Monastery of Christ Philanthropos
The Monastery of Christ Philanthropos Soter was a Byzantine monastic complex near the sea walls of the quarter of Mangana. Ruins of a substructure within the sea walls have been identified as Christ Philanthropos, though this is not universally accepted. These ruins are near the ruins of the Palace of Mangana and the Church of St. George. In the Ottoman era, this structure was located within the Sultan’s Walls surrounding Topkapı Palace near İncili Köşk (“Pearl Pavilion”), which was built over the sea walls for Murat III in 1590.
The Monastery of Christ Philanthropos was found in the 14th century during the Palaiologan era. This second monastery of Christ Philanthropos was founded by Eirene Choumnaina. Previously another monastery dedicated to Christ Philanthropos, along with a convent dedicated to Panagia Kecharitomene, was probably by Empress Irene Doukaina, wife of Alexios I Komnenos (1081–1118) in another part of the city. Later Alexios was buried here. It is unclear whether this older monastery had any connection to the one from the Palaiologan era.
The founder of the monastery, Eirene Choumnaina, was the wife of despotes John Palaiologos, son of Andronikos II Palaiologos. Her father, Nikephoros Choumnos, was a leading intellectual and statesman. In 1307, she was widowed at age 16, after which she decided to take the monastic habit as the nun Eulogia. She gave much of her fortune to the poor and to funding the monastery of Christ Philanthropos Soter, which she later served as superior. Her parents also eventually retired there. Choumnaina was involved in the affairs of her time, for example by supporting Gregory Akindynos. She was harshly criticized by Gregory Palamas for meddling in theological controversy. She commissioned manuscripts, possessed a substantial library, and was praised by her contemporaries for her erudition.
The Monastery of Christ Philanthropos was a double monastery, with a male monastery and a convent. The convent, which housed 100 nuns and an unknown number of monks, was one of the largest in 14th-century Constantinople. While the typikon for the monastery survives, it is extremely fragmentary, with the surviving chapters stressing the importance of the cenobitic life. The monastery, frequented by pilgrims, was noted for a miraculous appearance of Christ and as resting place of St. Aberkios.
It had an hagiasma built into the ramparts of the sea wall, over which İncili Köşk was later constructed. Russian pilgrims later mention the healing waters of the shrine, which are described as flowing into a stone cistern on the beach outside the sea walls. It continued to be visited by Orthodox Christian, especially for the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ, until the 19th century despite the fact that it lay within the walls of Topkapı Palace. Set in a passageway within the Byzantine substructures behind the kiosk is a deep niche with a corbelled brick arch that might be the last remaining vestiges of the hagiasma chapel. The living tradition of this hagiasma is the main argument for identifying the ruins of Christ Philanthropos, though this is not without dispute.
During the occupation of Istanbul, the French army camping at Topkapı excavated the region in 1922-1923, bringing to light the ruins of several structures in the Mangana quarter, which were identified as St. George, Theotokos Hodegon and Christ Philanthropos. There was not enough time to excavate the entire region, though the results were later published by Demangel and Mamboury. While the identification of the remains near İncili Köşk are not universally accepted, the brick ceramoplastic decoration on the exterior surfaces seems to date the structure to the Palaiologan era.
Drawing from Mamboury (possible reading of left section of inscription):
…ΚΡΑΤΑΙΑ ΔΕCΠΟΤΙ…ΑVΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡ (or ΠΑΝΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡ)…
... Mighty despot...emperor (or Pantocrator)...
Hagiasma drawing by Demangel and Mamboury
Drawing by Mary A. Walker (1869)
View of the Pearl Kiosk by Choiseul-Gouffier (1822)
Plan by Demangel
Icon of the Theotokos
This icon of the Theotokos was found abandoned in a cistern of the Mangana complex. In the marble relief icon, the Theotokos is depicted standing on a pedestal, with her arms raised orans. The one surviving hand on the right is pierced, and corresponds to descriptions of the Blachernai image, which had water flowing from the hands. While the original context of the relief remains unclear, the excavators suggested that this was originally part of a hagiasma, perhaps associated with Christ Philanthropos.
Seals from the Philanthropos monastery
Water and Healing in Constantinople by Robert G. Ousterhout
Byzantine Constantinople: Monuments, Topography and Everyday Life edited by Nevra Necipoğlu
Bildlexikon zur Topographie Istanbuls: Byzantion, Konstantinupolis, Istanbul by Wolfgang Müller-Wiener
Le quartier des Manganes et la première région de Constantinople by Demangel and Mamboury
Russian Travelers to Constantinople in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries by George P. Majeska
Monastery of Christ Philanthropos by Vlada Stankovic (Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World)