History: Byzantine Empire

11.09.13

Amanda Balough

History and Archaeology of the Church of the Holy Apostles

            For about eight hundred years, the Church of the Holy Apostles was the second most important church in Constantinople, rivaling the Hagia Sophia and the Imperial Polyandreion in both grandeur and purpose. Emperors, patriarchs, and bishops were all buried in the church until the 11th century, when they were either removed or secured in crypts, but many of the relics were left and were venerated by the faithful of Constantinople[1]. In 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire and the Church of the Holy Apostles became the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church. In 1461, the Ottomans demolished the Church and made the Fatih Mosque.  The Church of the Holy Apostles is one of the most important buildings in revealing Byzantine life and society[2]. By looking at the history and ruins of the Church of the Holy Apostles, historians and archaeologist are able to gain a better understanding of Byzantine society, religion, and politics by looking at the archaeology of the church.

Construction for the original Church of the Holy Apostles began in the year 330, when Constantine the Great (306-337) ruled[3]. Constantine died in 337 before construction on the church could be completed. When the church was completed, Constantine’s remains were placed in the mausoleum of the Church by Constantius II (337-361), Constantine’s son. The church was christened to the Twelve Apostles of Christ and was meant to hold the relics of the Apostles of the church[4]. Constantius II delivered the relics of St. Andrew from Achaia, the relics of St. Luke the Evangelist, and the relics of St. Timothy from Ephesus to the church and as the centuries passed, it became assumed that the church was dedicated to those three[5]. The church was destroyed and rebuilt by Justinian I (527-565) and Procopius and other historians write that the new church was designed and built by architects Anthemius and Isidorus in the shape of the Greek cross with five domes. Each of the domes was above each arm of the cross and the fifth one was above the central bay where the arms intersected. Once the church was rebuilt, the relics of Constantine and the three saints were reinstalled and Justinian had a mausoleum built for himself and his family at the end of the northern arm[6].

Emperor Basil (867-886) renovated and enlarged the church in the 9th century. Unfortunately, the Church of the Holy Apostles was looted during the Fourth Crusade in 1204 and when Michael VIII Palaeologus (1261-1282) reclaimed the city, he erected a statue of the Archangel Michael at the church. In the early 14th century, Amdronicus II Palaeologus (1282-1238) restored the church but, the Church of the Holy Apostles fell into disrepair when the Empire declined and Constantinople’s population fell[7]. It remained in disrepair, even though Florentine Cristoforo Buondelmonti saw the church in 1420, until 1453, when Constantinople was seized by the Ottoman Turks[8]. Sultan Mehmed II ordered the Greek Patriarch Gennadius Scholarius to move the center of the Greek Orthodox Church to the Church of the Holy Apostles, but the area surrounding the church soon became settled by Turks, who became more hostile that such a large and centrally located building remained in Christian hands[9]. Gennadius Scholarius moved the Patriarchate to the Church of St. Mary Pammakaristos to the Phanar district, the main Christian part of the city[10]. Instead of converting the Church of the Holy Apostles into a mosque, Sultan Mehmed demolished it and built the Fatih Cami, a mosque of comparable magnificence on the ruins.The mosque still occupies the site and holds Mehmed’s tomb[11].

The Church of the Holy Apostles held many relics, but the most prized relics were the supposed skulls of St. Andrew, St. Luke the Evangelist, and St. Timothy. The church also held relics of St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Theologian, other Church fathers, saints, and martyrs, and supposedly part of the Column of Flagellation, the column on which Jesus has been thought to bound and flogged against[12]. The Column of Flagellation has since been moved to the Church of St. George at Phanar. Up until the 11th century, the bodies of most emperors and many patriarchs and bishops were kept in the church. The church acquired huge amounts of gold, silver, and gems donated by many faithful, until the Fourth Crusade in 1204, where the church and imperial sarcophagi were plundered and the most of the reliquaries and treasury was pillaged[13]. The Crusaders took gems from the imperial tombs and even Justinian’s and Emperor Heaclius’s tombs were not spared. Today, many of the relics and treasures stolen from the church are scattered in collections across European museums, especially in Rome and St. Mark’s Basilica[14]. There is no historical visual record of the Church of the Holy Apostles, but St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice and the Cathedrale de Saint Front in Perigeux are supposedly modeled after the church.

Until recently, there was no physical evidence that the Church of the Holy Apostles remained, for the Faih Cami was built on the ruins, and any actual remains of the church have been long destroyed. The historian Eusebius of Caesarea (263–339) described the Church as

“He (Constantine) had the church built to a great height, and he decorated it splendidly with slabs of various colors which covered it from the foundation to the roof. And over the roof he put finely fretted work and overlaid it everywhere with gold. The outside portion, which protected the edifice from rainfall, was of bronze rather than tiles, and this too gleamed with the abundance of gold. It brilliantly reflected the rays of the sun and dazzled the distant onlooker. A well-carved tracery of bronze and gold encircled the entire dome.[15]” (Tiuliumeanu, The Church of Holy Apostles)

After the church was destroyed, Justinian I rebuilt the church in the same Greek cross design with the five domes: one over each arm of the cross and another where the arms intersected. The western arm of the cross is said to have extended further than the others, creating an atrium. Since there are not images of the church, the design details of the church are a matter of disagreement. Procopius (500-565)[16], Justinian’s imperial historian, wrote in his book “Buildings” this description of the Church of the Holy Apostles:

“Two straight lines were drawn, intersecting each other in the middle of the form of a cross, one extending east and west, and the other which crossed this running north and south. On the outside these lines were defined by walls on all of the sides, while on the inside they were traced by rows of columns standing above one another. At the crossing of the two straight lines, that is to say at about the middle, there was set aside a place which may not be entered by those who may not celebrate the mysteries; this with good reason they call the “sanctuary.” The two arms of this enclosure which lie along the transverse line are equal to each other, but the arm which extends toward the west, along the upright line, is enough longer than the other to make the form of the cross. That portion of the roof which is above the sanctuary, as it is called, is built, in the center at least, on a plan resembling the Church of Sophia, except that it is inferior to it in size. The arches, four in number, rise aloft and are bound together in the same manner and the circular drum which stands upon them is pierced by windows, and the dome which arches above this seems to float in the air and not to rest upon solid masonry, though actually it is well supported. Thus, then, was the central part of the roof constructed. And the arms of the building, which are four,… were roofed on the same plan as the central portion, but this one feature is lacking: underneath the domes the masonry is not pierced by windows.” (Procopius, 88)[17]

Nicholas Mesarites, a 12th century writer, also wrote a description of the church based off of the surviving parts of the ruins. During the late fourth and early fifth centuries, many churches were designed to be rough imitations of the Church of the Holy Apostles, like St. Ambrose’s Church of the Apostles in Milan and the Church of Saint Simeon Stylites in Aleppo in Syria[18].

Many emperors and important people were buried at the Church of the Holy Apostles. Even though many have been moved to other locations or are lost/destroyed, historical documents were written that recorded all who were held in the Church of the Holy Apostles. The grounds of the first church were designed with both a rotunda mausoleum by Constantine and a church, which was built by Constantius.[19] “The Mausoleums were the resting place for most Eastern Roman emperors and members of their families for seven centuries, beginning with Constantine I and ending with Constantine VIII. With no more space available at the time, emperors began to be buried in other church and monasteries around the city.”[20] (Harris pg 145) Eusebius’s Vita Constantini provided a through description of the Mausoleum of Constantine. The building itself was a freestanding rotunda and resembled the 4th century imperial mausoleum in Roma. Inside was a rectilinear porticoed enclosure that was surrounded by subsidiary buildings. It had a gilded dome and bronze grille openings surrounded by marble-reverted walls and within lay the stone sarcophagi’s containing imperial burials. [21]

Only through surviving literary sources, mainly the De Ceremniis, are historians aware of who was housed in the Church of the Holy Apostles. [22]At one point, records say that the Church housed up to thirty-eight different figures of imminence. To record, historians know that the remains of Constantine I, Julian the Apostate, Jovain and his wife Charito, Valentinian I and his wife Marina Severa, Theodosius I, Marcian and Pulcheria, Ariadne, Anastasius I, Juntinian I, Theodora, Ino Anastasia, Heraclius, Eudokia, Fausta, Anastasia, Eudokia, Leo VI the Wise, Theophano Martiniake, Zoe Zaoutzania, Eudokia Baiana, Eudokia Ingerina, Nikephoros II, Zoe Porphyrogenita, and Theodora, along with the bodies of Patriarch Nikophoros I of Constantinople and Patriarch Cyriacus II of Constantinople.[23]The Church also held the remains of Alexander III, Anastasios II, Basil I, Constans II, Constantine III, Constantine IV, Constantine V, Constantine VII, Constantine VIII Constantius II, Flavius Arcadius, and Heraclius.[24] Many of the treasures and tombs from the Church of the Holy Apostles were either destroyed or stolen through decades of invasions and pillaging. Fortunately, some artifacts and remains survived and are in museums today. The Archaeological Institutes of Istanbul hold quite a few artifacts and remains that used to be in the Church of the Holy Apostles. One of the most famous artifacts that survived is the supposed Alexander Sarcophagus, a 4th century sarcophagus adorned with bas-relief carvings of Alexander engaged in violent actions.  Due to recent archaeological work, historians now know that this is not the sarcophagus of Alexander himself, who was buried in Egypt, but probably the burial of Abdalonymus, Alexander’s appointee of Sidon[25]. The Archaeological Institute at Istanbul is also fortunate to be in possession of a number of monumental porphyry sarcophagi that are kept in the courtyard of the Archaeological Museum. The sarcophagi were once located in the crypt at the Church of the Holy Apostles and they once held the remains of early Byzantine emperors[26]. Unfortunately, much has been lost due to the Crusades and the Ottoman invasion. Any artifacts that survived when the Church of the Holy Apostles was torn down have been either scattered across the world or were destroyed. Until recently, there was not much evidence on the correct location and size of the church itself. Thanks to modern archaeology, there is now more evidence on the Church.

In 2001, Ken Dark, the co-director of the Istanbul Rescue Archaeological Survey along the Ferundun Ozgomus, examined Fatih Cami and the surrounding area and found evidence of an immense structure that dates earlier than the surviving portions of the mosque[27]. Archaeologists and surveyors wrote that “apparently cruciform in plan, can be identified by courses of light whitish-grey limestone ashlar blocks that are clearly more eroded than the stonework above them. The blocks visibly pre-date 15th-century features and serve no structural purpose in the 15th-century mosque, while they might well belong to the Byzantine church of Holy Apostles that previously occupied the site.[28]” (Ball, Amanda “Holy Apostles”).

Based on the new uncovered evidence, Dark hypothesized that the structure was 57 meters wide and 38 meters long, with transepts 35 meters long and projecting 6.5 meters long[29]. The dimensions indicate that the church was built in to be cruciform, but not arranged in the Greek cross pattern that Krautheimer proposed in his earlier reconstructions of the building. Dark suggested that the new design was used during the second reconstruction of the church by Justinian I, for the design is very reminiscent of that of St. John in Ephesus and St. Mark in Venice, the two churches that are known to have been modeled after the Church of the Holy Apostles[30].

Even though there is very little evidence remaining of the Church of the Holy Apostles, archaeologists and historians are learning more about the church thanks to innovations in excavation technology and new findings in historical records. As demonstrated by Ken Dark, the ruins of the Church of the Holy Apostles are still reveling the treasures that were buried and forgotten and adding more knowledge to the historical record.

Bibliography:

Amanda Ball (June 9, 2008). Holy Apostles. Encyclopedia of the Hellenic World, Constantinople (Online). http://constantinople.ehw.gr/Forms/fLemmaBodyExtended.aspx?lemmaID=10896

Downey, G., “The Builder of the Original Church of the Apostles at Constantinople: A Contribution to the Criticism of the ‘Vita Constantini’ Attributed to Eusebius,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 6 (1951)

Holly Hanes (September 9, 2009). Church of the Holy Apostles, Istanbul. Sacred Destinations-Turkey (Online). www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/istanbul-church-of-holy-apostles

Jonathan, Harris. Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium. Hambledon: Continuum, 2007

Istanbul Archaeological Museums (November 24, 2013). Early Byzantine Emperors. Archaeology Museum (Online).http://www.istanbularkeoloji.gov.tr/web/38-147-1-1/muze_-_en/main_page/main_page/main_page

Procopius. Buildings; Book 1, Chapter VI, page 88.New York: Loeb Classical Library: Translated Edition of Procopius, 1940

Mihai Tiuliumeanu (March 19, 2009). The Church of Holy Apostles- A Byzantine Saint Denis. Chain-Cultural Heritage (Online). http://chain.eu/?m3=15460

Footnotes:

[1] Hanes, Holly “Church of the Holy Apostles, Istanbul” 09.18.2009, www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/istanbul-church-of-holy-apostles

[2] Tiuliumeanu, Mihai “The Church of Holy Apostles- A Byzantine Saint Denis” 03.19.2009, http://chain.eu/?m3=15460

[3] Tiuliumeanu, Mihai “The Church of Holy Apostles”

[4] Hanes, Holly “Church of the Holy Apostles, Istanbul” 09.18.2009, www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/istanbul-church-of-holy-apostles

[5] Harris, Jonanthan “Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium” (Hambledon/Continuum, 2007). Pages 174-9

[6] Harris, Jonanthan “Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium”

[7] Tiuliumeanu, Mihai “The Church of Holy Apostles- A Byzantine Saint Denis” 03.19.2009, http://chain.eu/?m3=15460

[8] Hanes, Holly “Church of the Holy Apostles, Istanbul” 09.18.2009, www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/istanbul-church-of-holy-apostles

[9] Hanes, Holly “Church of the Holy Apostles”

[10] Hanes, Holly “Church of the Holy Apostles, Istanbul” 09.18.2009, www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/istanbul-church-of-holy-apostles

[11] Tiuliumeanu, Mihai “The Church of Holy Apostles- A Byzantine Saint Denis” 03.19.2009, http://chain.eu/?m3=15460

[12] Harris, Jonanthan “Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium” (Hambledon/Continuum, 2007). Pages 174-9

[13] Tiuliumeanu, Mihai “The Church of Holy Apostles”

[14] Hanes, Holly “Church of the Holy Apostles”

[15] Tiuliumeanu, Mihai “The Church of Holy Apostles- A Byzantine Saint Denis” 03.19.2009, http://chain.eu/?m3=15460

[16] Harris, Jonanthan “Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium” (Hambledon/Continuum, 2007). Pages 174-9

[16] Tiuliumeanu, Mihai “The Church of Holy Apostles”

[17] Procopius “Buildings” Book 1, Chapter 6, page 88 Loeb Classical Library Translated Edition of Procopius, 1940

[18] Harris, Jonanthan “Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium” (Hambledon/Continuum, 2007). Pages 174-9

[19]Tiuliumeanu, Mihai “The Church of Holy Apostles- A Byzantine Saint Denis” 03.19.2009, http://chain.eu/?m3=15460

[20]Harris, Jonanthan “Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium”

[21] Downey, G., “The Builder of the Original Church of the Apostles at Constantinople: A Contribution to the Criticism of the ‘Vita Constantini’ Attributed to Eusebius,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 6 (1951)

[22]Harris, Jonanthan “Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium” (Hambledon/Continuum, 2007). Pages 174-9

[23] Harris, Jonanthan “Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium”

[24] Tiuliumeanu, Mihai “The Church of Holy Apostles- A Byzantine Saint Denis” 03.19.2009, http://chain.eu/?m3=15460

[25] Istanbul Archaeological Museums (November 24, 2013). Early Byzantine Emperors.

[26] Istanbul Archaeological Museums. Early Byzantine Emperors

[27]Ball, Amanda , “Holy Apostles“, 2008, Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Constantinople http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=10896

[28] Ball, Amanda , “Holy Apostles

[29] Ball Amanda , “Holy Apostles

[30] Ball Amanda , “Holy Apostles

________________________________________________________________

12.08.12

Amanda Balough

Greatest Byzantine Emperors

            Constantine (306-337), Justinian (527-565), and Heraclius (610 -? ) are considered to be the three most mentioned and influential emperors who ruled the Byzantine Empire. All powerful rulers during their time, each of them had dedication to the Byzantine Empire, to its people, and to its culture in their own way. What makes them note-worthy and very interesting to historians and archaeologists are the way the influences that they had over the Byzantine Empire stimulated the society. Each emperor had their own unique way of governing and by comparing and contrasting how each emperor influenced government reforms, territorial administrations, and religious policy, historians are able to better understand these three historically significant men.

All three of these men had a religious background. Constantine worshiped Apollo and Sol Invictus and sought the support of Hercules when he was in Gaul, for the purpose of political assistance. It was during his march on the Italy that Constantine had a vision, in which a cross appeared from the sky. He put the armament on his soldiers and the armament assisted Constantine and his soldiers at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, where they emerged victorious. It is unclear if Constantine had become a Christian, but because he supported the cross, he received the support of the Christian Church and its people, which just so happened to be a vast majority of Byzantine citizens. In 313, Constantine and Licinius issued the so-called Edict of Milan, which ended the persecution of Christianity in the Byzantine Empire. Constantine restored churches and gave money to Christian bishops and was declared the “chosen ruler” of the Christian God. Constantine expected God to aid him, but he also now held the responsibilities to Christianity, which included supporting the religion, spreading it, and maintaining the unity of faith. He didn’t fully understand those responsibilities, so the Christian clergy dutifully informed him on his responsibilities.

Justinian was also raised Catholic, but his reign was characterized by complete totalitarianism. Justinian firmly believed that he was the chosen instrument of God’s rule and that no-one could question him or make him do anything he did not agree with. In religious matters, he advocated orthodoxy. Under Justin’s guidance, he ended the Acacian schism and restored good relations with the pope.  Like Constantine and Justinian, Herakleios was religious and considered himself God’s representation on earth, as did Constantine and Justinian. He did make the campaign against the Persians into a religious crusade with Christianity against Zoroastrianism. The church supported him in the crusade and contributed its wealth towards the campaign. Herakleios also fought to find a solution for the Monophysite problem, for Herakleios supported the idea of Monotheletism. The Ekthesis, written by Sergios and promulgated by Herakleios in 628, forbade discussion of Monoergetism and stated that the two natures of Christ were joined in a single will. Monotheletism failed to secure harmony in Byzantine society and it was condemned by both Monophysites and Chalcedonians. Herakleios did not strongly push the idea and eventually dropped it.

In terms of political reforms, Constantine ruled Byzantine with a political philosophy that was Roman. When Diocletian was emperor, the emperor was recognized as an autocrat who was dependent only on divine support. When Constantine became a Christina, he adapted those ideas to fit the new religion. Although it is not certain if it was Constantine or his advisers who articulated the new ideas, they were accepted by Byzantine society. The reform said that Constantine was the vice-regent of Christ and that he was chosen by and responsible to Christ and that the Christian God was the real ruler of the empire. Justinian was very different that Constantine. Throughout Justinian’s reign, he ruled with unabashed totalitarianism. He firmly believed that he was the chosen instrument of God’s rule and always advocated orthodoxy. If he did not agree with a procedure, he disregarded it and all opposition and he offended the established aristocracy by choosing men of humble birth to be his close advisers.  Unlike other emperors, Justinian attempted to stop factional violence and didn’t support one faction against the others. This lead to the Nika Revolt in reaction to his ruling. Compared to Constantine and Justinian, Herakleios became emperor of an empire on the brink of destruction. The major political reform that Heraklious is famous for is his theme system, which was a political subdivision of the empire into themes. The theme system comprised of three basic elements: the creation of themes who had both civil and military power, the creation of stratiotika ktemata, which were given to soldiers by the state in return for military service, and the replacement of the praetorian perfect by the logothetes, as the highest civil and financial officials of the state.

For Constantine, the main major territorial administration that took place for him was when Constantinople was built. Constantine did not move the Byzantine capital from Rome to Constantinople, but rather the new city became the primary capital of the empire and the heart of Byzantine civilization. The location for Constantinople provided a strategic advantage to Byzantium, because it was on part of a major trade route and was on a peninsula that was difficult to attack, but easy to defend.

Justinian was eager to reconquer the Byzantine provinces that had been lost to the barbarians, because legally, they were still part of the Roman Empire. The papacy favored Justinian’s schemes of reconquest because of the ending of the Acacian Schism. In 532, Justinian secured an “Endless Peace” with the Persians in return for heavy tribute. Justinian kept loosing Byzantine land in Africa and Italy to the different barbarian tribes, such as the Vandals and the Ostrogoths.

Herakleios was determined to bring the Byzantine Empire back from the brink of destruction by reclaiming the lost lands and defeating the Persians. During the first year of his reign, there was little Herakleios could do against the Persians. He made elaborate preparations for his campaign and turned it into a religious endeavor, with Christianity against Zoroastrianism. In 622, he defeated the Persians and reached Gerzak, the ancestral Sassanid capital. The Persians then made an alliance with the Avars and Heraklios had to divide his forces, so that Constantinople could be defended when it was besieged in 626. After the Battle of Nineveh in 627, Herakleios had successfully captured and overthrown the Persian king Chosroes II and in 628, he signed a peace treaty favorable to Byzanitum.

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