Essential Architecture-  Turkey

SS. Peter and Mark, Hoja Atik Mustapha Jamissi




Istanbul, Turkey






Brick, originally tile roof, later lead roof.


Present-day Mosque, former Church
Church of SS Peter and Paul (Turkish: Sen Piyer Kilisesi) is a Roman Catholic church in the Galata area of Istanbul, Turkey, at Galata Kulesi Sokak 44, Kuledibi, Beyoglu.[1] The church's main treasure is a version of the icon of the Virgin Hodegetria, which was one of the protective icons of Constantinople and was claimed to have been painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist.[1][2] In 1731, the icon survived the fire which burned down the earlier church.[2] The current building is a nineteenth century rebuilding by the Fossati brothers from 1841 to 1843.



The Byzantine church, now Hoja Atik Mustapha Jamissi, situated in the Aivan Serai quarter, close to the Golden Horn, is commonly regarded as the church of SS. Peter and Mark, because it stands where the church dedicated to the chief of the apostles and his companion stood, in the district of Blachernae (Aivan Serai) and near the Golden Horn. Such indications are too vague for a positive opinion on the subject, but perhaps the Patriarch Constantius, who is responsible for the identification, may have relied upon some tradition in favour of the view he has made current.




Tafferner, chaplain to the embassy from Leopold I. of Austria to the Ottoman Court, speaking of the patriarchal church in his day (the present patriarchal church of S. George in the Phanar quarter), says, 'Aedes haec in patriarchatum erecta est, postquam Sultan Mehemet basilicam Petri et Pauli exceptam Graecis in moscheam defoedavit' (Caesarea legatio, p. 89, Vien. 1668). Probably by the church of SS. Peter and Paul he means this church of SS. Peter and Mark. If so, the traditional name of the building is carried back to the seventeenth century. The church of SS. Peter and Mark, it is true, never served as a patriarchal church. That honour belonged to the church of S. Demetrius of Kanabos, which is in the immediate vicinity, and has always remained a Christian sanctuary. Tafferner seems to have confused the two churches owing to their proximity to each other. Or his language may mean that the patriarchal seat was removed from S. Demetrius when SS. Peter and Paul was converted into a mosque, because too near a building which had become a Moslem place of worship.


The church of SS. Peter and Mark was founded, it is said, by two patricians of Constantinople, named Galbius and Candidus, in 458, early in the reign of Leo I. (457-474). But the present building cannot be so old. It is a fair question to ask whether it may not be the church of S. Anastasia referred to in a chrysoboullon of John Palaeologus (1342), and mentioned by the Russian pilgrim who visited Constantinople in the fifteenth century (1424-53).


The church of SS. Peter and Mark was erected as a shrine for the supposed tunic of the Theotokos, a relic which played an important part in the fortunes of Constantinople on several occasions, as 'the palladium of the city and the chaser away of all diseases and warlike foes.' As often happened in the acquisition of relics, the garment had been secured by a pious fraud—a fact which only enhanced the merit of the purloiners, and gave to the achievement the colour of a romantic adventure. In the course of their pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Galbius and Candidus discovered, in the house of a devout Hebrew lady who entertained them, a small room fitted up like a chapel, fragrant with incense, illuminated with lamps, and crowded with worshippers. Being informed that the room was consecrated by the presence of a chest containing the robe of the mother of their Lord, the pious men begged leave to spend the night in prayer beside the relic, and while thus engaged were seized by an uncontrollable longing to gain possession of the sacred garment. Accordingly they took careful measurements of the chest before them, and at Jerusalem ordered an exact facsimile of it to be made. Thus equipped they lodged again, on their homeward journey, at the house of their Galilean hostess, and once more obtained leave to worship in its chapel. Watching their opportunity they exchanged the chests, and forthwith despatched the chest containing the coveted treasure straight  to Constantinople. They themselves tarried behind, as though loth to quit a spot still hallowed by the sacred robe. Upon their return to the capital the pious thieves erected a shrine for their prize on land which they owned in the district of Blachernae, and dedicated the building to SS. Peter and Mark instead of to the Theotokos, as would have been more appropriate, in the hope that they would thus conceal the precious relic from the public eye, and retain it for their special benefit. But the secret leaked out. Whereupon the emperor obliged the two patricians to surrender their treasure, and, after renovating the neighbouring church of the Theotokos of Blachernae, deposited the relic in that sanctuary as its proper home.


SS. Peter and Mark, from the south-east.

SS. Peter and Mark, from the south-east.

SS. Peter and Mark. Font outside the Church.

SS. Peter and Mark.
Font outside the Church.


The site of that celebrated church lies at a short distance to the west of Hoja Atik Mustapha Jamissi, and is marked by the Holy Well which was attached to it. The well, in whose waters emperors and empresses were wont to bathe, is now enclosed by a modern Greek chapel, and is still the resort of the faithful.


Architectural Features


The plan of the church presents the simplest form of the domed-cross type without galleries. The dome, without drum, ribs, or windows, is almost certainly a Turkish reconstruction, but the dome arches and piers are original. The arms of the cross and the small chambers at its angles are covered with barrel vaults, and communicate with one another through lofty, narrow arches. In the treatment of the northern and southern walls of the building considerable architectural elaboration was displayed. At the floor level is a triple arcade; higher up are three windows resting on the string-course; and still higher a window divided into three lights. The arches in the church are enormously stilted, a feature due to the fact that the only string-course in the building, though structurally corresponding to the vaulting spring, has been placed at the height of what would properly be the column string-course. The three apses, much altered by repairs, project boldly, all of them showing three sides on the exterior. The roof and the cornice are Turkish, and the modern wooden narthex has probably replaced a Byzantine narthex. On the opposite side of the street lies a cruciform font that belonged to the baptistery of the church.

Font in the street to the west of the Church—A Window in S. Saviour in the Chora.

Fig. 63.

From a church of this type to the later four-columned plan is but a step. The dome piers of SS. Peter and Mark are still L-shaped, and form the internal angles of the cross. As the arches between such piers and the external walls increased in size, the piers became smaller, until eventually they were reduced to the typical four columns of the late churches.

SS. Peter and Mark. Interior of the Dome, looking north.

SS. Peter and Mark.
Interior of the Dome, looking north.

SS. Peter and Mark. Looking across the Dome from the south-west.

SS. Peter and Mark.
Looking across the Dome from the south-west.

Plan of the Church and Longitudinal Section.

Figs. 64 and 65.

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.