This church and a series of cisterns are the only remaining structures of an important Byzantine monastery complex. 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 has recently undergone a mind-bogglingly unsympathetic restoration that has obscured or destroyed many of its Byzantine features.
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 medrese (seminary) named in honour of Molla Zeyrek, a well-known scholar who lived during the reign of Sultan Mehmet II and was a professor here. The cisterns were in use until the end of the 18th century and have been restored, but are sadly not open to the public.
Opposite, the pleasant Fatih Belediyesi Kitap Kafe has a huge terrace with panoramic views over the Old City and Golden Horn.