Manastır Mescidi

1. Introduction

Manastır Mescidi is located in the northwestern part of Constantinople, near the Topkapı, the Byzantine gate of Romanos. The superstructure of the church has been seriously altered as it is now covered by a wooden roof. The original openings, doors and windows, have been modified. The interior decoration has been lost, with the exception of two carved capitals, part of the triple arcade that marked the transition from the narthex to the naos.1

2. History, Architecture, Identification

As it stands today Manastır Mescidi is a fairly small single nave building with the typical three projecting apses to the east and a narthex to the west. Some of the structure’s original features were clarified by an excavation, which Pasadaios conducted in the 1960s.2 Pasadaios found parts of two parallel lines of foundation walls running east-west in the naos, obviously for the church’s internal supports, as well as the continuation of walls that separated the three parts of the bema. Foundations of an ambulatory that originally surrounded the building in the north, south, and west sides were also uncovered. Pasadaios reconstructed the building as a vaulted basilica, similar to those in Kastoria, an opinion shared by Ćurčić. Mathews, on the other hand, suggested that the church belonged to the cross-in-square type. It is also unclear whether the outer ambulatory was vaulted or not.3 The masonry points to the Palaiologan era, although Pasadaios argues for an 11th century date.

The small size of Manastır Mescidi indicates that it was probably a chapel within a monastery rather than its main church (katholikon). Paspates has suggested that it should be identified with the monastery of Saints Menodora, Nymphodora and Metrodora, which was founded in the first half of the 14th century near the Gate of Romanos by a certain Phokas Maroules.4 This identification, based solely on the building’s proximity to the aforementioned gate, remains necessarily speculative.

The chapel was transformed into a mosque by Mustafa Çavuş, page of Mehmed II the Conqueror.

1. For these capitals see Kautzsch, R., Kapitellstudien (Berlin 1936), p. 191.

2. Pasadaios, A.,  Ἐπί δύο Βυζαντινῶν μνημείων τῆς Κωνσταντινουπόλεως ἀγνώστου ὀνομασίας (Athens 1965), pp. 56-101.

3. See Sl. Ćurčić’s «Review of The Byzantine Churches of Istanbul. A Photographic Survey by T. Mathews,» in The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 36:4 (1977), pp. 280-282; see also the letters of both Ćurčić and Mathews in The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 37:3 (1978), pp. 228-229.

4. Paspates, A.G., Βυζαντιναί Μελέται. Τοπογραφικαί καί Ἱστορικαί (Constantinople 1877), pp. 376-377.