Church of the Monastery of Christ Pantokrator
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Church of the Monastery of Christ Pantokrator information
This church and a series of cisterns are the only remaining structures of an important Byzantine monastery complex that also included a library, hospital and chapel. One of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture in İstanbul, it is the second-largest surviving Byzantine church in the city after Aya Sofya. Sorely neglected for centuries, it is currently undergoing a controversial restoration.
The monastery was commissioned in 1118 by Empress Eirene (she features in a mosaic at Aya Sofya with her husband, Emperor John II Comnenus), who wanted to give succour to 'poor, sick, and suffering souls'. Building works were completed after her death. The north and south churches, dedicated to Christ Pantokrator and the Archangel St Michael, were connected by an imperial chapel that was used as a mausoleum for the Komnenos and Palaiologos dynasties.
After the Conquest, the church was converted into a mosque named in honour of Molla Zeyrek, a well-known scholar who lived during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II. The cisterns were in use until the end of the 18th century and have recently been restored. Sadly, they are not open to the public.
Until recently, the church building was included on the World Monument Fund's (WMF) list of the world's 100 most endangered cultural heritage sites. It is now undergoing an excruciatingly slow restoration that was instigated and initially funded by the WMF, but has since been tended out to private contractors, who are applying liberal amounts of ugly pink concrete to the stone walls. The interior of the northern section of the church has been unsympathetically (we would say incompetently) stabilised with ugly metal braces and decorated with dreadful faux-marble painted walls. It is now functioning as a mosque.