The former Pammakaristos Church, now known as Fethiye Museum and Mosque, was the seat of the Christian Orthodox Patriarch for 132 years and today holds the third largest amount of Byzantine mosaics in Istanbul (after the Chora Church and Hagia Sophia).
Built at the end of the Latin Empire in 1261, the Pammakaristos Church was rebuilt on an earlier foundation and dedicated to the Virgin “Pammakaristos”. Hence its original name, Pammakaristos Church. A Byzantine Greek Orthodox church overlooking the Golden Horn.
After the Fall of Constantinople and the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453, Hagia Sophia which had served as the seat of the Christian Orthodox Patriarchate from 537-1453, had been transformed into a mosque. Mehmet the Conqueror appointed Gennadius as Patriarch at the Pammakaristos Church.
From 1455 the church served as the seat of the Christian Orthodox Patriarchate until 1587 when it was converted into a mosque and renamed Fethiye. The Patriarch then moved down the hill to the Church of St. George, in Fener (where it continues to reside today).
Located in the Çarşamba neighborhood of the Fatih District along the Golden Horn, upon visiting ‘Fethiye Müzesi’ you’ll notice it’s separated into a museum and a working mosque.
Upon entering the chapel which has functioned as a museum since 1949, you might be disappointed by its size, but only the side chapel (parecclesion) remains. The beauty lies in the ceiling. The dome and vaults are covered with Byzantine mosaics dating back to the 14th century. There are also fragments of frescoes at the entrance. Keep in mind, you will need to strain your neck for long periods of time to fully be able to encompass all the beauty that lies above.
Note: If you’re interested in Byzantine mosaics I highly recommend visiting the Chora Church, which is only a 15 minute walk from here. If you’re heading to Sultanahmet, be sure to visit Hagia Sophia, and then the Great Palace Mosaic Museum for non-religious depicted mosaics.
As you exit the museum, exit the gate and walk to the right to enter the main building, Fethiye Camii, which continues to function as a mosque today. (Yes, mosque rules apply here). The mosque has been restored a number of times over the years and continues to maintain the original church’s architectural plan with obvious additions for it being used as a mosque.