Atik Mustafa Pasha Mosque
Atik Mustafa Pașa Mosque was a Byzantine church located in the region of Blachernai, in the northwestern corner of the city, near the land walls and the walls of the Golden Horn. It is approximately 100-150 meters east of the Church of the Virgin Mary of Blachernai.
While its date and identity are uncertain, several suggestions have been made including the churches of Sts. Peter and Mark, St. Thecla and St. Elias of Petrion. It displays many archaic elements suggesting it dates to the second half of the 9th century. If such a date could be sustained, it could be the earliest surviving post-iconoclastic church in Constantinople and the first of the cross-in-square type. It might have had an influence on other churches as well. It has been argued that this building type, with its heavy crossing piers and simple, barrel-vaulted corner bays, became "canonical" all across Russia in the course of the eleventh century. However it has also been argued this church dates to the eleventh or twelfth century.
The church was a cross-in-square church with three apses. It has been significantly altered over the course of history. Originally the proportions of the building must have seemed a lot lighter than today. This is due to the change in ground and floor level; in the Byzantine period, the floor was 1.50 meters lower than today. Furthermore, the drum of the Byzantine dome was taller and filled with windows. Its current dome, which is low and windowless, dates to the Ottoman Era. In addition, a porch with the minaret replaced its narthex. Its exterior surfaces, especially its windows, have been thoroughly reworked, while interior has been plastered. In recent decades, undocumented restorations destroyed much evidence, making it difficult to date or identify the church.
The church was converted into a mosque by Koca Mustafa Pasha (who also converted the Monastery of St. Andrew in Krisei) before his death in 1512. In the south-eastern corner bay of the mosque is the tomb of Jabir ibn Abdullah, a legendary warrior of Islam and companion of the Prophet Mohammed. The mosque is also known as Hazreti Cabir Mosque and has subsequently assumed further religious significance. The building suffered extensive damage from a fire in 1729 and an earthquake in 1894. It was restored in 1906 and in 1922.
In 1957, the American Byzantine Institute found frescoes of the Archangel Michael flanked by saints Cosmas and Damian, which date to the first half of the 15th century. They are no longer visible as they were later covered up during restoration. It is possible that the frescoes were part of a funerary chapel attached to the church.
The Archangel Michael, the guardian
Ὁ Α[ρ]χ[άγγελο]ς Μήχαήλ ὁ φήλαξ
Ὁ Άγιος Δαμιανό
Ὁ Άγιος Κοσμάς
Photos from Mathews & Hawkins
The lunettes were framed by a red border with an inner white line. The backgrounds were black, which may originally have had a thin glaze of white inducing an illusion of blue, an economical technique employed when true blue pigments were an expensive luxury. The haloes were yellow ochre with a white circumference line and an inner line of black. The inscriptions were in white.
The fresco of St. Michael was particularly in good condition. He was depicted wearing a fanciful cuirass composed of small yellow rectangular plates of scale armor, doubtless intended to represent gold. There was a silver cross on the breast decorated with intertwining foliate forms with a rounded gold motif at the center; these were painted with black and white, and yellow shaded by red to suggest the metals. The frilled edges of a white undergarment appeared at the neck and elbows. A red mantle, decorated with a sprinkling of rosettes composed of white dots, hung over the shoulders and down the right side. On the other side the mantle was knotted below the shoulder and conveniently concealed the lower part of his left arm. The feathers of the wings are warm umber or red. The bends of the wings pointed upward with the secondary underfeathers spreading outward on each side, and the primaries pointed directly down.
From Byzantine Studies by Paspates (1877)
Ebersolt & Thiers (1910)
Plan from Ebersolt & Thiers
Click to see map of Byzantine Churches of Constantinople
Notes on the Atik Mustafa Paşa Camii in Istanbul and Its Frescoes by Mathews and Hawkins
Architecture and Ritual in the Churches of Constantinople: Ninth to Fifteenth Centuries by V. Marinis
Converted Byzantine Churches in Istanbul: Their Transformation Into Mosques and Masjids by S. Kirimtayif
Bildlexikon zur Topographie Istanbuls: Byzantion, Konstantinupolis, Istanbul by Wolfgang Müller-Wiener