Istanbul Tour Guide



ITG-133-Hagia Irene Church

“ Daily Tour ”

Hagia Irene Church is the First Church of Byzantium. While rebuilding the city, Constantine, one of the Roman Emperors, built a forum, a palace and a hippodrome in his name, as well as the Hagia Irene Church on top of the Roman temples in the 330s. The dictionary meaning of Hagia Irene or Hagia Eirene is 'Holy Peace'; but also a saint who lived in the same century. The saint's real name is Penelope. He tries to spread Christianity. He is thrown into a well full of snakes by pagans, but he does not die. He is stoned, tied to horses and dragged; yet he does not die. At the end of the miracles, pagans become Christians; Irene is also a saint. Emperor Constantine named the first temple of the monotheistic religion, which he built upon this extraordinary event, Hagia Irene.

Hagia Irene is the only church with an atrium that has survived from Byzantium. Atrium is a courtyard with porticoes in the middle of ancient Roman temples. Hagia Irene has retained the characteristics of the temple it replaced until today. However, today's Hagia Irene is not the same Hagia Irene. Because the first wooden Hagia Irene was burned in 532. When Emperor Justinian strictly banned polytheistic belief, the people rebelled, taking refuge in Zeus and burning both Hagia Sophia and Hagia Irene Church... Justinian had Hagia Sophia and Hagia Irene rebuilt. However, Hagia Irene was burned once again in 564. It was repaired... After two fires, this time it was shaken by earthquakes. So the church was repaired three times. Ottoman sultan II. Mehmet enters Istanbul and starts a new era. The outer walls of Topkapř Palace, whose construction has started, pass between Hagia Sophia and Hagia Irene. After a while, Hagia Irene became the internal arsenal where weapons were maintained and repaired.

Hagia Irene is the first museum of the Ottoman Empire. When the weapons in the warehouse became antiques, the first museum was opened in Hagia Irene in the 19th century. The double-winged stairs that provide access to the galleries of Hagia Irene were built at that time. The Ottoman Empire added the inscription dated 1726 on the main gate and the staircase to Hagia Irene. During the earthquakes that shook Hagia Irene, icons were forbidden by religion in Byzantium, so the walls were left unadorned during repairs. Today, only one motif remains, except for the cross symbolizing Jesus on the apse semi-dome, which the Ottomans closed by hanging a flag on it, and the drawing of a few stepped pulpits under the cross, symbolizing the Calvary Hill where Jesus was crucified. Since the church was not converted into a mosque after the conquest of Istanbul in 1453, no significant changes were made to the structure. It was used as a loot and weapons depot for a long time. The works of Damat Ahmet Fethi Pasha, one of the Tophane explorers, which formed the first core of the Turkish museum, were exhibited here in 1846. In 1869, Hagia Irene was named Museum-i Hümayun (Imperial Museum). Over time, due to insufficient exhibition spaces, the works here were moved to the Tiled Kiosk in 1875. Hagia Eirene has been used as a Military Museum since 1908. Later, the building, which remained empty for a while, was repaired and became a unit affiliated with the Hagia Sophia Museum Directorate.

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