Essential Architecture-  Turkey

The Theotokos Pammakaristos, Fetiyeh Jamissi




Istanbul, Turkey






Brick, originally tile roof, later lead roof.


Present-day Mosque, former Church



The Byzantine church, now Fetiyeh Jamissi, overlooking the Golden Horn from the heights of the Fifth Hill, was the church of the Theotokos Pammakaristos (the All Blessed), attached to the monastery known by that name.


Regarding the identity of the church there can be no manner of doubt, as the building remained in the hands of the Greek community for 138 years after the conquest, and was during that period the patriarchal cathedral.


The questions when and by whom the church was founded cannot be so readily determined. According to a manuscript in the library of the Greek theological college on the island of Halki (one of the small group of islands known as the Princes' Islands in the Sea of Marmora), an inscription in the bema of the church ascribed the foundation of the building to John Comnenus and his wife Anna. The manuscript perished in the earthquake which reduced the college to a heap of ruins in 1894, but the inscription had fortunately been copied in the catalogue of the library before that disaster occurred.


S. Mary Pammakaristos, from the south-east.

S. Mary Pammakaristos, from the south-east.

S. Mary Pammakaristos, from the west.

S. Mary Pammakaristos, from the west.


 The legend cannot refer to the Emperor John Comnenus (1118-1143), for his consort was neither named Anna nor related to the family of Ducas. She was a Hungarian princess, who, on becoming the emperor's bride, assumed the name Irene. Mr. Siderides, therefore, suggests that the persons mentioned in the inscription were that emperor's grandparents, the curopalates and grand domestic John Comnenus and his wife, the celebrated Anna Dalassena, who bore likewise the title of Ducaena. In that case, as the curopalates and grand domestic died in 1067, the foundation of the church cannot be much later than the middle of the eleventh century. But whether the term φρόντισμα should be understood to mean that the church was founded by the illustrious persons above mentioned, or was an object already in existence upon which they bestowed their thought and care, is not quite certain. Mr. Siderides is prepared to adopt the latter meaning, and the architecture of the church allows us to assign the foundation of the building to an earlier date than the age of the grandparents of the Emperor John Comnenus. But while the connection of the church with those personages must not be overlooked, the building underwent such extensive repairs in the thirteenth century that the honour of being its founder was transferred to its restorer at that period. Pachymeres speaks of the monastery as the monastery of Michael Glabas Tarchaniotes . While the poet Philes (1275-1346), referring to a figure portrayed on the walls of the church, asks the spectator,

Seest thou, O stranger, this great man? He is none other than the protostrator, the builder of this monastery, the wonder of the world, the noble Glabas.


In accordance with these statements, Gerlach saw depicted on the walls of the church two figures in archducal attire, representing the founder of the church and his wife, with this legend beside them:

Michael Ducas Glabas Tarchaniotes, protostrator and founder; Maria Ducaena Comnena Palaeologina Blachena, protostratorissa and foundress.

Michael Glabas was created protostrator in 1292, and acquired the right to appoint the abbot of the monastery before 1295. Consequently the completion of the repair of the church at his instance must be assigned to the interval between these dates.


The protostrator Michael Glabas Ducas Tarchaniotes, who must not be confounded with his namesake the protovestiarius Michael Palaeologus Tarchaniotes, enjoyed the reputation of an able general and wise counsellor in the reign of Andronicus II., although, being a victim to gout, he was often unable to serve his country in the former capacity. He was noted also for his piety and his interest in the poor, as may be inferred from his restoration of the Pammakaristos and the erection of a xenodocheion. His wife was a niece of the Emperor Michael Palaeologus, and related, as her titles imply, to other great families in the country. A pious woman, and devoted to her husband, she proved the sincerity of her affection by erecting to his memory, as will appear in the sequel, the beautiful chapel at the south-east end of the church. Before her death she retired from the world and assumed the name Martha in religion.


In addition to the figures of the restorers of the church, portraits in mosaic of the Emperor Andronicus and his Empress Anna, as the legends beside the portraits declared, stood on the right of the main entrance to the patriarchate.


As both Andronicus II. and his grandson Andronicus III. were married to ladies named Anna, it is not clear which of these imperial couples was here portrayed. The fact that the consort of the former emperor died before the restoration of the church by the protostrator Michael is certainly in favour of the view supported by Mr. Siderides that the portraits represented the latter emperor and empress. Why these personages were thus honoured is not explained.


Having restored the monastery, Michael Glabas entrusted the direction of its affairs to a certain monk named Cosmas, whom he had met and learned to admire during an official tour in the provinces. In due time Cosmas was introduced to Andronicus II., and won the imperial esteem to such an extent as to be appointed patriarch. The new prelate was advanced in years, modest, conciliatory, but, withal, could take a firm stand for what he considered right. On the other hand, the piety of Andronicus was not of the kind that adheres tenaciously to a principle or ignores worldly considerations. Hence occasions for serious differences between the two men on public questions were inevitable, and in the course of their disputes the monastery of the Pammakaristos, owing to its association with Cosmas, became the scene of conflicts between Church and State.


S. Mary Pammakaristos. Inner Narthex, looking south.

S. Mary Pammakaristos
Inner Narthex, looking south.

S. Mary Pammakaristos. The Dome, looking west.

S. Mary Pammakaristos.
The Dome, looking west.


No act of Andronicus shocked the public sentiment or his day more painfully than the political alliance he cemented by giving his daughter Simonis, a mere child of six years, as a bride to the Kraal of Servia, who was forty years her senior, and had been already married three times, not always, it was alleged, in the most regular manner. Cosmas did everything in his power to prevent the unnatural union, and when his last desperate effort to have an audience of the emperor on the subject was repelled, he left the patriarchal residence and retired to his old home at the Pammakaristos. There, during the absence of the emperor in Thessalonica, where the objectionable marriage was celebrated, Cosmas remained for two years, attending only to the most urgent business of the diocese. Upon the return of Andronicus to the capital, Cosmas was conspicuous by his refusal to take part in the loyal demonstrations which welcomed the emperor back. Andronicus might well have seized the opportunity to remove the patriarch from office for discourtesy so marked and offensive, but, instead of doing so, he sent a friendly message to the Pammakaristos, asking Cosmas to forget all differences and resume his public duties. Achilles in his tent was not to be conciliated so easily. To the imperial request Cosmas replied by inviting Andronicus to come to the Pammakaristos, and submit the points at issue between the emperor and himself to a tribunal of bishops and other ecclesiastics specially convened for the purpose. He furthermore declared that he would return to the patriarchal residence only if the verdict of the court  was in his favour, otherwise he would resign office. The public feeling against Andronicus was so strong that he deemed it expedient to comply with this strange demand, going to the monastery late at night to escape notice. The tribunal having been called to order, Cosmas produced his charges against the emperor: the Servian marriage; oppressive taxes upon salt and other necessaries of life, whereby a heavy burden was laid upon the poor, on one hand, and imperial prodigality was encouraged on the other; failure to treat the petitions addressed to him by Cosmas with the consideration which they deserved. The defence of Andronicus was skilful. He maintained that no marriage of the Kraal had violated Canon Law as some persons claimed. He touched the feelings of his audience by dwelling upon the sacrifice he had made as a father in bestowing the hand of a beloved daughter on such a man as the Servian Prince; only reasons of State had constrained him to sanction a union so painful to his heart. The taxes to which objection had been taken were not imposed, he pleaded, to gratify any personal love of money, but were demanded by the needs of the Empire. As to love of money, he had reasons to believe that it was a weakness of which his accuser was guilty, and to prove that statement, he there and then sent two members of the court to the treasurer of the palace for evidence in support of the charge. In regard to the accusation that he did not always favour the petitions addressed to him by the patriarch, he remarked that it was not an emperor's duty to grant all the petitions he received, but to discriminate between them according to their merits. At the same time he expressed his readiness to be more indulgent in the future. Moved by these explanations, as well as by the entreaties of the emperor and the bishops present at this strange scene, held in the dead of night in the secrecy of the monastery, Cosmas relented, and returned next day to the patriarchate.


But peace between the two parties was not of long duration. Only a few weeks later Andronicus restored to office a bishop of Ephesus who had been canonically deposed. Cosmas protested, and when his remonstrances were disregarded, he withdrew again to the Pammakaristos,and refused to allow his seclusion to be disturbed on any pretext. To the surprise of everybody, however, he suddenly resumed his functions—in obedience, he claimed, to a Voice which said to him, 'If thou lovest Me, feed My sheep. But such conduct weakened his position. His enemies brought a foul charge against him. His demand for a thorough investigation of the libel was refused. And in his vexation he once more sought the shelter of the Pammakaristos, abdicated the patriarchal throne, and threw the ecclesiastical world into a turmoil. Even then there were still some, including the emperor, who thought order and peace would be more speedily restored by recalling Cosmas to the office he had laid down. But the opposition to him had become too powerful, and he was compelled to bid farewell to the retreat he loved, and to end his days in his native city of Sozopolis, a man worsted in battle.

S. Mary Pammakaristos. The Parecclesion from the south-east.

S. Mary Pammakaristos
The Parecclesion from the south-east.


Of the life at the Pammakaristos during the remainder of the period before the Turkish conquest only a few incidents are recorded. One abbot of the monastery, Niphon, was promoted in 1397 to the bishopric of Old Patras, and another named Theophanes was made bishop of the important See of Heraclea. An instance of the fickleness of fortune was brought home to the monks of the establishment by the disgrace of the logothetes Gabalas and his confinement in one of their cells, under the following circumstances:—In the struggle between John Cantacuzene and Apocaucus for ascendancy at the court of the Dowager Empress Anna of Savoy and her son, John VI. Palaeologus, Gabalas had been persuaded to join the party of the latter politician by the offer, among other inducements, of the hand of Apocaucus' daughter in marriage. But when Gabalas urged the fulfilment of the promise, he was informed that the young lady and her mother had meantime taken a violent aversion to him on account of his corpulent figure. Thereupon Gabalas, like a true lover, had recourse to a method of banting recommended by an Italian quack. But the treatment failed to reduce the flesh of the unfortunate suitor; it only ruined his health, and made him even less attractive than before. Another promise by which his political support had been gained was the hope that he would share the power which Apocaucus should win. But this Apocaucus was unwilling to permit, alleging as an excuse that his inconvenient partisan had become obnoxious to the empress. The disappointment and anxiety caused by this information wore so upon the mind of the logothetes as to alter his whole appearance. He now became thin indeed, as if suffering from consumption, and in his dread of the storm gathering about him he removed his valuable possessions to safe hiding. Whereupon the wily Apocaucus drew the attention of the empress to this strange behaviour, and aroused her suspicions that Gabalas was engaged in some dark intrigue against her. No wonder that the logothetes observed in consequence a marked change in the empress's manner towards him, and in his despair he took sanctuary in S. Sophia, and assumed the garb of a monk. The perfidy of Apocaucus might have stopped at this point, and allowed events to follow their natural course. But though willing to act a villain's part, he wished to act it under the mask of a friend, to betray with a kiss. Accordingly he went to S. Sophia to express his sympathy with Gabalas, and played the part of a man overwhelmed with sorrow at a friend's misfortune so well that Gabalas forgot for a while his own griefs, and undertook the task of consoling the hypocritical mourner. Soon an imperial messenger appeared upon the scene with the order for Gabalas to leave the church and proceed to the monastery of the Pammakaristos. And there he remained until, on the charge of attempting to escape, he was confined in a stronger prison.


Another person detained at the Pammakaristos was a Turkish rebel named Zinet, who in company with a pretender to the throne of Mehemed I., had fled in 1418 to Constantinople for protection. He was welcomed by the Byzantine Government, which was always glad to receive refugees whom it could use either to gratify or to embarrass the Ottoman Court, as the varying relations between the two empires might dictate. It was a policy that proved fatal at last, but meanwhile it often afforded some advantage to Byzantine diplomats. On this occasion it was thought advisable to please the Sultan, and while the pretender was confined elsewhere, Zinet, with a suite of ten persons, was detained in the Pammakaristos. Upon the accession of Murad II., however, the Government of Constantinople thought proper to take the opposite course. Accordingly the pretender was liberated, and Zinet sent to support the Turkish party which disputed Murad's claims. But life at the Pammakaristos had not won the refugee's heart to the cause of the Byzantines. The fanatical monks with whom he was associated there had insulted his faith; his Greek companions in arms did not afford him all the satisfaction he desired, and so Zinet returned at last to his natural allegiance. The conduct of the Byzantine Government on this occasion led to the first siege of Constantinople, in 1422, by the Turks.


The most important event in the history of the monastery occurred after the city had fallen into Turkish hands. The church then became the cathedral of the patriarchs of Constantinople. It is true that, in the first instance, the conqueror had given the church of the Holy Apostles to the Patriarch Gennadius as a substitute for the church of S. Sophia. But the native population did not affect the central quarters of the city, preferring to reside near the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmora. Furthermore, the body of a murdered Turk was discovered one morning in the court of the Holy Apostles, and excited among his countrymen the suspicion that the murder had been committed by a Christian hand. The few Greeks settled in the neighbourhood were therefore in danger of retaliation, and Gennadius begged permission to withdraw to the Pammakaristos, around which a large colony of Greeks, who came from other cities to repeople the capital, had settled. The objection that nuns occupied the monastery at that moment was easily overcome by removing the sisterhood to the small monastery attached to the church of S. John in Trullo (Achmed Pasha Mesjedi) in the immediate vicinity, and for 138 years thereafter the throne of seventeen patriarchs of Constantinople stood in the church of the Pammakaristos, with the adjoining monastery as their official residence.


As the chief sanctuary of the Greek community, the building was maintained, it would appear, in good order and displayed considerable beauty. 'Even at night,' to quote extravagant praise, 'when no lamp was burning, it shone like the sun.' But even sober European visitors in the sixteenth century agree in describing the interior of the church as resplendent with eikons and imperial portraits. It was also rich in relics, some of them brought by Gennadius from the church of the Holy Apostles and from other sanctuaries lost to the Greeks. Among the interesting objects shown to visitors was a small rude sarcophagus inscribed with the imperial eagle and the name of the Emperor Alexius Comnenus. It was so plain and rough that Schweigger speaks of it as too mean to contain the dust of a German peasant. But that any sarcophagus professing to hold the remains of Alexius Comnenus should be found at the Pammakaristos is certainly surprising. That emperor was buried, according to the historian Nicetas Choniates, in the church of S. Saviour the Philanthropist, near the palace of Mangana, on the east shore of the city. Nor could the body of a Byzantine autocrator have been laid originally in a sarcophagus such as Breüning and Schweigger describe. These difficulties in the way of regarding the monument as genuine are met by the suggestion made by Mr. Siderides, that when the church of Christ the Philanthropist was appropriated by the Turks in connection with the building of the Seraglio, some patriotic hand removed the remains of Alexius Comnenus from the splendid coffin in which they were first entombed, and, placing them in what proved a convenient receptacle, carried them for safe keeping to the Pammakaristos. The statement that Anna Comnena, the celebrated daughter of Alexius Comnenus, was also buried in this church rests upon the misunderstanding of a passage in the work of M. Crusius, where, speaking of that princess, the author says: 'Quae (Anna) anno Domini 1117 vixit; filia Alexii Comneni Imp. cujus sepulchrum adhuc exstat in templo patriarchatus Constantinopli a D. Steph. Gerlachio visum.


But cujus (whose) refers, not to Anna, but to Alexius. This rendering is put beyond dispute by the statement made by Gerlach in a letter to Crusius, that he found, in the Pammakaristos, 'sepulchrum Alexii Comneni αὐτοκράτορος,' the tomb of the Emperor Alexius Comnenus.


The church was converted into a mosque under Murad III. (1574-1592), and bears the style Fetiyeh, 'of the conqueror,' in honour of the conquest of Georgia and Azerbaijan during his reign. According to Gerlach, the change had been feared for some time, if for no other reason, because of the fine position occupied by the church. But quarrels between different factions of the Greek clergy and between them and Government officials had also something to do with the confiscation of the building. When the cross, which glittered above the dome and gleamed far and wide, indicating the seat of the chief prelate of the Orthodox Communion, was taken down, 'a great sorrow befell the Christians. The humble church of S. Demetrius Kanabou, in the district of Balat, then became the patriarchal seat until 1614, when that honour was conferred upon the church which still retains it, the church of S. George in the quarter of Phanar.


S. Mary Pammakaristos. East End of the Parecclesion.

S. Mary Pammakaristos.
East End of the Parecclesion.

S. Mary Pammakaristos. The west Column in the Parecclesion.

S. Mary Pammakaristos.
The west Column in the Parecclesion.


Architectural Features


Owing to the numerous additions and alterations introduced into the original fabric, both before and since the Turkish conquest, the original plan of the building is not immediately apparent. Nor does the interior, with its heavy piers, raised floor, and naked walls correspond to the accounts given of its former splendour and beauty. A careful study will, however, unravel the tangled scheme which the actual condition of the church presents, and detect some traces of the beauty which has faded and passed away. The building might be mistaken for a domed church with four aisles, two narthexes, and a parecclesion. But notwithstanding all the disguises due to the changes it has undergone, the original church was unquestionably an 'ambulatory' church. It had, moreover, at one time a third narthex, of which now only the foundations remain on the west side of the church. The present outer narthex is in five bays, covered by dome vaults on transverse arches, and is paved with hexagonal tiles. The centre bay is marked by transverse arches of greater breadth and projects slightly on the outside, forming a plain central feature. At the north end a door led to the third narthex, but has now been built up; at the south end is a door inserted in Turkish times. To the south of the central bay the exterior is treated with plain arcades in two orders of brick; to the north these are absent, probably on account of some alterations. At the south end the narthex returns round the church in two bays, leading to the parecclesion.


The inner narthex is in four bays covered with cross-groined vaults without transverse arches, and is at present separated from the body of the church by three clumsy hexagonal piers, on to which, as may be seen in the photograph (Plate XXXVII.), the groins descend in a very irregular manner.


In the inner part of the church is a square central area covered by a lofty drum-dome of twenty-four concave compartments, alternately pierced by windows. The intermediate compartments correspond to the piers, and the dome is therefore twelve-sided on the exterior with angle half columns and arches in two orders. Internally the dome arches are recessed back from the lower wall face and spring from a heavy string-course. They were originally pierced on the north, south, and west sides by three windows similar to those in the west dome arch of S. Andrew (p. 114).


The west side is now occupied by the wooden balcony of a Turkish house built over the narthex, but there are no indications of any gallery in that position.


Below the dome arches the central area communicates with the surrounding ambulatory on the north, west, and south sides by large semicircular arches corbelled slightly out from the piers.


On the east side the dome arch is open from floor to vault, and leads by a short bema to a five-sided space covered by a dome and forming a kind of triangular apse, on the south-eastern side of which is the mihrab. As is clearly shown by the character of its dome windows and masonry, this structure is a Turkish addition taking the place of the original three eastern apses, and is a clever piece of planning to alter the orientation of the building.


The ambulatory on the three sides of the central square is covered by barrel vaults on the sides and with cross-groined vaults at the angles. To the east it opened into the eastern lateral chapels, now swept away, though the passage from the prothesis to the central apse still remains.


On the north side of the church is a passage in three bays covered by dome vaults on transverse arches, communicating at the west end with the inner narthex, and at the east terminating in a small chapel covered by an octagonal drum dome. The upper part of the apse of the chapel is still visible on the exterior, but the lower part has been destroyed and its place taken by a Turkish window.

The floor of the eastern part of the church is raised a step above the general level, this step being carried diagonally across the floor in the centre part so as to line with the side of the apse containing the mihrab.

S. Mary Pammakaristos. The east column in the Parecclesion.

S. Mary Pammakaristos.
The East Column in the Parecclesion.

S. Mary Pammakaristos. Column flanking the east window of The Apse of the Parecclesion.

S. Mary Pammakaristos.
Column Flanking the East Window Of The Apse of the Parecclesion.

S. Mary Pammakaristos. The West column in the Parecclesion.

S. Mary Pammakaristos.
The West Column in the Parecclesion.


In considering the original form of the church there is yet another important point to be noted. It will be seen from the plan that at the ground level the central area is not cruciform, but is rather an oblong from east to west with large arches on the north and south sides. This oblong is, however, reduced to a square at the dome level by arches thrown across the east and west ends, and this, in conjunction with the setting back of the dome arches already mentioned, produces a cruciform plan at the springing level. The oblong character of the central area is characteristic of the domed basilica and distinguishes this church from S. Andrew or S. Mary Panachrantos. The employment of barrel vaults in the ambulatory is also a point of resemblance to the domed basilica type, though the cross groin is used on the angles. In this feature S. Mary Pammakaristos resembles S. Andrew and differs from S. Mary Panachrantos. We are probably justified in restoring triple arcades in all the three lower arches similar to the triple arcade which still remains in S. Andrew. The present arches do not fit, and are evidently later alterations for the purpose of gaining internal space as at the Panachrantos.


The hexagonal piers between the ambulatory and the inner narthex are not original, as is evident from the clumsy manner in which the vaulting descends on to them. They are the remains of the old western external wall of the church left over when it was pierced through, probably in Turkish times, to include the narthex in the interior area of the building. The piers between the ambulatory and the gallery on the north side of the church also seem to be due to openings made for a similar reason in the old northern wall of the church when that gallery was added in Byzantine days. The dotted lines on the plan show the original form of the piers and wall, as shown by the outline of the vault springings above. The inner narthex is later than the central church and is of inferior workmanship. The restored plan shows the probable form of the church at that date. The outer narthex was added at a subsequent period.


The Parecclesion.—The parecclesion forms a complete church of the 'four column' type with a narthex and gynecaeum on the west. On the north side the two columns supporting the dome arches have been removed, and their place is taken by a large pointed Turkish arch which spans the chapel from east to west as is done in the north church of the Panachrantos (p. 129). The southern columns are of green marble with bases of a darker marble and finely carved capitals both bedded in lead. One of these columns, that to the east, has been partly built into the mihrab wall. The arms of the cross and the western angle compartments are covered with cross-groined vaults, while the eastern angle compartments have dome vaults. The bema and the two lateral chapels have cross-groined vaults. As usual the apse is semicircular within and shows to the exterior seven sides, the three centre sides being filled with a triple window with carved oblong shafts and cubical capitals.


Plan of the Church (conjectural).

Fig. 47

Internally the church is divided by string-courses at the abacus level of the columns and at the springing level of the vaults into three stories. The lowest story is now pierced by Turkish windows but was originally plain; the middle story is pierced by single-light windows in each of the angle compartments, and in the cross arm by a three-light window of two quarter arches and a central high semicircular arch, similar to those in the narthex of the Chora. The highest story has a single large window in the cross arm.

To the east the bema arch springs from the abacus level and all three apses have low vaults, a somewhat unusual arrangement. This allows of an east window in the tympanum of the dome arch above the bema.

The dome is in twelve bays, each pierced by a window and separated by flat projecting ribs. It retains its mosaics, representing Christ in the centre surrounded by twelve prophets. Each prophet holds in his hand a scroll inscribed with a characteristic quotation from his writings. The drawing, for which I am indebted to the skill and kindness of Mr. Arthur E. Henderson, gives an excellent idea of the scheme of the mosaics.

Speaking of these mosaics, Diehl remarks that we have here, as in the Chora, indications of the Revival of Art in the fourteenth century. The Christ in the centre of the dome is no longer represented as the stern and hard Pantokrator, but shows a countenance of infinite benignity and sweetness. The twelve prophets grouped around Him in the flutings of the dome reveal, in the variety of their expressions, in their different attitudes, in the harmonious colours and elegant draping of their robes, an artist who seeks to escape from traditional types and create a living work of his own.

The narthex is in three bays covered by cross-groined vaults without transverse arches. The lower window is a Turkish insertion, and above it, rising from the vaulting string-course at the level of the abacus course in the church, is a triple window of the type already described.

Brick Details from the Parecclesion.

Fig. 48

Above the narthex and approached by a narrow stair in the thickness of the west wall is the small gynecaeum. It is in three bays, separated by strong transverse arches resting on pilasters, each bay having a deep recess to east and west. The centre bay is covered by a cross-groined vault, and overlooks the church by a small window pierced in the west cross arm. Each of the side bays is covered by a drum dome of sixteen concave bays pierced with eight windows and externally octagonal. The plaster has fallen away from these bays, allowing us to see that they are built in regular courses of brick with thick mortar joints and without any special strengthening at the lines of juncture or ribs between the compartments. Such domes, therefore, are not strictly ribbed domes but rather domes in compartments. The 'ribs' no doubt do, by their extra thickness, add to the strength of the vault, but here, as in most Byzantine domes, their purpose is primarily ornamental.


S. Mary Pammakaristos. Interior view of the dome of the Parecclesion.

S. Mary Pammakaristos.
Interior View of the Dome of the Parecclesion.

S. Mary Pammakaristos. Mosaic in the dome of the Parecclesion.

S. Mary Pammakaristos.
Mosaic in the Dome of the Parecclesion.


The exterior of the chapel, like the façade of S. Theodore, presents a carefully considered scheme of decoration, characteristic of the later Byzantine school both here and in the later schools outside Constantinople. The southern wall is divided externally as it is also internally, into three stories, and forms two main compartments corresponding to the narthex and to the cross arm. They are marked by high arches of two orders, which enclose two triple windows in the upper story of the narthex and of the cross arm. The clue to the composition is given by the middle story, which contains the two large triple windows of the narthex and of the cross arm, and the two single lights of the angle compartment, one on each side of the cross arm triple light. These windows are enclosed in brick arches of two orders and linked together by semicircular arched niches, of which those flanking the narthex window are slightly larger than the rest, thus giving a continuous arcade of a very pleasant rhythmic quality.


In the lower story the piers of the arches round the triple windows are alone carried down through the inscribed string-course which separates the stories and forms the window-sill. The system of niches is repeated, flat niches being substituted for the angle compartment windows above.


The highest story contains the large single windows which light the cross arm and the gynecaeum, the former flanked by two semicircular niches, the latter by two brick roundels with radiating joints. Between them, above the west angle compartment window, is a flat niche with a Turkish arch. It is possible that there was originally a break here extending to the cornice, and that this was filled up during Turkish repairs. The cornice has two ranges of brick dentils and is arched over the two large windows. The domes on the building have flat angle pilasters supporting an arched cornice.


The masonry is in stripes of brick and stone courses, with radiating joints to the arched niches and a zigzag pattern in the spandrils of the first-story arches. At this level are four carved stone corbels with notches on the upper side, evidently to take a wooden beam. These must have supported the roof of an external wood cloister. The inscribed string-course already mentioned between the ground and first stories bears a long epitaph in honour of Michael Glabas Tarchaniotes.


The three apses at the east end are of equal height. The side ones are much worn but were apparently plain. The centre apse is in three stories with alternately flat and circular niches in each side. It is crowned by a machicolated cornice similar to that on the east end of S. Theodosia.


The general composition, as will be seen from the description, arises very directly from the internal arrangements of the chapel and is extremely satisfactory. The ranges of arches, varying in a manner at first irregular, but presently seen to be perfectly symmetrical, give a rhythmic swing to the design. The walls are now heavily plastered and the effect of the horizontal bands of brick and stone is lost; but even in its present state the building is a very delightful example of Byzantine external architecture.


Evidently the foundress of the chapel wished the monument she reared to her husband's memory to be as beautiful both within and without as the taste and skill of the times could make it.


S. Mary Pammakaristos. South side of the Parecclesion.

S. Mary Pammakaristos.
South Side of the Parecclesion


What information we have in regard to the chapel is little, but clear and definite, resting as it does on the authority of the two epitaphs which the poet Philes composed to be inscribed on the interior and exterior walls of the building. One of the epitaphs, if ever placed in position, has been destroyed or lies concealed under Turkish plaster. Of the other only fragments remain, forming part of the scheme of decoration which adorns the south wall of the chapel. But fortunately the complete text of both epitaphs is preserved in the extant writings of their author, and affords all the information they were meant to record. The chapel was dedicated to Christ as the Logos and was built after the death of the protostrator by his wife Maria, or Martha in religion, for a mausoleum in which to place his tomb. As the protostrator died about 1315, the chapel was erected soon after that date. An interesting incident occurred in this chapel soon after the Turkish conquest. One day when the Sultan was riding through his newly acquired capital he came to the Pammakaristos, and upon being informed that it was the church assigned to the Patriarch Gennadius, alighted to honour the prelate with a visit. The meeting took place in this parecclesion, and the conversation, of which a summary account was afterwards sent to the Sultan, dwelt on the dogmas of the Christian Faith.


Inscribed String-course on Apse of the Parecclesion.

Fig. 49

The text of the epitaph, portions of which appear on the exterior face of the south wall of the parecclesion of the church of the Pammakaristos (Carmina Philae, ccxxiii. ed. Miller, vol. i. pp. 117-18)


O my husband, my light, my breath, whom I now greet. This gift to thee also is from thy wife. For thou indeed who wast like a sleepless lion in battles Sleepest, having to endure the grave, instead (of occupying) thy lair.  But I have erected for thee a dwelling of stone, Lest the army finding thee again, should trouble thee, Although here thou art hidden, having cast off thy (body of) clay, Or, the gross flesh having dropped off, thou hast been transported above, Leaving every weapon hung up on its peg. For thou didst abhor the mansions in the world, Having fled from life in the cheap cloak (of a monk), And didst confront invisible potentates, Having received instead (of thine own armour) a strong panoply from God. Therefore I will construct for thee this tomb as a pearl oyster shell, Or shell of the purple dye, or bud on a thorny brier. O my pearl, my purple, rose of another clime, Even though being plucked thou art pressed by the stones So as to cause me sheddings of tears. Yet thou thyself, both living and beholding the living God, As a mind pure from material passions, Prepare for me again thy home. Martha, thy wife formerly, writes these things to thee, O protostrator, fairest also of the dead!


The following epitaph in honour of the protostrator Glabas was to be placed in the parecclesion of the church of the Pammakaristos (Carmina Philae, ccxix., ed. Miller, vol. i. pp. 115-16):—


The whole nature of existing things which thou hast made Cannot contain Thee, the primordial nature, For Thou fillest it, and yet remainest more than it; O Logos of God, living and holding all in the hollow of Thy hand, Although as true flesh Thou art circumscribed, And dwellest, mystically, in faithful souls, Establishing for Thyself an immortal habitation, Yet accept the house which I have built for Thee, Which shows clearly the disposition of my soul. My husband who, alas! has died to me And gone forth from his house of clay, Do Thou Thyself settle in an incorruptible mansion, Guarding also here the shrine of his remains, Lest any injury should befall his bones. O protostrator, these things, too, for thy sake I trow, Writes she who erewhile was thy wife, but now is Martha.  


Plan of the Church—Plan of the Parecclesion—Plan of the Gynaeceum in the Parecclesion.

Fig. 50.

To face page 160.

Cross Section of the Church, looking east.

Fig. 51.

The Parecclesion, east end of south side.

Fig. 52.

Sections in the Parecclesion—Plan of Dome in the Gynaeceum.

Fig. 53.

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.