Hagia Eirene

On the way out of the Topkapi Palace, we ducked into the Hagia Eirene church, which now rests inside the palace walls in the publicly accessible area. It is notable for being the only Christian church of the Byzantine era that has never been converted to a mosque.

The original church was built in the early 3rd century, during the rule of Constantine I, possibly on the site of an even earlier pre-Christian temple. After burning down during the Nika Revolt in 532 A.D., it was rebuilt and then damaged again in an earthquake in 740 A.D. The current structure was restored by Constantine V. during one of the Byzantine Iconoclasm periods, and this church retains vestiges of that period. The most notable of these is the mosaic cross in the semidome above the nave. It features a gold field with a very simple black outline of a cross with flared ends and a loop ornament on each corner.

The rest of the interior is quite plain, and mostly empty. Although this church is historically significant, it lacks the glamor and notoriety of the Hagia Sophia, and receives far fewer visitors. Currently, it is used as an occasional concert venue, because the acoustics are apparently fantastic.

After leaving the Hagia Eirene we were both feeling pretty fried, but we decided to walk down the Hippodrome alongside the Blue Mosque. Because it was Ramadan, there was a good-sized temporary artisan market set up there. The goods were of varying quality, but for the most part the stalls seemed to be run by individual artisans. We saw a nice variety of traditional crafts: handmade oya lace, some nice linens and woven goods, copper items, jewelry, and marbled paper.

We continued our loop around the back of the Blue Mosque and then wandered through some new side streets on the way back to the hotel. This was fun and a  great antidote to our weariness. Since we ate lunch so late, and we knew we’d have an early start in the morning for our food tour in Kadıköy, we returned to the hotel for a simple meze sampler platter at the restaurant and then an early night.