Nr. 245 (2019)

Τhe Byzantine Churches of Constantinople after the Fall[1]

Nr. 245 (2019)

Von Maria Vaiou

The fifteenth century Byzantine historian Krtitovoulos (d.1470) mentions that during the fall the sultan Mehmed II (d.1481) had promised to the soldiers that among the goods to enjoy and take profit if they fought well was the beauty of the churches. Reportedly among the crowds who were trying to escape the slaughter, many peple, men, women and children fled to the churches to make supplication. In Hagia Sophia a crowd of people had taken refuge

and were taken captives carried to the galleys and the camp.[1] After the city was reduced to slavery some troops went to the robbing of churches while others enslaved priests and monks who were driven out of the churches where they had taken refuge. Kritovoulos stresses the desecrating and plundering of the churches. Things such as icons and reliquaries were thrown on the ground. Some were given to the fire others were torn and scattered. Books of literature and philosophy were given to the flames or trampled under foot. Many were sold in contempt for some pieces of money. The walls of sanctuaries and cloisters were explored, and the holy places of the shrines were dug into and overthrown in search for gold.

Sources describing fifteenth century Istanbul picture her as a deserted and ruined city:  sizeable neighborhoods and urban fabric have been replaced by monasteries amid large gardens and orchards, population had diminished[2], and the existing settlement in the city is scattered and surrounded by ditches. The map by Christoforo Buondelmonti (d.1430) in the first half of the fifteenth century shows huge empty areas lying beyond the churches and monasteries.[3]

Travellers visiting Istanbul before the conquest estimated that the population of the city was ca. forty to sixty thousand. Schneider has argued based on a document of 1437 that the population was forty thousand.[4] Runciman also said that the population of the city was one tenth of the population in the twelfth century.[5] A maximum of fifty churches survived the Ottoman conquest except for the monasteries, and only eighteen of these were able to function.[6] Eyice assumes that there were around 100 churches in the city, big or small, intact or damaged.[7] Several churches lay in ruins during the period of conquest; many were demolished e.g. the four churches of St. Anargyroi, Irene, Theodoulos, and Panagias Chrysopiges. The Byzantine historian Dukas mentions that construction materials from the chuches have been used in the repair of the city walls as Yedikule.[8]

The first objective of the sultan Mehmed II  was to transform the city into an Islamic city-hence its name ‘Islam-bol’.[9] As part of the reconstruction process of the city he took the initiative to reorganise the damaged social and economic structure; he repaired the city walls and repopulated the city. His policy of transferring people of various professions to Istanbul and later his policy of forced migration[10] came about to revive the city. Economic conditions led to the existence of districts. New quarters such as Aksaray (Forum Bovis), Çarşamba (in the Fatih district), Karaman and Kefe (see the Kefeli mescid) were named after the hometowns of the immigrants.[11] Within the context of construction activities initiated in the second half of the fifteenth century newly built mosques and complexes came into being in neighborhoods and the later were named after the mosques like Balaban ağa (Theotokos tou Kouratoros) and Küçük Aya-Sophia (St. Sergius and Bacchus in Kumkapi or monastery of Hormisdas).[12] These new settlements which were formed around a religious nucleus encompassed elements of service, production and commercial transactions.

Population rose with the migrations but it started to diminish as a result of the plagues of 1455, 1466 and 1472. The population in 1480 was ca. eighty thousand. The Turks made up 58% of the city’s population and the Greeks 23% whereas Armenians, Jews and Latins 19%.[13] Non-Muslim communities gather in great numbers in certain districts and receive importance in artisinal and commercial life of the city. The Greeks were those who already lived in the city and those who arrived through migrations. They clusted around religious edifices whch had been mainly located in the vicinity of city gates  along the walls; as a result of the ban on the construction of new churches by Christians, the centres of settlement expanded around the existing religious buildings within the city walls. Few churches remained for Christian use because some churches in the city had been transformed into mosques and some others had been destroyed.[14]

Several edicts prohibited the Christians to live in some areas which were regarded sacred by the Muslims; similarly practices which have caused Christians in Muslim neighbourhoods to be removed from their homes were also observed. An edict dated 1565 prohibits Christians to dwell around mosques.[15]

Kritovoulos asserts that Greek immigrants gathered in Fener (Phanarion) and Samatya.[16] The Greeks settled around the shores of the Golden Horn at Fener up to Balat and south of Samatya, while the Armenians preferred the Kumkapı and Sulu Manastır around Samatya and Jews gathered at Balat. A map by Schneider on post-conquest settlements marks four Greek churches in Kumkapı, six in Samatya and seventeen on the Fener-Edirnekapı-Ayvansaray triangle. This points to the intensity of the presence of the Greeks in this area.[17]

The first Ottoman city was limited in the central part of the city looking towards the Golden Horn.[18] The city renewed itself in many places. The Old Seraglio, the Topkapi palace (ca. 1465-70)[19] and the mosques were changes to the Byzantine geography. Urban space was organised independently of the Byzantine period .[20] The renown historian Gerasimos argues that the district mosques of 15th c. show this break with the earlier period’s pattern of urban space, which is seen in the ‘interaction between the the duties of the founders and location of mosques’ and that the new urban pattern of the Ottoman city was evident by the end of the 15th century.

A tradition of conquest by peace which had its foundation in the days of the sultan Mehmet II legitimised the preservation of old churches. Churches were admired as works of God and their conversion into mosques[21]  was a symbolic action manifesting the victory of Islam. The most visible symbol was the minaret for the call to prayer. The mosque was part of complexes of religious and charitable buildings and dominated the urban fabric the city;  it was the place where Islamic religious education was bestowed based on the Koran and the literature of canonical tradition, and the madrasa, which was an enclosed space in the mosque, where learned peronalities taught;[22]  among those were the chapels of St. Mary and St. Michael in the Zeyrek camii (Christ Pantokrator), once functioned as madrasa, and now closed and abandoned from public use.[23]

The masjids or mosques achieved a prominent role and became the religious, political and judicial centres, and also places for socialising and trading of each district (nã˛iye). The imam represented the community in dealing with the state, church or synagogue. Other buildings were tombs (khānqāh, turba) were laid  were connected with the rise of the Sufi brotherhoods (†arīqāt). There were also the zāwiya convents, which functioned as colleges for dervishes most commonly associated with the Sufi sects; the names tekke and dargah for larger and smaller buildings were respectively used for meetings and dhikr; they provided lodgings for poor, served as mosques, meeting places and guest houses.[24] These buildings or religious complexes comprised by the imaret (hospice) system[25] were built by the founder of the district, were named after him, and administered by a charitable foundation, the waqfs. The amount of wealth poured though the city was based on revenue-producing commercial establishments as part of the waqfs.[26] Thus the concept of the mosque was that of a centre of religious, spiritual and social and commercial activity and this variety of functions characterised Ottoman mosques until the sixteenth century.[27] This institution shaped the space and architecture of İstanbul, was Islamic and was laid down under the supervision of the sultan.[28]

Based on the registers of charitable foundations, this institution was part of the new administrative system of the early 16th c. and  the division of the city into a residential section of quarters (mahallesi) where the main facilities of the district were the mosque, school and a zāwiye (convent for dervishes). [29]

Thus the largest and most important churches and monasteries were used as mosques, hospices, warehouses or dervish lodges.[30] Thus the largest and most important Byzantine buildings such as Hagia Sophia, was transformed into a mosque (Ayasofya Müzesı, Ayasofya Camii),[31] the monastic church of Christ Pantepoptes was transformed into an Old Hospice mosque (Eski İmaret Camii, Hacı Hasan mescidi or Imaret-i-Atik Camii or Kilise Camii)[32] , and the church of Christ Akataleptos was transformed into a dervish lodge for Kalendari dervishes[33], and the Christ Pantokrator was used as a mosque and madrasa (Zeyrek Camii or Molla Zeyrek Camii).[34]  San Paolo Domenico in Galata was transformed into the Arap mosque (Arap Camii or Arab Camii).[35] Doukas says that in 1455 shoemakers and fullers occupied the convent of Pantokrator and dervishes settled in the convent of Mangles. [36]Also other Byzantine churches had been used as small mosques, lodges or baths.[37] Such smaller churches which have been transformed into small mosques have been dedicated to the commanders taking part in the conquest.[38] 207 mosques are found in Istanbul in this period 17 of which have been transformed from churches.[39] Müller-Wiener in a plan showing important buildings in Istanbul during the 13th to 15th centuries mentions 19 churches three of which belong to the Latins and seven small churches.[40]

The Ottoman sultans saw themselves as heirs to the Byzantine emperors and built splendid buildings in the city. Ottoman imperial mosques, which were commissioned by or for the sultan , his relatives or  high dignitaries,  were viewed as ‘the most remarkable monuments’ of Ottoman architecture and are known as the great sultans mosques.[41] As it was the case with the church-building in the Byzantine period, architecture was used to assert the power and authority of the sultans as defenders of Islam,  their piety[42] and conferred legitimacy manifested in the union of temporal and spiritual authority. This was conveyed in the external formal aspects of the buildings[43], and in the activities within which were part of the social order of the complexes which were to serve the religion and the Muslim community; state ceremonial which was linked with the sultans’ visit to mosques for the celebration of military victories and religious feasts, such as the birth of the Prophet or the selamlik further underlined his piety and legitimized his role.[44].

Similar to the imperial mosque building the conversion of churches had to do with political initiatives to commemorate a victory, and was related to the claim to piety and magnificence of the ruling elite. Except from the sultans the conversions took place by well-known personalities who acted as patrons such as Ebüssu’ûd Efendi (d. 1574), Molla Zeyrek Efendi (d. 912/1506),[45] Molla Gürani (d. 893/1488)[46], Abdülmecid Efendi, Hoca[47] Hayreddin Efendi,[48] ‘Ali Efendi of the Fenari family (d. 902 1496/7)[49], Sheyh Muhyiddin Mehmed Efendi (d.920/1514),[50] Ferhad Ağa[51] and grand wazirs such as Sokullu Mehmed Pasha (d. 1579). [52]

Sultan Mehmed II in order to organise the social and religious status of the Greeks  enthroned the patr. Gennadius (d.1473), whom he held in high esteem, in 1454 and became in charge of the Rum Milleti.[53] The sultan with an edict he issued determined the legal status of the Greeks[54]. The original document was burnt in a fire and the date is unknown. It determined freedom of worship, the right to elect their own religious leader and provided security of life and possessions, and rescognition of the church. The community would keep their marriage funeral and other practices.[55] Under Islamic law, the dhimmi, non-Muslim ‘people of the book’, were given the status of ‘protected subject’: they were required to recognise Islamic sovereignty, pay poll tax and were subject to restrictions.[56] Christians enjoyed a legal, administrative and religious autonomy marked by their participation in Ottoman society through their effort to protect their rights.[57]

The Ottomans had a pragmatic approach towards the building of new non-Muslim places and permitted their construction subject to necessity[58] and this was supported by the opinions of legal scholars. However this issue had been subject to dispute and there was contradiction among scholars and jurists.[59] The Ottoman protection of places of worship of non-Muslims, or arbitration in disputes between religious communities concerning repair or ownership are among the themes raised in  firmans which further point to the notion of religious tolerance.[60]

In fatwas issued by the grand müfti Ebussuud Efendi on rules of conversion of churches it was stressed that churches were given through conquest by peace.[61] A new church pulled down if not legally justified for the construction of mosque had to be replaced by a new one.

Patr. Gennadius could not be consecrated in the church of St. Sophia which had been converted into a mosque. Instead he was taken to the church of Holy Apostles which was still functioning as a place for Christian worship and was designated as Patriarchate.[62] The need of a costly restoration and the occupation of the district by immigrant Turks who disliked the church made Gennadius abandon the church, and with the permission of the sultan he moved to the convent of Pammakaristos in 1455[63] , until 1586 when it was converted into the Fethiye mosque, and handed the church over to the sultan. [64] Mehmed II pulled it down and ordered to erect a mosque which in height, beauty and size would vie with the finest temples.[65]

Thus the Fatih mosque complex, was built on the grounds of the church of Holy Apostles (ca. 1459 or 1463 and 1470) and was conceived as the centre of a social complex, consisting of eight big and eight small madrasas, a mosque, hospital, hostel, bath, public kitchen, school, market and the mausoleums of the sultan Mehmed II and his wife; it represents a continuity and transformation of the traditional function of the mosque as it had been conceived in Bursa and Edirne.[66] Former important churches passed on their qualities to new imperial mosques  and the sultans followed up their predecessor’s past glory and charisma. In addition, the mosque marks the beginning of imperial  mosques in Istanbul for the next centuries and serves as a symbol of the Fatih district, Istanbul’s oldest district in which most of the Byzantine churches are still located or lay in ruins or transformed in mosques. Istanbul’s mosques especially in Fatih played an important role in the disemmination of Islamic culture and civilisation.[67]

In general the mosques continued to be seen as visual units of the Byzantine and Ottoman past and the rise of Islam. Ottoman architecture was influenced by Byzantium: the halfdome and conch were Byzantine contributions to Ottoman architecture.[68] There was a degree of continuity with the Byzantine past in Hagia Sophia which retained its name and was endowed with special sanctity that was related to the belief that the value of prayers performed in it were increased: the seventeenth century Ottoman traveller Evliya Çelebi (d. 1682) says that ‘the largest mosque in Istanbul, the Ka’ba of the mystics, without equal in the world, comparable only to the tabernacle of the Seventh Heaven and the vault of the cupola of the ninth, and all those who see it remain lost in astonishment on contemplating its beauties’.[69]

Sultan Mehmed II was interested in appropriating the imperial prestige of St. Sophia, a fact which is attested in the copy and translation of a manuscript of a  9th-10th c. text called Diegesis peri tes Hagias Sophia (Narrative concerning Hagia Sophia) in 1474 on legends on the construction of the church[70]; further the greatest  imperial mosque was used for the burial of three sultans i.e. Selim II (d.1574), Murad III (d.1595), and Mehmed III (d.1603) providing thus a psychological link between the deceased sultans with ‘institutionalised Islam’; St. Sophia served as the model for mosques such as the Fatih, Bayezid Sehzade and the Süleymaniye: until the 17th c. there were similar patterns of architectural language. A revival of Byzantine masonry and compositional techniques is also apparent in mosques in the 18th century. As Neçipoglu argues, sultanic mosques starting with the Fatih were engaged in dialogue with the church;.[71] similarly Kuban argues of the merging of the Islamic mosque tradition with the late Roman and Byzantine[72].

In the period of the sultan Bayezid II (1481-1512), the imperial mosque (ca. 1500 and 1505) shares a similarity with St. Sophia in the adoption of the ‘two semi-dome system’ and the central nave[73]. The mosque complex built between the Old palace and the Bedesten gave this part of the city a new vitality. In this period Ottoman building activity was increased and related to the great conquests of the empire in the sixteenth century which put the basis for its claim to universal authority and this became visible through architecture.[74] Bayezid II was, unlike his father, less tolerant towards the Greeks: the transformation of churches and monasteries continued and sixteen of the major Byzantine churches turned into mosques. Ötüken says that the sultan was patron of only one of them and this trend was led mainly by high level dignitaries.[75]

The early sultans from Mehmed II to Süleyman I (1520-66) had similar aspirations as the Byzantine emperors and envisaged in reuniting Constantinople and Rome and this clearly marked their building projects and the phase of monumental architecture.[76] The latter reached its peak with the well-known architect Sinan (1489-1588), who was able to transmit the empire’s power and majesty in his building projects in Istanbul and elsewhere. Sinan exercised a major influence on the mosque form and he is credited with establishing the single dome empire-style during the 16th century serving the sultans Süleyman, Selim (d.1520) and Murad III (d.1595).[77]

New quarters formed in the city Istanbul with the forced immigration of artisans and artists from the newly conquered lands to Istanbul in the sixteenth century. During the reign of the sultan Selim I (1512-20)[78] many artists and artisans were forced to go to Istanbul mainly from Tabriz, Damascus and Cairo.[79] Istanbul by then had become the metropolis of the Muslim world. Scholars have argued that the non-Muslim communities have been oppressed in this period.[80] Sultan Selim I tried to convert Christians and there were attempts to curb their rights granted by the sultan Mehmed II.[81] Müller –Wiener says that the last churches to remain with their domes were transformed into mosques with an edict in 1518 who demanded that the Christians surrender all their churches.[82]

Estimating the population of Istanbul ca. sixty thousand, Karpat suggests that the population reached ca. half a million in the next hundred years, more than a third of whom constitued Christians.[83] It is stated that while there were around eighty thousand households and four hundred thousand people in mid-sixteenth century Istanbul, 58% of this consisted of Muslims, and 42% of Christians and Jews.[84] Based on the 1540 (947) ‘Tahrir Defteri’  [Land register] of Fatih mosque and Hospice foundation, it has been observed that the 1457 Greek households which paid the poll tax to this institution were situated in Kadırga, Kumkapı, Langa, Altımermer, Fener and Galata.[85]

In the era of the sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (1520-66), known as the Lawgiver, there was an impetus in the architectural activity in which important diginitaries participated besides the sultan himself.[86]  In this period here was respect towards the rights of the minororities. More churches were transformed into mosques with the name Deniz Abdal, Sekbanbası Ferhat Ağa, Sinan Pasha (or Kızıl Masjid), and Sekbanbası Ibrahim Ağa .[87]

Often the conversion of churches to mosques was a token of victory as it was in the case with the monastery of Pammakaristos. The sultan Murad III (1574-95)[88] in 1586 converted the church of St. Mary Pammakaristos which sheltered the patriarchate for 131 years into the Fethiye mosque to commemorate Murad III’s military victory in Georgia on the reason that prayer had been performed during the day of the city’s conquest.  The church of St. John the Baptist in Trullo which was in the vicinity was also transformed in a mosque ‘Hırami Ahmet Pasha masjid’ or ‘Ahmed Pasha mescidi’ in this period.[89] The patriarchate moved to the church of the Theotokos Paramythia (1587-1597) and later to St. Demetrios Kanabos in Ayvansaray in 1597[90] until it built in the next century the present church of St. George in  Fener. Like all churches built under the Ottomans it was not allowed to have a dome visible from outside.

In the sixteenth century there was an increase in the number of worshipping places for the Muslims. While new mosques were built on one hand, some churches were converted into small mosques on the other. Some churches were still reserved for Christian devotion such as St. Demetrios Kanabos in Ayvansaray, St. George of the Cypresses (Kyparission), St. Menas, St. Mary of the Mongols (Kanli Kilise), St. Mary Pammakaristos, St. John in Trullo, St. Mary Peribleptos, St. Nicholas, St. Marie and St. Benoit.[91]

During this period a great part of our knowledge about Greek churches comes from the writings of travelers, researhers or scientists who had visited Istanbul at different times: Petrus Gyllius (1546), Hans Dernschwam (1553), and Stephan Gerlach (1573-78). Müller-Wiener shows in his plan of the buildings of the 15th and 16th centuries 23 mosques converted from churches and 37 mosques, 4 smaller mosques, 4 madrasas, 7 khans, 6 baths, 2 palaces and a rampart built after the conquest and ten churches open for worship.[92]

In the end of the sixteenth century architectural activity dimishes. During the reign of the sultan Selim II (1566-74)[93] the Sokullu Mehmed Pasha[94] complex has been built on the site of a former Byzantine church.[95]. The first organized information on Greek Orthodox churches in Istanbul dates back to the late sixteenth century. A list by Tryphon Karabeinikov refers to 47 churches active in the period between 1583 and 1593[96]. They were located within the Old Istanbul area, i.e.  the area within the city walls, and at the northern shores of the Golden Horn, Hasköy and Galata.

The only imperial mosque which was built in this time was in the reign of the sultan Muhammad III (1595-1603), the mosque of the Yeni Valide, which was completed by Turhan Valide Sultan (1627-83).[97] Mantran says that the population reached 740,000 in this century. [98]  Istanbul was the largest city of Europe and the Near East. A list by A. Paterakis (1604) refers to 55 Greek churches in Istanbul[99] including churches in villages along the European coast of Bosphorus in addition to those in Tryphon’s list.

In the seventeenth century the number of mosques and their style underwent a change reflecting the reverse in the political fortunes in the Ottoman empire.[100] The foundation of the imperial mosque complexes stopped under the sultan Murad IV (1623-40)[101] and his succesors. During the sultan Murad IV’s reign the Latin church of St. Nicholas and the churches of St.Marie and St. Antonius were converted into mosques. According to Uzunçarşılı there have been made attempts to make life easier for Christians during the primacy of the Grand Vizier Köprülü Fazıl Mustafa Pasha (1689-91)[102]. He provided the opportunity for repair and maintenance of churches and tax deductions; he also opposed the obligation to use only used and old material for church repairs and the prohibition related with it. [103]

The churches suffered frequent and destructive earthquakes and fires[104] following the conquest. They were subject to frequent repairs or rebuilding while the historic fabric of the city was changing. Construction activities of non-Muslim communities were regulated by rules based on Islamic law – the status of churches was determined by edicts. Building outside the city was prohibited by law. An edict addressed to the judges  of Galata, Üsküdar and Haslar dated 1767, concerned the prohibition of construction by non-Muslims of new buildings outside the city walls. [105]  Christians were not allowed to build new churches.[106] An edict dated 1564 concerns the clearance of a church built in Altımermer (Hexakionion). A new church could be built only if it was totally destroyed by fire or earthquake.[107]

Repair of the existing churches required permission. During repairs the existing plan of the church had to be maintained and no additions were to made; otherwise the building would be torn down. Further repairs of non-Muslim religious buildings could be made with used and old materials.[108] Covering domes with lead or even building domes on churches was prohibited[109].

Church repairs had to be undertaken after the application of the church foundation trustees to the Sublime Porte. Construction and repair activities were under the responsibily and supervision of the ‘Corps of Royal Architects’ (Hassa Mimarları Ocağı).[110]  They would decide on a survey in the presence of judges[111] and when the repairs were completed they would do another survey for control purposes. Due to the special significance of these repairs the relevant surveys were undertaken by a council of royal architects presided by the chief architect.[112]

In the second half of the seventeenth century, a list refers to 28 Greek churches in the area covered by Paterakis.[113] Du Cange has spotted 25 churches in the area covered by Tryphon’s list.[114] In the reign of the sultan Mehmed IV (1648-87) the Hamza Pasha mescidi was yet another church transformed into mosque.[115]

In the course of the 18th c. imperial mosque building continued in a more moderate manner than before by the sultan Ahmad III’s (1703-30)[116]  construction of the mosque in Üsküdar and his successor sultan Mahmud I (1730-54)[117] of the Nur-u Osmaniye; the latter marked the last effort to build mosques in the traditional fashion[118].

During the period of the sultans Ahmed III (1703-30) and Selim III (1789-1807)[119] edicts regulated the height of the houses of non-Muslims, the selling of houses of Muslims and prohited their selling to non Muslims and regulated the paint in the houses of non Muslims.[120] Inciciyan (1758-1833) estimates the population in the eighteenth century more than one million. He says that the Greeks live in Fener and their cemeteries were located next to Balıklı Ayasması and across Eğrikapı. In this period St. George in Samaya, St. Demetrios in Ayvansarayi and St. Mary of the Mongols (Panagia of Mouchlion or Mouchliotissa), all Byzanine structures had remained in use for Chrstian worship.[121] Inalcik adds that in this period Istabul had forty churches, three of which had existed since the conquest. The rest of thirty-seven were new and had been built in the following years.[122]

During the reign of the sultan Mustafa III (1750-74) the ambassador Sir James Porter says that Greek churches laid in ruins and one had been burnt down.[123] During the festivities on the occasion of the birth of a prince, which lasted ten days, Greeks have built a new one on the site of the burnt down church due to a permission given to complete construction until the end of festivities. In 1782 a fire in Cibali spread to Yedikule and affected two thirds of the city, six chrches in Samatya fell to ruins.[124]

In the second half of the eighteenth century a list by S. Hovannesyan of Balat (1750-1805) locates 25 churches in the rampart area.[125] In the later eighteenth century, Inciciyan asserts that Greeks who used to have 25 churches currently had 20 churches in Istanbul.[126]

During the reign of  the sultan Abdülhamid I (1774-89)[127] in the Aynalı Kavak Treaty (1779)[128] it was included in its seventh clause the right given to the Christians in the Ottoman realm for building new churches and repairing existing ones.[129] In the reign of the sultan Mahmud II (1808-39)[130] the ban prohibiting Christians to build new churches has been abolished. The mandatory imperial decree required for repairs until then has been rendered obligatory for the construction of churches which are to be rebuilt. Even some grand viziers are observed to have supported church construction through donations.[131]

As a consequence of the Tanzimat[132] reforms in 1839 which were reinforced by the Reform edict of 1856 [Islahat Fermanı][133] the religious freedom of non-Muslims was acknowledged; repairs of non-Muslim churches were not to be hindered.[134] This also resulted in architectural diversification, application of different plans and large scale buildings with intensive decoration. However, construction of new churches required permission from the Porte and an edict from the sultan.[135]

The Greeks and the non-Muslims in general were greatly affected by the turmoil and uprisings in the end of the eighteenth century and by the Greek revolt in the nineteenth century. Greek churches suffered destruction in the course of the upheaval caused by the Greek revolt and Russia requested the rebuilding of destroyed churches[136].

In general, the prohibition of the building of new churches and of the demolition of old ones has contributed to the continuity and maintainance of the original Byzantine sites for most of those surviving Greek Orthodox churches. Greek churches which have been constantly renovated or repaired have preserved the characteristic of being the continuation of Byzantine churches ensuring a continuity in location. The custom to build churches next to or on top of a holy spring ayasma has further contributed to their continuity. Even today the Byzantine churches are known either as kilise camii –church mosques or by the name of their convertors.


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[1] Kritovoulos, History of Mehmed the Conqueror, 76.

[2] Schneider, ‘XV. Yüzyılda İstanbul’un Nüfusu’, 36.

[3] Karaca, 21, n. 5; Eyice, ‘Tarih ŀçinde İstanbul ve Şehrin Gelişmesi’, 113; a similar picture exists in the sixteenth century, when despite the building activity the streets among neighbourhoods consisted of small wooden houses; most of the streets were dead-end-streets except for the well organised main road on the Byzantne Mese which led from the Topkapi to Edirnekap ı; also on the main streets were no carts, people and animals used often the same road; Karaca, 29,n. 61.

[4] Schneider, ‘XV. Yüzyılda İstanbul’un Nüfusu’, 39.

[5] Runciman, The fall,  1965, 202.

[6] Eyice, ‘İstanbul’un Camiye Çevrilen Kiliseleri’,  9.

[7] Eyice, ‘Tarih ŀçinde İstanbul’, 112.

[8] Eyice, ‘İstanbul’un Camiye’, 9. For the churches , see Janin. See also Schneider, ‘Yedikule’.

[9] Inalcik, 253; Ayverdi, ‘Constantinople and its conqueror’; Stachowski, Woodhouse, ‘The etymology of İstanbul: making optimal use of the evidence’, 221-45; Emiralioğlu, ‘Mapping and describing Ottoman Constantinople’, in Geographical knowledge and imperial culture in the early modern Ottoman empire, 57-88; Necipoğlu, ‘From Byzantine Constantinople’, in From Byzantine Constantinople.

[10] Uzunçarşılı, Osmanlı Tarihi II ,154.

[11] Karaca, 22, n. 17; Eyice, ‘İstanbul’un Mahalle ve Semt Adları Hakkında Bir Deneme’, 215; see Janin and Janin, CB.

[12] Karaca, 22,n.18; Aktepe, ‘XVII. Asra Ait İstanbul Kazası Avarız Defteri’, Istanbul Enstitüsü Dergisi,  115; see Janin, 191-2, 230, 451-4 and Janin, CB, 374-5.

[13] Karaca, 24,n.35; Müller-Wiener, 29, 33.

[14] Runciman, 201.

[15] Karaca, 33, ns. 88-90.

[16] Karaca, n. 37; Ayverdi, Fatih Devri Sonlarında İstanbul Mahalleleri, Şehrin İskanı ve Nüfusu, 78.

[17] For the various churches and districts, see Janin, and Janin, CB.

[18] See for example, Berger, ‘Zur topographie’; Schneider, ‘Mauern’.

[19] Karaca, 23, n. 27.

[20] Yerasimos, ‘Ottoman Istanbul’, in ‘Istanbul, Constantinople, Byzantium’, Rassegna : Problemi di architettura e dell’ ambiente ,  27.

[21] The basic unit of the mosque was the domed-square structure.  The Turks use two words for mosques: the word mescid which derives from the Arabic masgid meaning a place for prostrating in worship; and the word cami from jami meaning a place of assembly for the congregation. The mescid refers to a small and camii to a large place of worship. A religious duty was to assemble on Fridays on Friday mosques or masjids. A great mosque was a centre of religion and urban life. Courses on the teaching of Islam were taught in it and the madrasa built within the mosque complex; a religious duty of the sultan was to go for prayers on Friday. On the classification of mosques in 14-15th centuries as single-unit (one-domed), eyvan, multi-unit (many domed), see Kuran, The mosque, 27, 61ff, 71ff, 137ff.; see also A historical archaeology of the Ottoman empire, where there are three types of mosques: multi-cell ( 14th c.), double dome referred as zawiye (15th c.) and single dome (16th c.) mosques or “empire style” with best example the Sokullu Mehmed Pasha mosque; on the latter mosque, see 233-7. The transformation of form is attributed to the need for more light which led to structural and facade experimentation and lighter masonry structures; for a discussion of studies on mosques, see 224-5; Kuban, “An Ottoman building complex’.

[22] Pedersen, ‘Some aspects of the History of  Madrasa’, 337. Repp, 49.  The Kanunname sets the principles for the later development in the function of the profession of ulema; besides müderrises and kadıs there were the müftis. The latter had no career as the two former but his office was gained by the route of the madrasas, kazaskerliks and mevleviyet kadılıks. The Müftilik stood outside the hierarchy and yet supplied the supreme religious authority of the state. In the 15th century the ulema scholars‘ aimed to achieve excellence in ilm, knowledge through teaching and writing;  in 17th c. the interest lay in the attainment of high learned office and power and much less in learning and good administration and by 18th c. there was an elaborated system of a learned hierarchy.

[23] Janin, 344, 515-23.

[24] Kuban, Muslim Religious Architecture, 37-40.

[25] Altinyildiz, ‘The architectural heritage’, 282ff..

[26] Inalcik, 260ff.; on Evliya’s information on the vakfs of imperial mosques, see Crane, 217ff.; The Inner Market [İç Bedesten] which was built ca. 1455-1461 south of the old palace was a centre of commercial actrivities most vital area of economic transactions, see Karaca.

[27] Crane, 186-7.

[28] ºnalcık, 255-61, n. 30.; Singer, ‘Evliya Çelebi on ‘imarets’.

[29] ºnalcık, 261-6; on the sultans sympathy to Sufism, see ºnalcık, 250; Neçipoglu, 53; see also the document at the Topkapi palace dating from 1478 which shows the settlement distribution in this period according to communities, Karaca, n. 31-2. According to this, there were 8951 Muslim households, 3151 Greek, 1647 Jewish, 756 Armenian, 267 of Caffa origin, and 31 Gypsy households. The same document also shows 535 Muslim housholds, 592 Greek, 62 Armenian and 32 ‘Frenk’ in Galata. Schneider estimated the population in mid 15th c. ca 60-70 thousand and Ayverdi speaks of a 120-140 thousand; Karaca, 24,n.33; Schneider, 1952, 44; Ayverdi, 1958, 82.

[30] Karaca, 22, n. 20.

[31] Janin, 429-30, 455-70; for an exhaustive bibliography, see Vaiou, The Byzantine churches.

[32] Janin, 513-5; for an exhaustive bibliography, see Vaiou, The Byzantine churches.

[33] Janin, 504-6; for an exhaustive bibliography, see Vaiou, The Byzantine churches.

[34] See the reference above n.24; for an exhaustive bibliography, see Vaiou, The Byzantine churches.

[35] Janin, 108-9, 591-2; for an exhaustive bibliography, see Vaiou, The Byzantine churches.

[36] Yerasimos, ‘Ottoman Istanbul’, Rassegna.

[37] Karaca, 22,n. 22; Ötüken, ‘İstanbul Kiliselerinin Fetihten Sonra Yeni Görevleri, Banileri ve Adları’, Hacettepe Beşeri Bilimler Dergisi, 71-5.

[38] Karaca, 22,n. 23; Eyice, ‘İstanbul’un Camiye Çevrilen Kiliseleri’, 10.

[39]  Inalcik, ‘Istanbul: an Islamic City’, 4  mentions that 6 churches were converted to mosques, one to a madrasa and one to a convent; Altinyildiz, ‘The architectural heritage’, 282, n.11; Ötüken argues that during the reign of Mehmed II twenty churches were converted into mosques and during the reign of Bayezid II sixteen; see Dilsiz, ‘The Byzantine heritage’,  30-1; Ötüken. ‘Istanbul Kiliselerinin’, 71-85;  also Altinyildiz, ‘The architectural heritage’, 282.

[40] Karaca, 24,n. 30. Müller-Wiener, Abb.4.

[41] On imperial mosque architecture, whose beginning should be found in the time of Orhan, see Crane, ‘The Ottoman sultans’ mosques’, 173ff..

[42] Adherence to piety  was much valued by the Ottomans; on the relationship between piety and Ottoman political theory see Crane, 196-7; on the depiction of the piety of the Ottoman sultans such as Mehmed, Murad II in sources, Bayezid II, see Crane.

[43] On the importance of the imperial tombs of the founders  in the vicinity of the mosques a tradition which was established y Orhan at Bursa which gave a further signifacance to the mosques, see Crane, 207-8; on the importance of materials used for the mosques and the workmanship, or the inscriptions, see Crane, 214ff..

[44] Crane, 221ff..

[45] Crane, 132, n.1001.

[46]Molla Gürani was  present at the siege of Constantinople; he also wrote a fat˛n me on the conquest.

[47] In the Kanunname his status is defined in the same terms as the Müfti’s; see Repp, 303.

[48] Crane, 114, n.872.

[49] Crane, 176, n.1356.

[50] Crane, 135, n.1026.

[51] Crane, 144, n.1098.

[52] Repp, The Müfti of Istanbul; on Sheyh Muhyiddin Mehmed Efendi, see 221-3; on Molla Gürani, see 166-74; on Molla ‘Alî Fenârî, 73-98; on Sokullu Mehmed Pasha., see Neçipoglu, The Age of Sinan, 444-7, 345-76.

[53] See Runciman, Great Church, 167-8 ; Runciman, “Rum Milleti: the Orthodox communities’, 3; Laurent, ‘Les premiers patriarches de Constantinople’; The patriarch under Ottoman administration was on the same level with the vizier, was given a place at the Divan and was exempted from all duties and taxes; he presided the council concerning matters of interest to the Greek commnity and he was authorised in legal and penal issues’: see Karaca, 26-7,  ns 43, 44.

[54] Karaca, n. 40; Ergin, Türk Tarihhinde Evkaf ,69; Inalcik, ‘The status of the Greek Orthodox patriarch under the Ottomans’.

[55] Karaca, 26,n. 41; Inalcik, ‘The policy of Mehmed II towards the Greek population’, 231-49.

[56] Norton, ‘(In) tolerant Ottomans’, 245, n.8; for the issue of status of churches, see Baer, ‘The great fire of 1660’, 159-81, 165-6.

[57] Kolovos, ‘Negotiating for state protection’.

[58] Demirel, ‘Construction of churches’, 213, 213-4; Gradeva, ‘Ottoman policy towards Christian church building’, 14-36; Norton, ‘(In) tolerant Ottomans’, 242-63.

[59] Norton, ‘(In) tolerant Ottomans’, 246, n. 15, 16.

[60] Norton, ‘(In) tolerant Ottomans’, 247, n.17.

[61] On rules of conversion of churches, 58.

[62] Karaca, 23,n. 24; Eyice, ‘Fetihten Sonra İstanbul’daki Kiliselerin Durumu’, 33-4.

[63] It was renovated in 1518 and rebuilt during Ieremias II (1572-1579); see Karaca, n. 58.

[64] Janin, 208-13; for an extensive bibliography, see Vaiou, The Byzantine churches.

[65] Kritovoulos, 140.

[66] Crane, 179-80; Aga-Oglu, ‘The Fatih mosque at Constantinople’, 179-95; Janin, 41-50, 295.

[67] Its borders include the subdistricts of Kocamustafapaşa, Şehremini, Fener and Karagürmük.To its east lies Eminönü and to its west Eyüp and Zeytinburnu. It was the central until 1928 when Fatih and Eminönü were separated into two districts.

[68] Kuran, The Mosque, 5; see the articles in Kafesioğlu, Constantinopolis/Istanbul. Cultural encounter, imperial vision, and the construction of the Ottoman capital.

[69] Crane, 212-3; Necipoğlu,‘The life of an imperial monument: Hagia Sophıa after Byzantium’, in Mark and Çakmak (eds.), Hagia Sophia from the age of Justinian to the present, 195-25.

[70] Necipoğlu,‘The life of an imperial monument’, in Mark and Çakmak (eds.), Hagia Sophia, 198f.

[71] On Byzantine influences of the Fatih mosque, see Neçipoglu, The age of Sinan,84 .

[72] Kuban, Muslim Religious Architecture, ii, 19.

[73] Gerasimos, 31; Crane, 181; Emiralioğlu, ‘Mapping and describing’, in Geographical knowledge and imperial culture, 74ff..

[74] Gerasimos, 32.

[75] Karaca, 28, n. 49; Ötüken, 76-9; Altinyildiz, ‘The architectural heritage’, 282, ns 12-4 says that arbitrary demolition or appropriation of a church that was intact and in use was discouraged. It was only by an imperial intervention that it could be eplaced by a Friday mosque. Also deserted smaller churches to avoid their dereliction were subjected to a process called şenlendirme (revitalization): they were reused as neighborhood masjids or annexed to convents.

[76] Gerasimos, 35; Emiralioğlu, ‘Negotiating space and imperial ideology in the sixteenth-century Ottoman empire’, in Geographical knowledge and imperial culture.

[77] On Sinan, see Emiralioğlu, ‘Negotiating space and imperial ideology’, 44-5; Kuran, Sinan, the grand old master of Ottoman architecture; Borie, ‘Sinan’s Kulliyes: architectural composition’, in ‘Mimar-Sinan , The urban vision’ , Environmental design, v, no 5-6, 112-23; Two Friday mosques built by Sinan took the place of churches, see Necipoglu, The age of Sinan: architectural culture in the Ottoman empire .

[78] Emiralioğlu, ‘Negotiating space and imperial ideology’, 14ff..

[79] Karaca, 28,n. 50.

[80] Karaca, 28, n. 51. Runciman, 201.

[81] Runciman, 200-1.

[82] Karaca, 28; Müller-Wiener, 30.

[83] Karaca, 28,n. 52; Karpat, ‘Ottoman views and policies towards the Orthodox Christian church’.

[84] Karaca, 28, n.53.

[85] Karaca, 28,n. 54.Barkan and Ayverdi, İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri 953 (1546) Tarihli, xv.

[86]Karaca, 29, n. 56, Müller-Wiener, 30.

[87] Karaca, 29, n. 57. Ötüken, ‘İstanbul Kiliselerinin’, 79-80; Kirimtayif, 100, 93; Janin, 440; Crane, 143, n.1093.

[88] Crane, The garden of the mosque, index, 617.

[89] Janin, 441-2; Crane, 257, n. 2039.

[90] Karaca, 29, n. 60; Janin, 90-1.

[91] Karaca, 29, n.62. Müller-Wiener, 31; see references above and Janin, 70, 279; also Janin, CB.

[92] Karaca, 30, n. 64; Müller-Wiener, Abb.6.

[93] Crane, The garden of the mosque, index, 622; on the confiscation and sale of churches and monasteries upon strict interpretation of the law see Fotić, ‘The official explanations’, 33-54.

[94] On him, see Crane, 214-5, n.1681.

[95] Karaca, 31, n. 65.

[96] Karaca, 38, n. 124.A. Kerameus-Papadopoulos, ‘Naoi tes Konstantinoupoleos’,129.

[97] Crane, 187; wife of sultan Ibrahim (1640-8) and mother of Mehmed IV; Thys-Şenocak, Ottoman women builders.

[98] Karaca, 31, n. 67.

[99] Karaca, 38, n. 125; Kerameus, 120.

[100] Crane, 187.

[101] Crane, The garden of the mosque, index, 617.

[102] Karaca, 34, n. 105; Agoston and Masters, Encyclopedia of the Ottoman empire , 316-7, index 632.

[103] Karaca, 34, ns 106-8.

[104] On prohibitions and regulations regarding architectural activities related to these circumstances, see Karaca, 32, ns 72-9.

[105] Karaca, 35, n. 112.

[106] Karaca, 34, n. 95.Turan, ‘Osmanlı Teşkilatında Hassa Mimarları’, 197.

[107] Karaca, 34, n. 97.

[108] Karaca, 34, n. 102.

[109] Karaca, 34, n. 103. Müller-Wiener, 139.

[110] Karaca, 32-3, ns. 82, 83, 84.

[111] On the role of the qâ∂î as a representative of the community, see ºnalcık, 264-7.

[112] Karaca, 32,n.83, 34, n.110. Turan, ‘Osmanlı Teşkilatında Hassa Mimarları’, 171.

[113] Karaca, 38, n. 126; Petrides, ‘Eglises grecques de Constantinople en 1652’, 42-50.

[114] Kerameus, 126.

[115] Karaca, 31, n. 68; Thys-Şenocak, Ottoman women, index; Baer, Honored by the glory of Islam, 8, 19, 82, 99-100, 254, 263.

[116] Crane, The garden of the mosque, index; Cerasi, ‘Town and architecture in the 18th century’, Rassegna, 37-52; Pinon, ‘Urban transformation between the 18th and 19th centuries’, Rassegna, 53-61.

[117] Crane, The garden of the mosque, index, 611.

[118] Crane, 189-90. In later periods the function of the mosque changed to a imperial place of prayer; see Crane, 190ff..

[119] Crane, The garden of the mosque, index; Başaran, Selim III, social contrl and policing in Istanbul at the end of the eighteenth century.

[120] Karaca, 33, ns. 91-3.

[121] Karaca, 31, ns. 70, 71; Runciman, 200; on Western influences in the architecture of the imperial mosques in the mid 18th and 19th centuries seen in style rather than in typology, see Borie, ‘The modernisation of architecture’, 62-9, 68.

[122] Norton, ‘(In) tolerant Ottomans’, Pratt, Hoover, Davies, Chesworth (eds.), The character of Christian-Muslim encounter, 246,n.14.

[123] Karaca, 35, n. 111; Larpent, Turkey. Its history and progress, 354; Crane, The garden of the mosque, index.

[124] Karaca, 32, n. 81.

[125] Karaca, 39, n. 130. İnciciyan, XVIII. Asırda Istanbul, 133.

[126] Karaca, 39, n. 131; Inciciyan, XVIII, Asırda Istanbul, 34.

[127] Crane, The garden of the mosque, index.

[128] Çil, Exploring the construction of the identities of Kula, a place in Aegean Anatolia, 59,n.46; also the treaty of Kuchuk Kainardji where Russia was given the right to represent Orthodox Christian minorities and personnel; Davison, ‘Russian skill and Turkish imbecility: the treaty of Kuchuk Kainardji reconsidered’, 364-483.

[129] Karaca, 35, n. 113.

[130] Crane, The garden of the mosque, index; Çelik, The remaking of Istanbul:portrait of an Ottoman city n the nineteenth century.

[131] Karaca, 35, n. 116.Stephanov, ‘Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839) and the first shift in modern ruler visibility in the Ottoman empire’, 129-48, 140, n. 44, 45, 141.

[132] Karaca, 24, 36; Wharton, The architects of Ottoman Constantinople; see also Tanyeri-Erdemir, ‘The fate of Tanzimat era churches in Anatolia after the loss of their congregations, in Hartmuth et al. (eds.), Christian art under Muslim rule, 219-35.

[133] Karaca, 36, n. 120; Davison, Reform in the Ottoman empire 1856-1876; Lewis, The emergence of modern Turkey.

[134] Karaca, 36; see e.g. Wharton, ‘Identity and style. Armenian –Ottoman churches in the nineteenth century ’, in Gharipour, Sacred precincts, 76-105.

[135] Karaca, 36, n. 121; for the condition of churches in the Republic, see Altinyildiz, ‘The architectural heritage’, 291-3; for this period and later, see Dilsiz, ‘The Byzantine heritage’, 14-21, 22-32.

[136] Karaca, 35, n. 115; Yorga, Osmanlı Tarihi V (1774-1912), 263; for a later period’s destruction of churches, see Vryonis, The mechanism of catastrophe; also for the preservation of churches in the Republican Istanbul, see Altinyildiz, ‘The architectural heritage’, 287ff..


[1] This study is based on Karaca’s, introduction and forms part of my book The Byzantine churches of Constantinople: a a chronological, bibliographical and photographic  survey (forthcoming).: see bibliography.  For information on the various churches and monasteries and their locations mentioned in this study, see Janin.  For general studies on the fall, see Pears, The destruction of the Greek empire ; The fall of Constantinople: a symposium held at the School of Oriental and African Studies, 29 May 1953, Runciman et al.; idem, The Fall of Constantinople 1453; Browning, ‘A note on the capture of Constantinople in 1453’; idem, ‘The capture of Constantinople’; Melville-Jones, The siege of Constantiople 1453; Nicol, The immortal emperor ; Zachariadou, ‘Les notables laïques et le Patriarchat Oecuménique’. Mordtmann, Belagerung und Eroberung K’pels; idem, Die Kapitulation von K’pel; Zoras, He halosis; Paspates, Poliorkia kai aloses.

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