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Greek architects seem to have been vital to the mosque-building activity that followed the 1453 conquest of Constantinople. Christodoulos, who was a member of the congregation at the Mouchliotissa, was the principal architect of the first Fatih Camii, built on the site of the Church of the Holy Apostles which was demolished to clear the way for the new mosque. Fatih Sultan Mehmet was so impressed that he granted Christodoulos’s request to keep the Mouchliotissa as a church. A copy of the Sultan’s fırman (decree) hangs on the western wall of the church. Christodoulos’s nephew may have been the architect of the Beyazit Camii, built at the beginning of the 16th century. The other fırman on the church wall is said to be the decree of Sultan Beyazit, renewing Mehmet II’s pledge to keep the church as a church.

This may all be nonsense. The architect of the first Fatih Camii is generally referred to as Atık Sinan. He is alleged to have had his hand cut off for failing to make the dome bigger than that of Aya Sofya. It is possible that Atık Sinan was an alias of Christodoulos at a time when it was advisable to blend in. The identity of the architect of Beyazit Camii is one of those questions that will probably never be resolved. Nonetheless, the fırmans seem to exist and it is difficult to account for the survival of the building as a church without some kind of official protection. The continuous use of the church as a church means that this is one of the few that we can be confident in identifying.

The fırmans of Sultans Mehmet II and Beyazit II.

The fırmans of Sultans Mehmet II and Beyazit II.

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