One of the joys of Istanbul is stumbling upon old buildings, not listed in the guide books, and this one certainly was an interesting surprise.
We leave the Süleymaniye and head towards Beyazit through back streets we are walking along for the first time. Turn a corner and there is a this Byzantine church long converted into a mosque.
The sign says it is Kalenderhane Camii and the caretaker, taking his ease in the sunshine outside the front door, says he has no idea of the original church name but waves us inside to look around.
It is glorious. Panelled in marble slabs of various colours, later research on-line reveals there is great confusion over the original name (if you’re really interested you can look at the Wikipedia entry).
It is believed to have been originally built in the 7th century and in 1453, following the Ottoman conquest, it was given to a sect of dervishes, the Kalenders, as a direct gift from Mehmet the Conqueror. Hence its current name.
The Kalenders used it as a dervish lodge and soup kitchen until 1746 when it was finally converted into a mosque with the addition of mihrap and mimbar.
In the 1930s the minaret fell down after it was struck by lightning and this, together with other damage to the building, led to it being locked up and abandoned.
In the 1970s it was restored to its 12th century condition and resumed its role as a local mosque.
As ever, the position of the original altar was not perfectly aligned with Mecca, so the mihrap is stuck in a corner ruining the symmetry of the design.
One of the joys of Istanbul is stumbling upon old buildings, not listed in the guide books, and this was certainly an amazing surprise.