St. Andrew in Krisei (Koca Mustafa Paşa Cami)

1. Introduction

The monastery of Saint Andrew in Krisei (Koca Mustafa Paşa Camii) is located on the 7th hill of Constantinople, adjacent to the cistern of St. Mokios and near the gate of Selymbria in the Theodosian walls (fig. 1). The earliest information on the existence of a monastery in this region go back to the 2nd half of the 8th century: in November of 766, the iconophile ascete Andrew from Crete was buried in the monastery, and so was St. Philaretos the Merciful, on December 2, 792. In the latter's Vita we read that it was a feminine monastery, which is mentioned under the names Krisis1 and Rodophylion. The church was initially dedicated to Apostle Andrew and it maintained this dedication after its extent restoration by Basil I, while from its 13th-c. renovation onwards it was apparently dedicated to Saint Andrew of Crete. It was thoroughly renovated once again in the 15th century, when it was also transformed to a mosque. Its current form is the result of modern changes and additions, however some columns and capitals of the 5th -6th century still survive, which were either reused architectural elements that came from older churches (a common practice in late Byzantine religious architecture), or belong to a possible early phase of the church in the 6th century.

2. History

The sources are rather vague on since when the monastery stood in the area. In the Chronicon Paschale a church dedicated to Apostle Andrew is metioned, supposedly founded by Arkadia, daughter of Emperor Arkadios. In the past this church was identified with the church of Saint Andrew in Krisei, but we lack the evidence that would allow such an identification.2 On November 20, 766 the iconophile Andrew of Crete martyred in Constantinople, because he opposed to the iconoclastic policy of Constantine V Kopronymos (741-775). Symeon Metafrastes reports that he was buried “in the holy ground that it is named Krisis”, but there is no reference to the monastery.3 Almost thirty years later, in 792, saint Philaretos bought, according to his Vita, a tomb in the female monastery of Krisis, also known as Rodophylion, where he was also buried in December of the same year.4 In the Vita Basilii, Emperor Basil I (867-886) is reported to have renovated, among other structures, the church of Apostle Andrew near the also restored martyrium of St. Mokios.5 It is very likely that the church and the entire monastery would have been abandoned and suffered some damage under the anti-monastic rule of iconoclast emperors.

The same probably happened after the fall of the city to the Crusaders, in the years of the Latin rule. Under the reign of Andronikos II (1282 -1328) and between 1284-1289, Theodora Raoulaina (d. 1300) renovated the church and the female monastery, in which she became nun for 15 years.6 The renovated church was dedicated to St Andrew of Crete, the relic of whom was most likely kept there. Moreover, since she was a fervent supporter of the arsenitai, she succeeded in translating the relics of Patriarch Arsenios from Hagia Sophia to her foundation for a short period of time. Maximos Planoudes has dedicated three epigrams in Raoulaina’s patronage to the monastery of Saint Andrew in Krisei.7 The first of the three is believed to have accompanied her portrait as a donor of the church.8 In the same monastery Simonis, the daughter of Andronikos II and spouse of the Serbian kral Miloutin, withdrew after the death of her husband, until her own death.

The monastery continued functioning after the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans and until 1489; in that year, under the Sultan Bayazid II (1481-1512), the Bezyr Koca Mustafa Paşa, also known as Atik Mustafa Paşa (d. 1512), converted it to a mosque, which bears his name ever since. In the same period the sheikh Subul Sinan built next to the mosque a dervishe monastery. From the 16th c. and until the 18th c., the sultans created in the area a complex of buildings which included a medrese, various buildings for worship, and even a cemetery of Ottoman dignitaries and their families.

In 1765 a big earthquake destroyed the biggest part of the dome of the mosque, which was later restored. Modern repairs and additions were carried out in 1937. The successive repairs and restorations have alterated the Byzantine architectural characteristics of the church, from which only a few survive today.

3. Architecture

After the renovation of the 13th century, the church belonged to the type of the domed church with an ambulatory. This type derives from the domed basilicas and becomes very popular in Constantinopolitan religious architecture during the Palaiologan period. The same type is also known in Macedonia and in regions under the influence of the capital. The central space is covered with a dome, which is supported by 4 massive piers carrying arches and pendentives. An ambulatory, much lower than the square central nucleus, surrounds its north, west and south side. In all 3 sides of the church, passages were opened to provide access to the central naos from the ambulatory. Thus the church becomes more spacious and better illumined. The triple bema is linked with the central space and the side aisles (fig. 2 - 3). The need to balance the thrust of the dome led to the built-up with lunettes of the north, south and west arches that carry the dome, leaving only the eastern arch of bema open. In the exterior, the dome and the nave emerge above the side aisles more clearly than in the cross-in-square type.

In the building as it survives today, few elements have been maintained from the 13th-c. renovation. Architectural elements in second use, columns and capitals of the 5th-6th century, can be found in the church, which is a recurring characteristic in late Byzantine religious architecture. Whether they came from the supposed 5th-c. church of Apostle Andrew or from some other church it is impossible to tell. From the Byzantine architectural features only the three aisles of the church, the two narthexes and the three-sided apse of the sanctuary.

The barrel-vaulted sanctuary inside the apse has shallow niches on both sides, where passages to the prothesis and the diakonikon are opened. Only the diakonikon survives, covered with a cross-vault. The prothesis was replaced by a bay covered with a domical vault, from which a door leads to the gynaikonites, built οn the eastern side of the church in the Ottoman period. A similar door was opened in the apse after the construction of the gynaikonites.

The church has an inner and an outer narthex that together occupy almost half of the church length. The central part of the outer narthex is trilateral, and on its north and its south side it is flanked by apartments that constitute extensions of the north and the south annexes of the ambulatory. These apartments are covered with domical vaults and are separated from the trilateral outer narthex with big pillars. The two lateral spaces of the outer narthex are covered with cross-vaults and the central one with a shallow dome on pendentives. This central bay is separated from the lateral ones by 4 columns that support 6th-c. capitals, with monograms and leaves of acanthus, similar to those of the porticoes in the church of Sts Sergios and Bakchos. From the central bay of the outer narthex a door leads to the inner narthex which is separated from the main church by two ancient columns. The inner narthex constitutes the western annex of the ambulatory. Its oblong central bay is barrel-vaulted; from the two lateral ones, the north is covered with a small dome of the Ottoman period and the south with a cross-vault that probably belongs to the Byzantine period.

Both narthexes have only one floor. Above those the windows of the west arch and of the north and south semidomes are opened. Above the arcade that separates the narthex from the main church, three windows are opened, arch-headed on the interior and ogee-arched on the exterior side.

The central dome dates to the Ottoman period and replaced the Byzantine one. It is supported by a tall drum, which is semicircular internally and octagonal externally. On each side a window is opened. The semidomes on the north and the south side of the dome belong to later Ottoman repairs. In each semidome three windows are opened. Only two windows of the church have survived the 13th-c. renovation, while the rest have been repaired during the Ottoman period.9

The current form of church is the result of the alterations of the Ottoman period. Then the orientation was shifted around 90 degrees. Thus the mihrab and mibar they are found under the semidome in the south wall and the entrance is opened in the north wall, in front of which a wooden portico was added. The entrance is opened via a portico in the western end of the north aisle and from there to the central bay of the narthex, from where one can see the Byzantine arrangement of the church.

1. The history of the name «Κρίσις» is obscure, see Janin R., La géographie ecclésiastique de l’empire byzantin Ι. Le Siège de Constantinople et le Patriarcat Oecuménique 3: les églises et les monastères (Paris 21969), pp. 29-30. Paliouras Α., «Τα Βυζαντινά Μνημεία», in Οικουμενικό Πατριαρχείο. Η Μεγάλη του Χριστού Εκκλησία (Αθήνα - Geneve 1989), p. 149, ascribes it to the following tradition: in the yard of the monastery there was a cypress, from which a hand was hanging on a chain. The people asked from the hand to express its opinion on their matters. If the hand leaned toward the person asking, then this person was right, if upward then the person was wrong. See also Σφυρόερα, Σ.Ν., Κωνσταντινούπολη, Πόλη της Ιστορίας 2 (Αθήνα 2006), p. 262.

2. Janin R., La géographie ecclésiastique de l’empire byzantin Ι. Le Siège de Constantinople et le Patriarcat Oecuménique 3: les églises et les monastères (Paris 21969), p. 27.

3. «De S. Andrea Cretensi, dicto in Crisi», PG 115, col. 1128: «ἐν ἱερῷ τόπῳ ἱερῶς κατετίθετο. Κρίσις τῷ τόπῳ τὸ ὄνομα.»

4. Formy, M.H. - Leroy, B.M. (éd.), «La Vie de s. Philarète», Byzantion 9 (1934), pp. 151, 162.

5. Vita Basilii is the fifth book of the chronicon of Theophanes Continuatus. For the renovation of the church, Theophanes Continuatus, ed. I. Bekker (CSHB, Bonn 1838), pp. 323-4.

6. After the death of her husband John Raoul Petraliphes in 1274, Theodora, niece of Michael VIII (1261 – 1282), turned against the religious policy of her uncle and she was exiled along with her mother. She returned in 1282, after Michael’s death; see Talbot A.M., «Building activity in Constantinople under Andronikos II: The Role of Women Patrons in the Construction and Restoration of Monasteries», στο Necipoglu, N. (ed.), Byzantine Constantinople. Monuments, Topography and Everyday Life (Leiden-Boston-Cologne 2001), pp. 333-4.

7. Λάμπρος, Σ. Π. (ed.), «Επιγράμματα Μαξίμου Πλανούδη», Νέος Ελληνομνήμων 13 (1916), pp. 415-6.

8. Talbot A.M., «Building activity in Constantinople under Andronikos II: The Role of Women Patrons in the Construction and Restoration of Monasteries», στο Necipoglu, N. (ed.), Byzantine Constantinople. Monuments, Topography and Everyday Life (Leiden-Boston-Cologne 2001), p. 334.

9. The windows of the Byzantine period were arched, while those of the Ottoman period were rectangular; their arched heads were built-up with plinths or stones, βλ. Hearsey, J.E.N., City of Constantine (324 -1453) (London 1963), p. 114.