Essential Architecture-  Turkey

Saint Andrew in Krisei, Hoja Mustapha Pasha Mesjedi




Istanbul, Turkey






Brick, originally tile roof, later lead roof.


Present-day Mosque, former Church



That the old Byzantine church now converted into the mosque styled Hoja Mustapha Pasha Mesjedi, in the quarter of Juma Bazaar, at a short distance to the east of the Gate of Selivria was the church of S. Andrew in Krisei can be established, by the indications which Byzantine writers have given of the site of that famous church, and by the legend which is still associated with the mosque. According to Stephen of Novgorod (c. 1350) the church dedicated to S. Andrew of Crete, who was buried, as other authorities inform us, in the district named Krisis, stood at a short distance to the north of the monastery of the Peribleptos. It lay, therefore, to the north of the Armenian church of S. George (Soulou Monastir) in the quarter of Psamathia, which represents the church of S. Mary Peribleptos. The mosque Hoja Mustapha Pasha Mesjedi lies in the same direction. Again, according to Pachymeres, the church of S. Andrew in Krisei was near the monastery of Aristina. That monastery, another authority states, was opposite the church of S. Mamas. The church of S. Mamas was on the road between the Studion and the church of S. Andrew. Hence the church of S. Andrew stood to the north of the Studion, the situation occupied by Hoja Mustapha Pasha Mesjedi. Once more, the site of the mosque corresponds to the position assigned to the church of S. Andrew on the map of Bondelmontius (1420), to the east of the Gate of Selivria. Finally, the old church is more definitely identified by the legend of the judicial procedure which clings to the building. In the picturesque courtyard of the mosque, where the colour of the East is still rich and vivid, there stands an old cypress tree around whose bare and withered branches a slender iron chain is entwined like the skeleton of some extinct serpent. As tradition would have it, the chain was once endowed with the gift of judgment, and in cases of dispute could indicate which of the parties concerned told the truth. One day a Jew who had borrowed money from a Turk, on being summoned to pay his debt, replied that he had done so already. To that statement the Turk gave the lie direct, and accordingly, debtor and creditor were brought to the chain for the settlement of the question at issue. Before submitting to the ordeal, however, the Jew placed a cane into the hands of the Turk, and then stood under the cypress confident that his honour for truthfulness and honesty would be vindicated. His expectation proved correct, for the chain touched his head to intimate that he had returned the money he owed. Whereupon taking back his cane he left the scene in triumph. Literally, the verdict accorded with fact; for the cane which the Jew had handed to his creditor was hollow and contained the sum due to the latter. But the verdict displayed such a lack of insight, and involved so gross a miscarriage of justice, that from that day forth the chain lost its reputation and has hung ever since a dishonoured oracle on the dead arms of the cypress, like a criminal on a gibbet. Although this tale cannot be traced to its Byzantine source, it is manifestly an echo of the renown which the precincts of the mosque once enjoyed as a throne of judgment before Turkish times, and serves to prove that Hoja Mustapha Pasha Mesjedi is indeed the old church of S. Andrew in Krisei.




S. Andrew in Krisei. East End.

S. Andrew in Krisei.
East End.


The earliest reference to the locality known as Krisis occurs in the narrative of the martyrdom of S. Andrew of Crete given by Symeon Metaphrastes who flourished in the latter part of the ninth century. A devoted iconodule, S. Andrew, came from his native island to Constantinople, in the reign of Constantine Copronymus (740-775), expressly to rebuke the emperor for opposing the use of eikons in religious worship. As might have been anticipated, the zeal and courage of the saint only incurred cruel and insulting treatment, and at length a martyr's death. For, while his persecutors were dragging him one day along the streets of the city in derision, a half-witted fisherman stabbed him dead with a knife. So strong was the feeling prevalent at the time against the champion of the cause of eikons that his body was flung among the corpses of murderers and thieves; but eventually his admirers succeeded in removing it from its foul surroundings and buried it 'in a sacred place which was named Krisis'  It is evident from this statement that the name Krisis was applied to the locality before the interment of S. Andrew there; how long before, it is impossible to say, but probably from early times. The body of the martyr was laid in or beside one of the two churches dedicated to saints also named S. Andrew, which stood on the Seventh Hill of the city already in the sixth century.




S. Andrew in Krisei, From the South-west.

S. Andrew in Krisei, From the South-west.


S. Andrew in Krisei. The Interior, Looking South.

S. Andrew in Krisei.
The Interior, Looking South.





One of these churches was dedicated to S. Andrew the Apostle, and stood 'near the column, the other to S. Andrew, not otherwise identified, was near the Gate of Saturninus.  It is difficult to decide which church is represented by the mosque. For there were two columns on the Seventh Hill of the city: the Column of Constantine the Great, which stood outside the city bounds, giving name to the extramural district of the Exokionion now Alti Mermer; and the Column of Arcadius now Avret Tash. Nor can the position of the Gate of Saturninus be determined more accurately than that it was an entrance in the portion of the Constantinian Walls which traversed the Seventh Hill, the Xerolophos of Byzantine days. On the whole, however, the indications favour the view that Hoja Mustapha Pasha Mesjedi represents the church of S. Andrew near the Gate of Saturninus. A church in that position, though outside the Constantinian fortification, was still so near them that it could be, very appropriately, described as near one of the city gates. Again the Russian pilgrims who visited the shrines of Constantinople in the second quarter of the fifteenth century found two churches dedicated to S. Andrew in this part of the city, one to S. Andrew the Strategos, the other to S. Andrew 'mad with the love of God' ('God-intoxicated'). In proceeding northwards from the church of S. Diomed, which stood near the Golden Gate (Yedi Koulé), the Russian visitor reached first the sanctuary dedicated to S. Andrew the Strategos, and then the church dedicated to S. Andrew the 'God-intoxicated,' which lay still farther to the north. But this order in the positions of the two churches implies that Hoja Mustapha Pasha Mesjedi represents the church of S. Andrew the Strategos, a martyr of the fourth century, viz. the church which the documents of the sixth century describe as near the Gate of Saturninus, without specifying by what title its patron saint was distinguished. This agrees, moreover, with what is known regarding the site of the church of S. Andrew the Apostle. It stood to the west of the cistern of Mokius, the large ruined Byzantine reservoir, now Tchoukour Bostan, to the north of Hoja Mustapha Pasha Mesjedi.


The church does not appear again in history, under the designation, until the reign of Andronicus II. (1282-1328), when it was found, like so many other churches which survived the Latin occupation of the city, in a state demanding extensive repair. It was then embellished and enlarged by the protovestiarissa Theodora, a lady who occupied a prominent position in the society of the day, both as the emperor's cousin, and on account of her accomplishments and character. In her early youth she was married to George Muzalon, the favourite counsellor and trusted friend of Theodore II. Ducas of Nicaea. What confidence Muzalon enjoyed may be inferred from the fact that he was associated with the Patriarch Arsenius as guardian of the emperor's son, John Lascaris, when left the heir to the throne of Nicaea, as a child eight years old. Had Muzalon not met with an untimely end he might have become the colleague of his ward, and Theodora might have worn the imperial crown. The tragic murder of her husband by his political opponents, while celebrating the obsequies of the Emperor Theodore, provoked a terrible outburst of indignation and grief on her part, and so vehement was her condemnation of the criminals that her uncle, the treacherous Michael Palaeologus, threatened she would share her husband's fate if she did not control her feelings. After the accession of Michael Palaeologus to the throne, her hand was bestowed on the protovestiarius Raoul, and hence she is generally known by his name and title as Raoulaina the protovestiarissa. One of her beautiful daughters became the wife of Constantine Palaeologus, the ill-fated brother of Andronicus II. But, as already stated, Theodora was not only highly connected. Like many noble ladies in Byzantine society, she cultivated learning, and took a deep interest in the theological discussions and ecclesiastical affairs of her day. She was a devoted adherent of the party attached to the person and memory of the Patriarch Arsenius; the party that never forgave Michael Palaeologus for blinding the young John Lascaris and robbing him of the throne, the party that opposed the subjection of the Eastern Church to the Papal See, and which maintained the freedom of the Church from the political interference of the emperor. Whatever its faults, that party certainly represented the best moral life of the period.




S. Andrew in Krisei. Capital in the Inner Narthex.

S. Andrew in Krisei. Capital in the Inner Narthex.


S. Andrew in Krisei. Capital in the Arcade Under the West Dome Arch.

S. Andrew in Krisei.
Capital in the Arcade Under the West Dome Arch.



To heal the schism caused by the attitude of the Arsenites 'was the serious labour of the Church and State' for half a century. And in pursuance of the policy of conciliation, Andronicus II. allowed the body of Arsenius to be brought to Constantinople from the island of Proconessus, where he had died in exile and been buried. The whole city gathered to welcome the remains of the venerated prelate, and saw them borne in solemn and stately procession from the landing at the Gate of Eugenius (Yali Kiosk) to the church of S. Sophia. There, robed in pontifical vestments, the body was first seated upon the patriarchal throne, then laid before the altar, while the funeral service was intoned, and finally placed on the right hand of the bema in a chest locked and sealed for safe keeping. Once a week, however, the body was exposed to public view, and all strife seemed hushed in a common devotion to the memory of the saint. It was soon after this event that Theodora restored the church and monastery of S. Andrew, and upon the completion of the work she besought the emperor to allow the remains of Arsenius to be transferred to that shrine. The request was granted, and the body was carried to the church of St. Andrew with as great pomp and ceremony as attended its arrival in the capital. There it was kept until the patriarchate of Niphon (1311-1314), when it was again taken to S. Sophia to appear in the final conclusion of peace between the friends and foes of the deceased. Standing beside the remains, Niphon pronounced, in the name and by the authority of the dead man, a general absolution for all offences committed in connection with the quarrels which had raged around the name of Arsenius; and so long as S. Sophia continued to be a Christian sanctuary the remains were counted among the great treasures of the cathedral. 'There,' to quote the words of a devout visitor shortly before the Turkish conquest, 'is found the body of the holy patriarch Arsenius, whose body, still intact, performs many miracles.


During the closing years of her life Theodora made the monastery or convent of S. Andrew in Krisei her home. To retire thus from the troubled sea of secular life to the haven of a monastery, and there prepare for the voyage beyond earthly scenes, was a common practice in the fashionable world of the men and women of Byzantine days. And it was natural for a wealthy traveller to leave at the port of call some splendid token of devotion and gratitude. The protovestiarissa was still an inmate of the monastery in 1289, when her friend the Patriarch Gregory, to whom she was bound by many ties, was compelled to resign. He was one of the most learned men of his time and took an active part in the efforts to reconcile the Arsenites. It was during his tenure of office that the body of Arsenius was brought to the capital, and subsequently transferred from S. Sophia to the church of S. Andrew; he also opposed the union of the Churches, and in the controversy regarding the 'Procession of the Holy Ghost' which divided Christendom, he vigorously defended the doctrine of the Greek Communion against Veccus, who championed the Latin Creed.


Strongly attached to her friends, and quick to resent any injustice to them, Theodora came forward in the hour of the patriarch's disgrace and offered him a refuge in the monastery of Aristina, which stood, as we have seen, near the church of S. Andrew and in the immediate neighbourhood of her own residence. It was a fortunate arrangement, for Gregory soon fell seriously ill and required all the sympathy and generous kindness which Theodora was able to extend to him. Upon his death, ten short months after his retirement, Theodora determined to show again her admiration for the man and his work by honouring his memory with a funeral befitting the position he had held in the Church. She was prevented from carrying out her intention only by the peremptory and reiterated commands of the emperor, that Gregory should be buried as a private person.



S. Andrew in Krisei. Capital in the Outer Narthex.

S. Andrew in Krisei.
Capital in the Outer Narthex

S. Andrew in Krisei. Capital in the Outer Narthex.

S. Andrew in Krisei.
Capital in the Outer Narthex.



After the death of Theodora we have only occasional glimpses of the church and monastery. In 1350 Stephen of Novgorod came 'to kiss' the relics of S. Andrew of Crete, and describes the convent as 'very beautiful. Once, at least, a sister proved too frail for her vocation; sometimes a devout and wealthy inmate, such as Theognosia, would provide an endowment to enable poor girls to become her heirs in religion; or the sisterhood was vexed by the dishonesty of parties who had rented the lands from which the convent derived its revenues. Towards the end of its Byzantine period another Russian pilgrim came to honour the remains of S. Andrew the Strategos, and bring the Christian history of the church to a close. It was converted into a mosque by Mustapha Pasha, Grand Vizier in the reign of Selim I. (1512-1520). The custom of illuminating the minarets of the mosques on the eve of the Prophet's birthday was introduced first at this mosque.


Architectural Features


On account of the serious changes made in the building and its surroundings when it became a mosque, and after the earthquake of 1765, its real character is not immediately apparent. The present entrance is in the northern side, where a fine Turkish arcade has been erected. The mihrab is on the south side, a greater change for the correct orientation of a mosque than is usually necessary in the adaptation of a church to the requirements of a sanctuary in which the worshippers turn towards Mecca. To the east a hall has been added for the accommodation of women who attend the services; while on the west is another hall, where the dervishes of the Teké attached to the mosque hold their meetings. The north aisle also has been much altered and is covered with Turkish domes.


The first impression produced by the interior of the building is that we have here a church on the trefoil plan, similar to S. Mary of the Mongols  or S. Elias of Salonica, for the central area is flanked by two semi-domes, which with the eastern apse form a lobed plan at the vaulting level. A closer examination of the building, however, will prove that we are dealing with a structure whose original features have been concealed by extensive Turkish alterations, and that the trefoil form is a superficial disguise.


The arches supporting the central dome on the north and south sides are filled in with semi-domes which rest on arches thrown diagonally across the 'aisles' on each side of the central dome. These arches are very clumsily set to the sides of an irregular hexagon, with the central wall arch much larger than the side arches. They have no responds, and have every appearance of being makeshifts.


The eastern dome arch is prolonged into a barrel-vaulted bema, flanked by shallow niches leading to the prothesis and diaconicon, and beyond the bema is the semicircular apse. Only the diaconicon now remains, covered by a cross-groined vault, and its apse pierced by a door leading to the hall of the Teké. The place of the prothesis has been taken by a similar door and a small Turkish dome.


The western dome arch is filled in with a triple arcade resting on two marble columns with finely carved cubical capitals. Above the arcade is a group of three windows whose heads are circular on the inside, but pointed on the outside. To the west of this arcade is an oblong passage corresponding to the 'inner narthex' of S. Theodosia. It is in three bays. The central long bay is barrel-vaulted; the two outer bays open into the north and south 'aisles'; the bay to the north is covered by a Turkish dome, while that to the south has a cross-groined vault which seems to be original.


Beyond this to the west is the outer narthex, a fine piece of work, and, from the character of its details, of the same period as the western dome arcade. It is in five bays. The three central bays correspond to the 'inner narthex'; the middle bay is covered by a low saucer dome on pendentives, and is separated from the two side bays by columns set against flat pilasters. The latter bays are covered by groined vaults springing from the imposts of the capitals, which are of the Byzantine Ionic type, with high carved imposts. They resemble the capitals in the gallery of SS. Sergius and Bacchus, and are worthy of particular notice.



S. Andrew in Krisei. Outer Narthex.

S. Andrew in Krisei.
Outer Narthex.

S. Andrew in Krisei. Inner Narthex, looking south.

S. Andrew in Krisei.
Outer Narthex.


The two outer bays are separated from the central compartment of three bays by strongly projecting pilasters. They are covered by low saucer domes similar to the dome over the central bay, and communicate on the east with the 'aisles.' Both outer and inner narthexes are in one story, above which rise the windows of the western dome arch and the semi-domes on north and south.


Turning now to the exterior, the south wall is the only outer wall which is exposed at the ground level. It is faced with finely dressed and polished stone, with thin joints, no tiles, and a stone-moulded cornice. The windows are covered with four centred Turkish arches and are evident insertions. Above the stone cornice rise the low drums of the semi-domes. These, as well as the square base of the dome and the dome itself, are faced with polished stone alternating with courses of three bricks set in thick beds of mortar. The angles are plain, without shafts, and the drums, dome base, and dome are crowned with stone cornices moulded to a reversed ogee.


The north and south semi-domes are each pierced by three large windows, which on the interior cut through the curved surface of the domes, and on the exterior appear as dormers in the roof above the cornice. Accordingly they are double glazed, with one glazed frame on the inside corresponding to the curved dome surface, and a second upright glazed frame on the outside. The roofs are covered with lead.


The central dome is circular inside, with a high drum pierced by eight windows. On the outside it is octagonal, with a window on each side. These have circular arched heads, but have no moulding, shaft, or inset to either arches or sides. The dome is crowned by a moulded stone cornice of the same type as that of the other walls.


In attempting to reconstruct the original form of the church we may first note those features which are evidently Turkish. None of the exterior masonry is Byzantine, as the use of polished ashlar with fine joints, of pointed arches, and of moulded stone cornices clearly proves. The absence of shafts at the angles of the dome drums and the unrecessed windows are additional proofs of this fact, and we may conclude that the entire exterior was refaced in Turkish times.


The diagonal arches under the north and south semi-domes are peculiar. Furthermore, in lobed Byzantine churches the lateral apses project beyond the square outer walls. Here they are contained within the walls.


Nor are the semi-domes themselves Byzantine in character. The large windows in the dome surface and the lead-covered dormers placed above the flat moulded cornice betray a Turkish hand; for windows in the dome are universal in the great Turkish mosques, and the method of protecting them on the exterior with wooden dormers is quite foreign to Byzantine ideas. The form of the drums and cornices should be compared with the minor domes of the mosque of Sultan Bayazid.


A careful examination of the building has led to the following conclusions. The lateral semi-domes with their supporting arches are a Turkish addition. The central dome, including the drum, is probably entirely Turkish, and takes the place of an original ribbed dome. The two easternmost domes in the north 'aisle' and those over the inner narthex and the prothesis are also Turkish, and, as already stated, the exterior of the entire building. On the other hand, the eastern apse, the dome arches, the arcade, and the windows above it on the west side of the dome, the inner narthex with the ground vault to the south of it, and the entire outer narthex, are parts of the original building, dating probably from the sixth or seventh century. It should be particularly noticed that the windows over the western dome arcade are circular-headed inside, though they have been provided with pointed heads on the outside in the process of refacing.



S. Andrew in Krisei. In the Cloister on the south side of the Church, looking east.

S. Andrew in Krisei.
In the Cloister on the south side of the Church, looking east.


S. Andrew in Krisei. The Chain on the Withered Tree in the Court On the West of the Church.

S. Andrew in Krisei.
The Chain on the Withered Tree in the Court On the West of the Church.


If we stand in the northern lateral apse and face the mihrab the reason for the alterations is evident. The original Christian orientation is ignored, and the apses, in place of being lateral, are terminal. To the left is the old apse left unaltered; to the right, the original filling of the dome arch forms a 'nave-arcade' similar to that of the mosque of Sultan Bayazid; while by means of the additional apses the building has been converted into a miniature imperial mosque of the S. Sophia type, a distinctly clever piece of Turkish alteration.


In its original form the central dome was surrounded by an 'ambulatory' of one story formed by the aisles and 'inner narthex.' Such a plan is common to both the domed basilica type and the domed cross type, the difference depending upon the treatment of the cross arms above. In both types, however, the side dome arches are invariably filled in with arcades similar to that filling in the western arch of S. Andrew. We are therefore justified in restoring such arcades here. The type thus restored differs from the domed cross church in that the cross arms do not extend to the outer walls, and from the domed basilica in that the western dome arch is treated in a similar manner to the lateral arches. To this type the term 'ambulatory church' may be applied.


Adjoining the west end of the church is the fine cloister of the Teké of dervishes, probably on the lines of the old monastery. All the columns around the court are Byzantine, and one of them bears the inscription: the (column) of, Theophane. In the south wall is built a beautiful Byzantine doorway having jambs and lintel decorated on the face with a broad undercut scroll of flat leaves and four-petalled flowers, running between two rows of egg and dart, while on the intrados are two bands of floral ornaments separated by a bead moulding. One of the bands is clearly a vine scroll. The method employed here, of joining leaves to a centre so as to form spiral rosettes, is found also on some of the small capitals in S. Sophia. Similar rosettes appear in the decoration of the doorway to the Holy Sepulchre on the ivory in the Trivulce collection at Milan.


Plan of the Church (restored).

Fig. 36.


View of the Decorated Doorway in the Cloister.


View of the Decorated Doorway in the Cloister.


Views of the Decorated Doorway in the Cloister.


S. Andrew in Krisei.
The Decorated Doorway in the Cloister.

To face page 118.





 Plan of the Church.

Fig. 37.

Longitudinal Sections.

Fig. 38, 39.

 Isometrical Section (restored).

Fig. 40.

Text quoted from-
Byzantine Churches in Constantinople, Their History and Architecture.
MACMILLAN AND CO., Limited, London, 1912.
by Alexander Van Millingen and Ramsay Traquair and W. S. George and A. E. Henderson.