Fethiye Mosque
Istanbul, Türkiye
The Fethiye or Victory Mosque was converted from the Church of the Monastery of Theotokos Pammakaristos in 1591 by Murad III to commemorate the conquest of Georgia and Azerbaijan, and to serve the community's increasing Muslim population. The Greek name of the monastery, also known as St. Mary Pammakaristos, means "The All Blessed Mother of God." Archaeological studies have revealed Comnenian roots of the main church, attributed to the 11th or 12th centuries by different scholars. A plaque on the funerary chapel or parekklesion, inscribed by poet Emmanuel Philes, shows the addition was completed by Martha Glabas in dedication to her husband Michael Glabas Tarchaniotes (d. 1306), a high dignitary and commander of troops under Andronicus II Palaeologus. The main church was also refurbished at this time, with additions to the north and west.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchy moved from the Church of Holy Apostles to the Monastery of Pammakaristos after the Ottoman conquest and was transferred to its current location in Fener when the church was converted into a mosque. The fire of Balatkapi damaged the mosque in 1640, a restoration plaque on the southern façade states that it was repaired in 1845 (1262 A.H.) The mosque was restored by the General Directorate of Religious Endowments between 1936-38. Abandoned after the restoration, the main space was re-opened to Islamic prayer in 1960. The parekklesion, restored to its pre-Ottoman state by the Byzantine Institute of America, is open to visitors as a museum.

The Church-Mosque

The church was one of two churches in the monastery whose walled-in complex included rooms and offices. It is located on an open terrace overlooking the Golden Horn. Its plan reveals an older church at the core, built over a cistern, enclosed by joined ambulatories to the north, west and south. The church at the core consists of a narthex to the west, leading into a domed nave flanked by aisles to the north and south. Its nave and aisles terminate in apses to the east. A parekklesion, or a funerary chapel was added to the south in the 14th century. A corridor attached to the narthex of the parekklesion connects it with an outer narthex to the west and an outer aisle to the north that are believed to have been built at this time.

The main church was modified to a great extent during the conversion. Triple arcades separating the nave from the aisles were replaced with broad archways to open up the nave, and the inner wall and northern columns of the parekklesion were removed to increase the amount of interior space. The three apses of the main church were demolished to build a larger sanctuary, a domed triangular extension that faces the qibla. A wooden minbar occupies the archway between the nave and the southern aisle. The fenestration was also revised.

A restoration led by the Byzantine Institute of America in 1960 has reinstated the parekklesion to its Pre-Ottoman state. As it is seen today, the parekklesion has a Greek cross plan, with a tall domed space at the center and sanctuary with semi-dome to the east, preceded by a vaulted narthex to the west. The central dome is carried on pendentives that are reinforced by groin vaults forming the four arms of the Cross. Two smaller domes frame the central dome to its west on the exterior. Vertical loads from the roof are transferred with arches to four marble columns at the center crowned with elaborately carved capitals. The nave is dimly lit with high windows and dome lights, in contrast the sanctuary where light floods in through windows placed at eye level. The mosaics of the parekklesion, exposed and cleaned during the restoration, are fine examples of the Palaeologan revival.

The exterior view of the building is defined strongly by the heights of different spaces. The vaulted spaces of the ambulatory spaces are covered with a single low-lying flat roof, from which the tall walls of the nave emerge with their clerestory windows topped by a single dome, and the slightly lower walls of the adjacent parekklesion nave. The outer aisle to the north also has a small dome at its eastern end. There is a single minaret at the southwest corner, accessed from the exterior. Its baroque cap probably dates from the 1845 renovation.

The Madrasa

A madrasa -- built by Sinan Pasa, grand vizier of Murad II, in 1591-92 - displays an open courtyard facing the newly converted mosque. The U-shaped plan of the original madrasa, consisting of a long north-south wing and short side wings, was maintained during reconstruction of the madrasa (Fethiye Medresesi) in early 20th century by Mimar Kemaleddin Bey. The new madrasa has a basement and ground floor; the seventeen rooms on the ground floor were assembled into five larger rooms in early republican period to house a primary school, which still occupies the building today. The complex also had a fountain and a mekteb built by steward Mehmed Aga.


Dünden Bugüne Istanbul Ansiklopedisi. 1993. Istanbul: Türkiye Ekonomik ve Toplumsal Tarih Vakfi. Volume 4, 300-302.

Belting, Hans, Cyril Mango and Doula Mouriki. 1978. The mosaics and frescoes of St. Mary Pammakaristos (Fethiye Camii) at Istanbul. Washington : Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies.

Mathews, Thomas. 1976. The Byzantine Churches of Istanbul: A Photographic Survey. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 346-365.

Müller-Wiener, Wolfgang, 2001. [Bildlexikon zur Topographie Istanbuls. Turkish]. Istanbul'un tarihsel topografyasi : 17. yüzyil baslarina kadar Byzantion-Konstantinopolis-Istanbul. (translated by Ülker Sayin). Istanbul : Yapi Kredi Yayinlari.

Sumner-Boyd, Hilary and John Freely. 1987. Strolling through Istanbul: A Guide to the city. London ; New York : KPI, 287-290.
Çarsamba Neighborhood, Fatih District, Istanbul, Türkiye
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Associated Names
late 11th or early 12th C,, 14th century, 1591
Style Periods
Variant Names
Church of the Monastery of Pammakaristos
Monastery of Theotokos Pammacaristos
Building Usages