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January 2020
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Possible locations of departed churches

Possible locations of departed churches

The Monastery of the Panaghia Hodegetria was built (probably in the early 5th Century) to hold an ikon of the Virgin and Child, said to have been painted by St. Luke the Evangelist. This was the symbol of Constantinople, an image thought to protect the city from all evil. It showed Mary standing and indicating the Christ Child as the way to salvation. This mosaic in the Chora is of this type. The name ‘Hodegetria’ means She who shows the way. The ikon appears to have been taken to The Church of St Saviour in Chora during the 1453 siege and subsequent conquest by the Ottoman forces. This is the last anyone saw of it. Inevitably, rumours of it resurfacing have been promulgated from time to time.

The Church of St. Mary Hodegetria was on the Pilgrims’ route in the latter part of the Byzantine Empire. Majeska (1984) cites reports of numerous Russian pilgrims and there were many others from various parts of Europe. However, they all leave descriptions of the ikon and not the church. The Spaniards Clavijo (who later had an audience with Timur) and, towards the end of the Empire, Pero Tafur described a ritual in which every Tuesday, the ikon would be paraded around the city by red-garbed monks. (van der Vin, 1980)

There’s not much of a chance of getting in here at the moment. Even the official archaeological projects don’t seem to be able to circumvent the difficulty of getting into a military zone. It is smack in the middle of where the soldiers won’t let you go when you try to walk downhill from Aya Ireni. Mamboury indicates that only the foundations of the ayazma remained in 1951. The crusaders of the 13th century were not kind to this church and the military are not renowned for their care of Christian ruins. There can’t be much there now. (41.009151,28.983371 – possibly)

Nicholas Artamonoff took some wonderful photographs of Istanbul in the 1930s and 1940s. This picture shows the large marble dodecagonal font over the ayazma at St Mary Hodegetria. Mamboury (1924) noted that the waters of the ayazma were supposed to restore sight and ascribed the name ‘Hodegetria’ to this attribute, rather than the presence of the ikon.

Font in The Manganes district, 1935.

Font in The Manganes district, 1935.

This capital is in the grounds of the Kalyon Hotel, close to the site of the Church of St Mary Hodegetria.

Byzantine capital, Kennedy Caddesi

Byzantine capital, Kennedy Caddesi

We may have access to the area at some time in the future as it appears that there are plans for the military zone to become a landscaped area more in keeping with the appearance of the rest of Saray Burnu.

Column capital from the vicinity of the Church of St Mary Hodegetria. Archaeology Museum.

Column capital from the vicinity of the Church of St Mary Hodegetria. Archaeology Museum.

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