GHOST CHURCH 7: THEOTOKOS IN CHALKOPRATEIA

Copper Cross tiny - GHOST CHURCH 7: THEOTOKOS IN CHALKOPRATEIA

THEOTOKOS IN CHALKOPRATEIA was heavily mosaiced and lavishly frescoed. It was tall and imposing, but has vanished utterly.

Martyrdom St Lawrence Ravenna
 Church of Galla Placida, Ravenna.

Here’s the north aisle, heading toward Hagia Sophia. While this Hagia Sophia was being built, from 532 to 537, our church, Theotokos, was the Seat of the Patriarchate of the Eastern Roman Empire.

North Aisle

The famous mosaics, covering the Life of the Virgin, were destroyed in the 8th century by Iconoclasts, but the Relics of the Virgin remained in its walls.

SanMarcosCeiling
 St Mark’s in Venice

Here’s  a much-repaired wall along the south aisle.

South Aisle

The gilded coffered ceiling and the doors of silver, gold, and electrum (silver and gold melted together) were sold off by Emperor Alexios Komnenos in the 11th century to finance a defense against a Norman threat. Before Alexios, Theotokos’ interior likely resembled this:

SantaMariaMaggiore
 Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome: 5th century interior, 18th century neoByzantine ceiling.

This parking lot is the nave, and we’re walking toward the altar, which faced east and Hagia Sophia. The parking lot attendants are aggressively rude to visitors.NaveUnder Latin rule from 1204 to 1261, our church became a cathedral occupied by priests: Sancta Maria de Cinctur, or St Mary of the Shingles. Workshops probably made shingles in the area by then, or perhaps the priests had the unpleasant physical kind. Considering what the Latin Crusaders did to Constantinople, we can only hope. Here’s the surviving 4th or 5th century Byzantine wall.

 It’s still standing because in 1484, 31 years after the Ottoman Conquest, the ruined church, nee synagogue, was converted to a mosque by order of one Lala Hayruddin.

MehmetpashaIn 1755, by order of Vizier Mehmet Said Pasha, the mosque was restored and re-consecrated as Acem Aga Mescidi. Down the street, in 1769, Zeynep Sultan Mosque was built and consecrated. In 1814 this fountain in the street was built. See that Byzantine wall next to it? And the tribal carpet for sale next to that? These juxtapositions are why I live here. And, of course, tripping over the occasional Ghost Church.

Fountain and wallBy 1936, Turkey’s zeitgeist was not religious, and the mosque was abandoned, slowly falling into weedy disrepair. It’s been derelict since 1936, subsumed by the city. If you go up to the terrace at Alemdar Restaurant to watch the Dervishes whirl in front of Hagia Sophia, you can see this from the stairs: the last relic of the altar wall of Theotokos in Chalkoprateia.

Original walls 3

The street running from one pillar stub to the double arches has always been spooky at night, in a high, cool, grey, waiting kind of way.

DSC01663

It’s probably just imagination.

Copper Cross, Mosaic ©2002 Trici Venola
Byzantine Cross & Mosaic ©2002 TriciVenola

NEXT: GHOST CHURCH 8: A MATTER OF RESPECT

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This is a demo store for testing purposes — no orders shall be fulfilled. Dismiss