This is the only remaining Byzantine church in the city that pre-dates the Ottoman conquest and has never been turned into a mosque.

It was built c.1282 by the Princess Maria Palaeologina, an illegitimate daughter of Emperor Michael VIII. In 1265 he sent her to be married to Hulagu, the Great Khan of the Mongols but Hulagu died before Maria reached the Mongol capital, and she was married instead to his son and successor Abagu.

Maria lived in the Mongol court for almost fifteen years, and through her influence the Khan and many of his people became Christians.

Then in 1281 Abagu was assassinated by his brother Ahmet and Maria was forced to return to Constantinople.

On arrival she resisted her father’s attempts to force her into another dynastic marriage and instead became a nun, building a convent next to the present church.

The convent has long since disappeared but the church remains and proudly displays copies of the various firmans (Ottoman royal decrees) which successive sultans signed promising the church would remain the property of the Greek Orthodox church.

Our second photo shows two of these decrees on display in the church.

The church has a resident female caretaker and is hidden behind walls topped with barbed wire.

To gain entrance you press the bell on an intercom at the gate and declare yourself ‘tourist’ and she will come and let you in.

Services are still held in the church but there is no regular pattern so you would be very lucky to go there on a Sunday and find one taking place.

However, go there at any time and you will have visited the only church remaining unaltered since the Ottoman conquest in 1453.

It is located in the district of Fener on the Golden Horn, next door to the Greek College, which is a huge redbrick building with a tower which can be seen from miles away.

Head for the College and you’ll find the Church.

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