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Pammakaristos Monastery

The Monastery of the Theotokos Pammakaristos (Mother of God the All-Blessed), now Fethiye Mosque, was located on the fifth hill of Constantinople, in the modern neighborhood of Çarşamba. It is located southeast of Chora and Blachernai churches. It is a Middle Byzantine Church, founded during the Komnenian era, with late Byzantine additions, notable for its extensively decorated parekklesion.
According to a lost inscription the founder was a certain John Komnenos and his wife, Anna Doukaina. The inner ambulatory was used as a mausoleum for members of the founders' family. After 1261, when Constantinople was reconquered by the Byzantines, the church came into the possession of the protostrator Michael Tarchaneiotes Glabas (c. 1235-c. 1305), who extensively restored the church. After his death in about 1305, his widow, Maria, became a nun and changed her name to Martha. During this time, she built a four-columned parekklesion with a two-storied narthex to the south as his funerary chapel and decorated it with very fine mosaics, of which parts survive. The monastery’s abbot, the monk Kosmas, was elected as patriarch in 1294 as John XII.

The katholikon of Pammakaristos is an ambulatory type of cross-domed church, in which the central bay of the naos is separated from the rest of the interior. Its ambulatory envelops the twelfth-century building on the northern, western, and southern sides and once contained several tombs. The north ambulatory was constructed in the late thirteenth century, while the western and southern arms were built in the fourteenth century or later. Built to accommodated tombs, four arcosolia were found in the northern arm and a vaulted tomb was found under the pavement at the north end of the western arm. The easternmost bay, which terminated in a now-destroyed apse, was covered by a dome, indicating the existence of a chapel there. The rest of the bays are covered with domical vaults and had arcosolia. Several earlier, twelfth-century burials occupied the inner ambulatory of the naos in Pammakaristos. The construction of the western and southern arms of the outer ambulatory postdated the funerary chapel, although their exact date remains undecided. The cistern under the apse and nave of the church seems to predate the church and was perhaps a crypt belonging to an older structure. It is 7 x 3 meters and has 12 columns with Corinthian capitals. Other cisterns were also located around the church, including one located in the terrace wall south of the church. It is around 22 x 7 meters and has two rows of seven columns.

The parekklesion, likely dedicated to Christ, was added to the south side of Pammakaristos by Maria around 1310 to house the tomb of her husband. A series of epigrams glorifying Tarchaneiotes are located inside and outside the chapel. While it was attached to the main church, it was conceived of as an independent church in miniature. It is a cross-in-square with an apse, a naos whose central bay was covered by a dome, and a narthex with a gallery topped by two domes. The tomb of Tarchaneiotes and his wife was under an arcosolium at the center of the northern wall of the naos. It is a statement of power, wealth, and social standing, as well as the expression of the desire for the perpetuation of the memory of both Michael and his wife, Maria. There were four additional arcosolia in the narthex: one on the south wall, one on the west wall, and two on the east wall on each side of the door. Extensively decorated with mosaics, it includes scenes from the life of Christ, groups of saints, and a Deisis in the main apse. There are also remnants of wall painting in the south arm of the ambulatory with typological allusions to the Virgin, including the closed door. There are inscriptions along the upper and lower cornices, a polychrome champlevé frieze with heraldic motifs – roundels of rampant lions – runs below the upper cornice.

From around 1455 to 1587, the church was made the seat of the Patriarchate by Gennadios II Scholarios. A document of the second half of the 16th century describes a number of tombs and relics there, including Alexios Komnenos. In 1587, it was converted into a mosque, after which it was significantly altered.  It was converted into a mosque around 1587 during the reign of Murad III. It was called Fethiye Camii (“Conquest Mosque”) to commemorate the Ottoman conquest of Georgia. Sinan Pasha, then the Grand Vizier, established its madrasa. Significant Ottoman alterations include replacement of the replacement of the tripartite bema with a qibla wall that consists of domed triangular projection. Its columns were also replaced with arches and a minaret was also added. In addition, large sections of its walls were removed to create a larger unified space. It was extensively restored, following damage by a fire in 1640. It was again restored around 1845 during the reign of Sultan Abdulmecid. Further restorations took place in 1938-1940, during which time the parekklesion came under museum authority. Byzantine Institute in Istanbul began to uncover the mosaics of the parekklesion in 1950. The parekklesion is now a museum.

See also: Chora

Mosaics of the Parekklesion

Its iconographic program of the parekklesion generally follows established norms. As its the epigram in the apse proclaims, the chapel was intended as a “pledge of salvation”, and it is in this light its mosaic decoration should be considered. Christ appears in the two most prominent elements of the chapel's decoration - the dome and the apse.

The main dome has a medallion of the Christ Pantokrator with full-length figures of prophets, while the apse mosaic depicts the Deesis with an enthroned Christ flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. An epigram, made by the nun Martha, wife of the late Michael Tarchaneiotes Glabas, frames the image of Christ. The cross-vault of the bema is decorated with busts of four archangels: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel. The Baptism of Christ survives in the southeast lunette, while several saints, are depicted in the prothesis, the diakonikon, and a corner compartment.

Apse Mosaic with Christ Hyperagathos

On behalf of her husband, Michael Glabas, who accomplished great deeds and held the office of protostrator, Martha the nun <has offered> this pledge of salvation to God.

Apse Inscription 

+ Ὑπὲρ Μιχαὴλ τοῦ Γλαβᾶ τοῦ σνζὑγον

ὃς ήν ἀριστεύς, [τὴ]ν τιμὴν πρωτοστράτωρ,

Μάρθας μοναχῆς τῷ Θεῷ σῶστρον τόδε.

The apse mosaic of the Deesis depicts an enthroned Christ in the apse, flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist on the lateral walls of the sanctuary. Christ Hyperagathos ("Supremely Good") sits on a jewel-studded, backless throne, with his right hand extended in an all-encompassing blessing. The epigram framing the image of Christ, states that the wife of the late Michael Tarchaneiotes Glabas, the nun Martha, offered the chapel on behalf of her husband to help ensure his salvation. While the Deesis follows established norms, the three figures are isolated within the architectural space, with the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist awkwardly positioned on the side walls of the bema. They both raise their hands to intercede on behalf of humanity. The cross-vault of the bema is decorated with busts of four archangels: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel. 

Virgin Mary

Archangel Raphael

St. John the Baptist

Cross-vault mosaics with archangels Michael (above Christ), Raphael (right), Gabriel, and Uriel (left). 

Dome with Christ Pantokrator and Prophets

Christ Pantokrator (center) and Old Testament Prophets
The Prophets (counterclockwise): 1) Moses [under Christ], 2) Jeremiah, 3) Zephaniah, 4) Micah, 5) Joel, 6) Zechariah, 7) Obadiah, 8) Habakkuk, 9) Jonah, 10) Malachi, 11) Ezekiel, 12) Isaiah

There is a medallion of the Christ Pantokrator at the apex of the dome with full-length figures of prophets beneath him in the drum. Christ seems to be looking down as if through a window from heaven. He has an austere expression, blessing with his right hand and holding a closed codex of the Scriptures with a luxurious cover with his left. The twelve prophets underneath Christ, each identified by name, act as intermediaries between heaven and earth. They are diversely depicted, in different poses, with some being represented as beardless and young and others old with white hair and beard. Each prophet also holds a scroll with inscribed text, which for the most part, the inscriptions allude to the Last Judgment.

Dome with Christ Pantokrator and Prophet

Prophets (from right to left)

Malachi, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Moses, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Micah

Baptism of Christ

Baptism of Christ

Inscription and Champlevé Frieze with Rampant Lions

The Baptism of Christ in the southeast lunette is the only complete narrative scene to survive in Pammakaristos. In the middle of the composition, Christ is represented completely naked - a sign of his humanity. The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove is descending through rays of light from above. John the Baptism leans down to place his right hand on Christ's head.  A group of four angels are depicted to the right, alluding to his divine nature. There is a fragmentary mosaic in the northeast lunette, probably belonging to the apostles in the scene of the Ascension. These were part of the cycle of the Great Feasts typically represented in middle and late Byzantine churches.

Mosaics of Bishops and Monks

St. Ignatius of Antioch at Theotokos Pam

St. Ignatius of Antioch

St. Gregory the Illuminator at Theotokos

St. Gregory the Illuminator

St. Anthony in the southwestern vault of

St. Anthony

A series of saints, along with geometric and floral ornaments, are depicted in the prothesis, the diakonikon, and a corner compartment. Two groups of bishops are located in the upper parts of the prosthesis and the diakonikon, while a group of holy monks are depicted in the southwest compartment of the naos.

The figures in the prosthesis and the diakonikon, with two exceptions, are depicted in full figure. They all wear the appropriate vestments and each holds a closed codex with one hand, while some are blessing with the other. As with the prophets, there is a great variety in the depiction of facial features. Some of these early Christian saints, like Sts. Gregory of Nyssa and Cyril of Alexandria, are celebrated fathers of the church, while others like St. Gregory of Agrigentum are less well-known. The group of holy monks includes Sts. Euthymios and Anthony, fathers of Palestinian and Egyptian monasticism respectively. All wear the monastic habit and each holds a rolled scroll. 

St. Gregory the Illuminator and other sa

St. Gregory the Illuminator (center), St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (upper right), St. Gregory of Agrigentum (lower right), St. Antipas (right bottom), St. Blasius (left bottom)

Theotokos Pammakaristos (Southwestern va

St. Anthony (center), St. Euthymius (bottom), St. Chariton (lower right), St. Arsenius (upper right), St. John Climacus (right top),

St. Sabas (left top)

St. Gregory the Theologian at Theotokos

St. Gregory the Theologian

St. Euthymius in the southwestern vault

St. Euthymius

The Closed Door at Theotokos Pammakarist

The Closed Door

1) Christ Pantokrator

2) Moses

3) Jeremiah

4) Zephaniah

5) Micah

6) Joel

7) Zechariah

8) Obadiah

9) Habakkuk

10) Jonah

11) Malachi

12) Ezekiel

13) Isaiah

14) Christ Hyperagathos

15) The Virgin Mary

16) John the Baptist

17) Archangel Michael

18) Archangel Raphael

19) Archangel Gabriel

20) Archangel Uriel

21) James, Brother of Christ

22) St. Clement ?

23) St. Metrophanes

24) St. Ignatius of Antioch

25) St. Gregory of Nyssa 

26) St. Gregory the Theologian

27) St. Athanasius

28) St. Cyril of Alexandria

29) St. Gregory the Illuminator

30) St. Gregory Thaumaturgus

31) St. Gregory of Agrigentum

32) St. Antipas

33) St. Blasius

34) Fragment of the Ascension 
35) Baptism of Christ

36) St. Anthony
37) St. Euthymius
38) St. Sabas

39) St. John Climacus
40) St. Arsenius 
41) St. Chariton

42) The Closed Door
43) The Virgin and Christ
44) St. Peter

Epigrams of the Parekklesion

The widow of Michael Tarchaneiotes Glabas, Maria, probably commissioned Manuel Philes to produce for a series of epigrams for the parekklesion of the Pammakaristos. There is a twenty-three-line epitaph carved on the exterior string course of the parekklesion. Originally the first eight verses were on the west façade above the main door, but they were obscured by the later construction of an ambulatory. Thirteen of the remaining fifteen lines on the south facade can still be read. This epigram (21 m in length) can safely be attributed to Philes as it is also preserved in an anthology of his poems. 
The epitaph takes the form of a lament in which the bereaved widow addresses her late husband in her own voice. The poem says very little of the chapel itself, but rather eulogizes the brave general who took the monastic habit before his death. It also informs visitors that the parekklesion was built by Glabas' widow, now the nun Martha, to house his remains.
A three-line epigram frames the apse mosaic of Christ Hyperagathos, “the Supremely Good”. With these verses the widow reminds the visitor of her patronage of the chapel, names her late husband, and states that she constructed the parekklesion to help ensure his salvation. Since the image of Christ forms part of a Deesis scene, one can interpret the iconography of the apse as depicting the Virgin and John the Baptist interceding with Christ for the salvation of Glabas in response to Maria-Martha's generous dedication to Christ of a splendidly decorated chapel. 
A third metrical inscription, painted in gold letters on a blue background, is located on the lower and upper cornices of the church interior. The epitaph began on the south side of the lower cornice, continued along the west and north walls with five verses in each section. The poem then moved to the cruciform upper cornice, with one verse on each of the twelve cornice sections. The fragmentary remains indicate that it was yet another epitaph on the death of Glabas, praising the departed general and praying for Christ's blessing upon him.  

Inscription on south side of the parakkleison

[Ἄνερ, τὸ φῶς, τὸ πνεῦμα, τὸ πρόσφθεγμά μου,

καὶ τοῦτό σοι τὸ δῶρον ἐκ τῆς συζύγου·

σὺ μὲν γὰρ ὡς ἄγρυπνος ἐν μάχαις λέων

ὑπνοῖς, ὑπελθὼν ἀντὶ λόχμης τὸν τάφον·

5         ἐγὼ δέ σοι τέτευχα πετραίαν στέγην,

μὴ πάλιν εὑρὼν ὁ στρατός σε συγχέῃ,

κἂν δεῦρο τὸν χοῦν ἐκτινάξας ἐκρύβης,

ἢ τοῦ πάχους ῥεύσαντος ἡρπάγης ἄνω,

πᾶν ὅπλον ἀφεὶς ἐκκρεμὲς ῷ παττάλῳ·

10      τὰς] γὰρ ἐπὶ γῆς ἐβδελύξω παστάδας

ἐν εὐτελεῖ τρίβωνι φυγὼν τὸν βίον

καὶ πρὸς νοητοὺς άντετάξω σατράπας,

στεῤῥὰν μετενδὺς ἐκ θεοῦ παντευχίαν.

ὡς ὄστρεον γοῦν ὀργανῶ σοι τὸν τάφον,

15       ἢ κόχλον ἢ κάλυκα κεντρώδους βάτου·

μάργαρέ μου, πορφύρα, γῆς ἄλλης ῥόδον,

εἰ καὶ τρυγηθὲν ἐκπιέζῃ τοῖς λίθοις

ὡς καὶ σταλαγμοὺς προξενεῖν μοι δακρύων,

αὐτὸς δὲ καὶ ζῶν καὶ Θεὸν ζῶντα βλέπων

20       ὡς νοῦς καθαρὸς τῶν παθῶν τῶν ἐξ ὕλης

τὸν σὸνπάλιν θάλαμον εὐτρέπιζέ μοι·

ἡ σύζυγος πρὶν ταῦτά σοι Μάρθα γράφει,

[πρωτοστράτορ κάλλιστε καὶ τεθαμμένων.]


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!

Theotokos Pammakaristos.jpg

Inscription from the lower cornice

Πρὶν μἑυ βασιλεὺς ὁ κρατῶν γῆς Αὐσόνω[ν]
[ᾧ] τὸ στέ[φ]ος δἐδωκας αὐτὸς ὑψόθεν
καὶ Σολομῶντος [.....................................] 
τιμαῖς ἐδεξιοῦτο τὸν σὸν οἰκέτην
Αὐτὸς δὲ καὶ νῦν ὡς Θεὁς πάντων μὁνος,
ὦ Σῶτερ, ὦ φῶς, ὦ γλυκασμέ, Δεσπότα,
τιμαῖς ἀ[μ]είβον τοῦτον ὸλβιωτἑραιε
τὴν πίστιν ἀθρῶν κ[αὶ τ]ὸν ἔνθεον δὁμον
ὅν ἀντὶ λεπτῶ[ν................].


Formerly the emperor, ruler of the land of the Ausones [i.e. Romans], to whom you yourself give the crown from above, and [...] of Solomon, bestowed upon your servant [i.e. the deceased] military honors [...]. But now you yourself, as the one God of all, O Savior, O Light, O Sweet Lord, do reward him with more blessed honors, observing his faith and this divine house, which in place of insignificant […].

Theotokos Pammakaristos.jpg

Inscription and Champlevé Frieze with Rampant Lion

Arcosolium at Theotokos

Arcosolium where the tomb of Tarchaneiotes and Maria was once located 

Decorative Inscription on South Wall of Parekklesion

Μ(ι)χ(αὴλ) ∆ούκ(ας) Γλαβ(ᾶς) Ταρχανειώτης ὁ (Π)ρωτοστράτ(ωρ) κ(αι) κτήτωρ

Michael Doukas Glabas Tarchaneiotes, Protostrator and Founder

Theotokos Pammakaristos.jpg
Theotokos Pammakaristos.jpg
Forchheimer & Strzygowski.jpg

Cistern plan and drawings

By Forchheimer & Strzygowski


Aerial photo by István Pi Tóth

Terrace wall south of Pammakaristos 

Sébah & Joaillier


Photo by David Talbot-Rice 

From Birmingham East Mediterranean Archive

From Byzantine Topographic Studies by Paspates (1877)

a - Copy (3).jpg

Ebersolt & Thiers (1910)

Pammakaristos as the Patriarchate of Constantinople

Funerary slab of to unknown abbot 

Ἐνταῦθα κεῖται προσηνοῦς ὰ[νδρὸς σῶμα]

τοῦ ποιμνιά[ρχου] χρηματίσαντος τ[ὁτε

μονῆς σεβασ]τῆς Μανουὴλ τῆς ἐνθάδε·

εὔ[ξασθε τούτῳ πά]ντες εὐσεβοφρὁν(ως).

Here lies the body of a kindly man who at one time served as abbot of Manuel's venerable monastery that is here. May all of you pray for him with pious mind.

Lost Dedicatory Inscription
Ἰωάννου φρόντισμα Κομνηνοῦ τόδε 
Ἄννης τε ῥίζης Δουκικῆς τῆς συζύγου
οἷς ἀντιδοῦσα πλουσίαν, ἁγνή, χάριν 
τάξαις ἐν οἴκῳ τοῦ θεοῦ μονοτρόπους.

Capital in the Garden of Fethiye Mosque.

Capital in garden of Fethiye Museum

From Beyazıt Church A

Pervititch. Plan d’assurances. Balat. Fetiye. Kesmekaya. No 26 (1929)

From Salt Research

Plan by Müller-Wiener

Plan by Hawkins and Mango

Istanbul Archaeological Museums

Column Capital with Busts of Apostles
Early 14th century

Apostle Peter

Apostle John

Architrave Fragment with Bust of a Saint
Early 14th century


The Mosaics and Frescoes of St. Mary Pammakaristos (Fethiye Camii) at Istanbul by Belting, Mango & Mouriki

Architecture and Ritual in the Churches of Constantinople: Ninth to Fifteenth Centuries by V. Marinis
Bildlexikon zur Topographie Istanbuls: Byzantion, Konstantinupolis, Istanbul by Wolfgang Müller-Wiener

Converted Byzantine Churches in Istanbul: Their Transformation Into Mosques and Masjids by S. Kirimtayif

Byzantine Churches In Constantinople: Their History And Architecture by Alexander Van Millingen

İstanbul'daki Orta Bizans Dönemi Kiliseleri Ve Çevrelerinin Korunması İçin Öneriler by Mine Esmer

İstanbul'da Bizans Dönemi Sarnıçlarının Mimari Özellikleri ve Kentin Tarihsel Topografyasındaki Dağılımı by Kerim Altuğ

Epigram, Art, and Devotion in Later Byzantium by Ivan Drpić

The Sculptures of the Ayasofya Müzesi in Istanbul: A Short Guide by C. Barsanti and A. Guiglia

“The Mosaics of Theotokos Pammakaristos” by Vasileios Marinis

“Epigrams in Context: Metrical Inscriptions on Art and Architecture of the Palaiologan Era” by A.M. Talbot

“Notes on the Work of the Byzantine Institute in Istanbul: 1954” by PA Underwood 


Monastery of Pammakaristos Album (Byzantine Legacy Flickr)

Byzantine Churches of Constantinople (Byzantine Legacy Google Map)

Fethiye/Pammakaristos) Museum (Istanbul Museums)

Pammakaristos Monastery (1200 Byzantium)

Fethiye Camii (Nicholas V. Artamonoff Collection)

Interior of Fethiye Camii (Dumbarton Oaks)

Exterior of Fethiye Camii (Dumbarton Oaks)

Fethiye Mosque (Archnet)

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