of which by that time had been shut down, was totally abandoned in 1995. After 2 years later, government handed the buildings over to Kadir Has University.

The architects in charge of the restoration and renovation worked together with university planners and have taken great care to preserve the original character and architectural integrity of the buildings, while transforming factory building into a university campus. After 4 years of restoration work, between 1998 and 2002, the Tekel Cibali Cigarette Factory was transformed from a warehouse that produced and sold tobacco into a university by the Kadir Has Foundation.
The main building of the Kadir Has University rooted in a history of 1400 years won the 2003 Europe Nostra Award, the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage as the best preserved building.

The history of the Kadir Has University building was an interesting one. It can be clearly realized and understood why it won the Europe Nostra Award. I knew that the building once was a tobacco factory but I didn’t know that it was founded on a Byzantine cistern. It is disappointing that responsible officials didn’t give us permission to take photos of the cistern. People who goes and sees this beautiful and impressive cistern can’t share their experience in detail due to lack of photos as evidence. As a result, the Byzantine cistern lacks the recognition and awareness of the inhabitant of Istanbul and tourists.

• Cyril Mango, Katherine M. Kiefer, William Loerke “Constantinople, Monuments of” The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Ed. Alexander P. Kazhdan. © 1991, 2005 by Oxford University Press, Inc. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium: (e-reference edition). Oxford University Press. Koc University. 8 January 2010 http://www.oxford-byzantium.com/entry?entry=t174.e1228.s0002



Published in: on January 8, 2010 at 18:00  Leave a Comment  

Parekklesion of St. Mary Pammakaristos

David Bergstein

I thought the most fascinating aspect of the last field trip was the visit to parekklesion of St. Mary Pammakaristos. This church was located in an area called Carshamba, and simply walking through this more conservative side of Istanbul was an interesting experience for me as an exchange student, having previously been exposed to only to the more cosmopolitan aspects of the city like Sultanahmet and Taksim. The church was built by the Palailogan Dynasty, specifically in the 14th century, making it one of the last signfiicant churches to be constructed in Constantinople before the fall of the city to the Ottomans in 1453. The ottomans eventually converted the church into a mosque, the Fetiye Camii. However, the Parakklesion of the church has been beautifully restored, and is a beautiful example of the cross in square church architecture that characterized Byzantine church construction during the late and middle Byzantine periods. In addition to the large central dome, the cross in square church plans have smaller domes in each of the corners of the “cross,” creating a powerful, opening effect. What was particularly striking to me about this church was the feeling of vertical lift achieved by the dome. The church itself is in a relatively small space, but the incredibly sharp angle of the lift opening creates a feeling of a much larger and more inspiring area. The church is also decorated with a multitude of beautiful mosaics, and I believe that the arraignment of mosaics is done in such a way as to create a hierarchy of images, with an image of the Jesus (the pantocrator) in the top of the dome, and various scenes of the saints and old testaments in the alcoves and niches surrounding it. The apse is similarly decorated with a tile mosaic of Jesus, again surrounded by other christian images. The final point of interest about this church was the dichotomy between the presence of the large mosque and the newly restored church, demonstrating the somewhat contrasting architectural and artisitc legacies of the city. We are fortunate that the plaster used to cover these images when the church was converted into a mosque did such a good job preserving them.

Cormack, R.. (2000) Byzantine Art. Oxford: Oxford UP.

“The Parajjkesuib if St. Mary Pammakaristos” http://www.byzantium1200.com/pamma.html

“The Fethiye Camii” Arch Net

Published in: on January 8, 2010 at 17:28  Leave a Comment  

Emre Gürsoy Fener and the Greek School

Fener and the Greek Orthodox College
In our second trip, the most fascinating part was Fener with its spectecular image and large history.
Fener, konwn as Phanar, is a neighborhood midway up to the Golden Horn, within the borough of Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey (former Constantinople). There are many historical streets with wooden houses, synagogues and churches remained from Byzantine and Ottoman times.
The neighborhood became home of the most Greeks after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Also Greek Orthodox Patriarchate was moved to this area. It is still located in Fener. Therefore, Fener has a role like Vatican (Roman Catholic Church) with its Patriarchate (Orthodox).
Greek School (known as Megalo Scholion or Greek Orthodox College) is one of the important monuments that still remained. It was established by Matheos Kamariotis in 1454. Then, it became functioning as a school. Greeks, Bulgarians and some Ottoman ministers were graduated from it.
The School was located in Fener, near the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate (also the church of St. George’s). It was designed then constructed by an Ottoman Greek architect Dimadis, between 1881-1883. It has a different style because Dimadis used many different architectural techniques in the building. Therefore, it is a nice example of an architectural mixture. Also, the building’s shape seems like a castle. Therefore, despite its function as a school, Fener Greek Orthodox College is also referred as the 5th largest castle in Europe. It has a large dome at the top which there is a antique telescope inside for astronomy classes.
Greek School still remaines its function under the authority of the government in contemporary Turkey. If you are interested deeply, then the official website of the school is http://www.frl.k12.tr/index.aspx Bibliography
-“Τριανταφυλλίδης On line Dictionary”. Φανάρι (3α). http://www.komvos.edu.gr/dictonlineplsql/simple_search.display_full_lemma?the_lemma_id=15948&target_dict=1. Retrieved October 7, 2006. -Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium
-Dr. Alessandra Ricci. Fener, Istanbul, 19 December 2009.

Published in: on January 8, 2010 at 17:10  Leave a Comment  

Ozlem Bilgic-the Cistern and Kadir Has University Cibali Campus

Ozlem Bilgic- the Cistern and Kadir Has University Cibali Campus
The first stop of our second field trip was the cistern underneath to Kadir Has University. This university is constructed above three historical places. One is the Byzantine cistern and the other is a 19th century Ottoman tobacco factory. The cistern is waiting to be excavated because even if it is under the protection of the Kadir Has University there a lot of historical evidence to be proven. For example, it is known that after the cistern was no longer in usage, the inhabitants of the neighborhood were using the places as a garbage area. This remains of garbage can be good evidences of the daily life and archaeologist should profit on this site. On the other hand,even the cistern is dating back to the 11th century, it is debatable subject among archaeologists. In additionto this the cistern has 48 columns adn 24 domes and it was discovered during the excavations in 1944.When you enter to the cistern the humidity of the air and the wet ground make easier to imagine the place as it was centuries ago. On top of this area there are ruins of a 17th century Ottoman hammam. And then, during the 19th century, this building became a tobacco factory which was proving a job opportunity to the neighborhood but particularly to the women because the women worker population was more then men worker population. And this job opportunity helped to change the socioeconomic condition to this district. Finally in 1997 with the opening of the Kadir Has University, the building came to its fourth and final stage. I think that this university is fairly respectful to the historical heritage of this Istanbul and helping to us to observe a brief summary of the history of the city. Özlem Bilgiç Bibliography;
Kadir Has Muzesi, Istanbul, Conference Site, 8 January 2010. http://www.istr.org/conferences/istanbul/conf_site.htm Rezan Has Muzesi, Tutun Fabrikası, http://www.rhm.org.tr/tr/tutun.php
Cyril Mango “Constantinople” The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Ed. Alexander P. Kazhdan. © 1991, 2005 by Oxford University Press, Inc.. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium: (e-reference edition). Oxford University Press. Koc University. 8 January 2010 http://0-www.oxford-byzantium.com.libunix.ku.edu.tr:80/entry?entry=t174.e1226

Published in: on January 8, 2010 at 17:04  Leave a Comment  

Z. Doğa Ortaköylü Cistern underneath Kadir Has University, Cibali campus

I never knew that there was a cistern underneath the Kadir Has University Cibali Campus near Halic. That building has four layers. In the bottom layer there was a Byzantine cistern beginning from11th century. On top of it there was an Ottoman bath dated to 17th century and at last on third layer there was a Tobacco Factory named Cibali dated to 1880’s.

The cistern under the campus was used for water needs of the province. It is a Byzantine style cistern which has 24 vaults and 48 columns. This cistern was founded in 1944 by archaeological excavations. Before Republican era during the warfare workers at Tobacco Factory used cistern as a shelter. Also they stored food in the cistern at those times. After invasion of Istanbul by Ottomans, in the 17th century, cistern was used as an Ottoman bath and the part which used for this purpose founded in excavations. In the last 20 years conservation of structure of started again.

In Tobacco Factory usually women work there. It was a European form of industrial architecture. Then, industrial archaeology abandoned, turned into university. Later on transformation in the neighborhood started again. That was social gentrification and it had strong effect in the lives of city.

Kadir has University located near Halic. That place in the past was docking and harbor area. Venetians were given section of Golden Horn where they can trade. Then, they built ships there. Ottomans built arsenals to compete with them. Clusters of western trades in the city started to be seen. Later on, the area abandoned. In 1950’s area abandoned and continuity of life in this neighborhood stopped.

I would like to write some of the features of the cistern too. When we come inside the cistern we realized that it was like a building support construction. We saw some reliefs on the columns. We learned that they were dumping in cistern. In 13th century cistern was not functioning.


Gülhan Balsoy (2009). Gendering Ottoman Labor History: The Cibali Régie Factory in the Early Twentieth Century. International Review of Social History, 54 , pp 45-68



Published in: on January 8, 2010 at 16:39  Leave a Comment  

The Parekklesion of the church of Theotokos Pammakaristos (Will Wyeth)

The Parekklesion of the Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos stands today as one of the greatest testaments to the brilliance of the ‘renaissance’ of Byzantine art under the Palaiologan dynasty. The building forms part of a larger picture of rebirth and rejuvenation in the artistic sense at a time when the state of the empire itself was in permanent decline. The entire complex, both church (today the Fethiye Camii) and the Parekklesion (now a museum) also tell a great deal about the evolution of a new kind of institution in the Byzantine empire, urban Monasticism, which began in the 5th century in Constantinople and has never stopped since.

The Parekklesion of the Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos was the funerary chapel of the main church, or Katholikon. The building itself is believed to have been built some 40 years after the recapture of Constantinople from the Latins (1261), soon after 1304, in the reign of Andronikos II Palaiologos (r. 1282-1328); indeed many of the buildings built during this period are associated with either his family or members of his court. The original monastic church, or Katholikon, was built at an earlier time, but its precise date of construction is unknown. The Parekklesion, or funerary chapel, was commissioned by the widow of Michael Glabas Tarchaneiotes, a general of the empire, and is a prime example of post-1261 artistic decoration.

The primary image of the building is the Christ Pantokrator (‘Ruler of All’), resident in the main dome at the centre of the church. Just below are twelve apostles of the Old Testament, each inside a recess of the dome. The decoration of the apse features a ‘Deisis’ depiction of Christ, the Theotokos (literally, ‘Mother of God’) and Iohannes Prodromos (John the Baptist), easily recognisable with his long shaggy beard and wrinkled expression. There are also a great number of other mosaics, including scenes from the life of Christ (including the Baptism) as well as individual icons to saints and church fathers. All the images and icons are on a gold background, reinforcing both the divinity of the individuals or events portrayed as well as the rich decoration of the whole building.

The architecture of the building itself is both remarkable and indicative of the purpose and period in which it was built. The building itself is very small, with the area at the centre of the chapel below the dome measuring under four metres square. The modest size of the ‘footprint’ of the building is in stark contrast with its relative height, and this is most clearly exemplified again in the central dome area of the building and its supporting structures, namely the pendentives, arches and pillars. The arcuate design of the architecture, with its many angles and arches, is an feature indicative of churches and associated buildings of this period in Byzantine history. Other buildings from this era, such as the Chora Monastery, echo the wall construction of the Parekklesion, and may indeed have been built by the same workshop. The size and impression of this Parekklesion contrasts strongly with churches of other periods, such as the St. Sophia at the heart of the Constantinople, with its large surface areas and monumental impression. Furthermore this was a chapel to an individual, and as such a large building would weaken the connection of building to person. The church also feature several acrosolia, where the sarcophagi of the dead would have been placed to rest.

From a personal perspective, this building is singly the most beautiful and both architecturally & artistically astounding building from the Byzantine period in Istanbul. The mosaics are typical of a rich and profound tradition of icons strongly resonant of the Byzantine tradition. The overwhelming impression achieved from standing directly under the principle dome is akin to that felt in the Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia); yet whereas in the Aya Sofya one grasps the monumental scale of both the building itself and the society which built it, in the Parekklesion of the church of Theotokos Pammakaristos one feels the slowing pulse of a very old empire with very old traditions. For me it epitomises the longevity and indomitable tradition and culture which were to outlive the fall of the capital Constantinople in 1453, a time which many attribute (falsely) to be the end of Byzantium. I am relieved to see how the building has been preserved, and furthermore that it has been made into a museum for the people of Turkey and the world to see. Although not on the traditional tourist trail in the old part of the city of Istanbul, it is definitely worth a visit. Sources:

Cormack, Robin., Byzantine Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)

Ćurčić, Slobodan & Mouriki, Doula., The Twilight of Byzantium: Aspects of Cultural and Religious History in the Late Byzantine Empire (Papers from the Colloquium held at Princeton University, 8-9 May 1989) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991)

Fryde, Edward., The Early Palaiologan Renaissance (1261-c. 1360) (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishing, 2000)

Herrin, Judith., Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire (London: Allen Lane, 2007)

Will Wyeth

Dr. Ricci’s fieldtrip to Fatih

Published in: on January 8, 2010 at 15:56  Leave a Comment