One of the main features of Istanbul, which has existed for hundreds of years… is the element of Christianity, as it is seen through the dozens of Christian churches surviving to this day!
Wonderful structures all over Istanbul, but especially in the Old part of the city, remind us of another era! Many of them still serve as churches, some have turned into museums and the rest into mosques! Reading the article about the Orthodox and Catholic Churches Istanbul, you will learn everything about the most famous, oldest and significant of them:
Christian Orthodox Churches
The greatest symbol of Christianity, the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate with the Church of St. George, is located at the Fener area. One of the oldest centers of traditional Christian churches, the Mother of Churches and a place of absolute importance for all Christianity. The historic importance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is huge! After the Conquest of Constantinople, its headquarters moved in the modest church of St. George in Fener, giving the possibility to the visitors to admire its great importance. In 1821, during the independence of Greece, the Patriarch was hanged at the main entrance… and since then, that door was never opened again!
Church of St. Mary of Blachernae
In 450, the Emperor Aelia Pulcheria, started the construction of the church near a fountain that was said to had holy water! After the Emperors death, his husband build the parekklesion and the Hagion Lousma which enclosed the fountain. The church was one of the most important sanctuaries of Greek Orthodoxy! Before the conquest of Constantinople, it was ruined by a great fire and the only thing that remained was the site of the sacred spring. In 1867 a small edifice was build containing the Hagiasma, protected by a high Wall and a garden. The church also hosted the famous icon of Virgin the Blachernitissa, painted on wood and covered with gold and silver.
Hagia Triada Church
The largest Greek Orthodox Church in Istanbul. Located in the center of the city, close to Taksim square, it is still in use by the Greek community. It was built in 1880, with the architect Kampanaki to be the designer of this beautiful construction! The foundation stone however was placed by the Patriarch Gregorios VI, in 1867. The new-baroque style with the basilica elements, the twin bell towers and the marble interior, make the church a masterpiece. At the time of the construction, many leading members of the Greek community, gave financial help for the completion of the building. At the south part of the narthex, you can admire the Hagiasma of St. George with its marble basin.
Church of St. Mary of the Spring (Balikli Meryem)
At the Zeytinburnu district, few hundred meters outside the old walls of the city, there is the famous Church of Zoodochos Pigi. The original church was built by the Great Emperor Leone in the 5th century. According to the tradition, the church was build there, because there was a fountain, of which the waters had the ability to heal the people! After the conquest of Constantinople, the church was almost completely destroyed! Three hundred years later, during the reign of Mahmud II, he gave the permission for the reconstruction of the temple, which was completed in 1834. In the courtyard, there are many graves of Patriarchs.
A magnificent former Greek church, built in 537! It was dedicated to the Wisdom of God and served as a Christian church for over 900 years and as a seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, until the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmet in 1453. An amazing architectural sample of the Byzantium Era and the biggest Christian Church in the world for many hundreds of years! It was converted into a mosque and then into a museum by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1953. Also known as “the eighth wonder of the world”, Hagia Sophia it is said that changed the history of architecture!
An Orthodox church dedicated to Holly Peace, located in the outer courtyard of Topkapi Palace, close to Hagia Sophia. This beautiful church was built by the orders of Constantine and is one of the three shrines devoted to God’s attributes, together with Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) and Hagia Dynamis (Holy Power). Hagia Irene is believed to have build during the 4th century and served as the Patriarch before Hagia Sophia was completed. It was the first church built in Constantinople and over the passage of the years was restored several times because of big fires and earthquakes. Nowadays serves as a museum and a place for classic music concerts and art exhibitions.
Chora Church (Kariye Museum)
In Greek, Chora means ”country”. This lovely church lies just outside the old walls of Constantinople. The Chora Church was probably built around the 5th century, but what you see now is the building’s 6th reconstruction. It was completely destroyed in the 9th century and went through several renovations from the 11th to 14th centuries. It has magnificent mosaics and frescoes representing the genealogy of Christ and New Testament stories. İt has been described as one of the most beautiful surviving works of Byzantine architecture!
Pammakaristos Church (Fethiye Mosque)
Overlooking the Golden Horn, this significant example of Byzantine Church was originally constructed by John Comnenus and his wife Anna Doukaina in the 12th century. Located at the Fatih district, the parekklesion of Pammakaristos church contains a great amount of well preserved mosaics after Hagia Sophia and Chora Church, dating back to 1320! The parekklesion (side chapel) is dedicated to Christ and displays mosaic scenes of the life of Christ, starting from the Baptism. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate used this church as its headquarters from 1456 to 1586. In 1591, the Ottoman Sultan Murad III, converted the church into a mosque and renamed it to honor his conquest of Georgia and Azerbaijan, hence the name Fethiye Camii (conquest). A part of the church still runs as a mosque.
Zeyrek Mosque (Pantokrator Church)
The Molla Zeyrek Mosque was a former Greek monastery which was called Pantokrator and it was dedicated to Christ! It considers to be the best Byzantine architectural example after the Hagia Sophia. The monastery was built by Irene, wife of John Comnenus and at the time of the construction was the largest one in Constantinople. After the conquer of the city, the monastery turned into a mosque which became a unique place of worship for Muslims.
Little Hagia Sophia
A beautiful former Orthodox Church, dedicated to Saints Sergius and Bacchus, located in the Fatih area near the Blue Mosque. Little Hagia Sophia is one of the most important early Byzantine architecture samples in Istanbul, built by Justinian and his wife Theodora, before Justinian became an Emperor in 527. After the conquest of Constantinople, the church turned into a mosque unter the reign of Bayezid II, by the orders of Huseyin Aga head of the Eunuchs (1510) who also built his own mausoleum next to it. The church renamed to Little Hagia Sophia by the Ottomans because of the belief that it was built by Justinian as a test for the construction of Hagia Sophia.
Christian Catholic Churches
Church of St Stephen (Iron Church)
Close to the Golden Horn, you will come across at one of the world’s few surviving iron church! A Bulgarian Orthodox church and a wonderful structure, famous for being made of cast iron, with Neo-Gothic and Neo-Baroque influences. St. Stehphen church, also known as the Iron Church, belongs to the Bulgarian minority of the city. During the Ottoman years, Bulgarians used to pray at the churches of the Orthodox Patriarch, but due to nationalistic movements, they were allowed to build a church, in the 19th century. For this reason, Stefan Bogoridi donated a wooden house in order for the Bulgarians to make it a church. But after a great fire, it was decided to be built a church with iron, which were produced in Vienna. The main skeleton of the church was made of steel and covered by metal boards. The only original remaining from the wooden church is the stone altar.
St. Anthony of Padua
A neo-gothic construction with a red-brick outer decoration! This church is the largest and the most important Catholic cathedrals in the city, founded by an Italian Franciscan, 200 years ago! The original church was built by the local Italian community in 1725. Over the years was demolished and replaced with the current one. It is considered to be a small basilica, located on the most famous pedestrian street of the city, at Istiklal street. It is directed by Italian priests.