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Saint Euphemia Church Restorations

Saint Euphemia Church Restorations

Saint Euphemia Church Restorations

Saint Euphemia Church Restorations, renovation work of an old Byzantine church in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, situated at the northeastern corner of the former courthouse, on land designated for today’s Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art. Conservation/renovation work began on the church in 2013, following an agreement between the Vehbi Koç Foundation and Istanbul Directorate of Surveying and Monuments, acting on behalf of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The work is managed by an academic board advised by Professor Engin Akyürek from Koç University Department of Archaeology and History of Art. 

Euphemia was an eminent Byzantine Christian from Chalcedon, now a district of Istanbul called Kadıköy. She suffered extreme torture and eventually died as a result of her advocacy of local Christian rights against the Romans and her refusal to join a pagan festival organized in honor of the god Ares. She died in Chalcedon (Kadıköy) in 307 AD. After Euphemia was made a saint by the church, a church was built in her name in Chalcedon. Due to the Persian threat at the start of the seventh century, the sacred relics of Euphemia were moved to a church converted from an old palace in today’s Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. The church, which was a popular pilgrimage place in the Byzantine period, was seriously damaged during the Latin occupation in 1204–61. After the occupation, it was restored and the frescoes were renovated. In 1939, the local prison (part of Ibrahim Pasha Palace) and some dwellings collapsed, revealing the western wall with its series of 14 frescoes depicting the life of Euphemia. The discovery prompted excavations by the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) in 1942. Construction of the Sultanahmet Courthouse, which began in 1950, caused considerable damage to both the Saint Euphemia Church and Ibrahim Pasha Palace. The only part of the museum visible today was saved from collapse by the dedicated efforts of Istanbul Archaeology Museums (IAM). The findings of archaeological excavations carried out by IAM and DAI from 1951 to 1952 and again in 1964 were published in a book. 

Restoration work currently in progress at Saint Euphemia Church aims to repair the frescoes and architectural remains, build a modern roof over fragments dating back to the thirteenth century, landscape the area, and open the church up to the public as a museum.

Abadan Unat, Nermin

Political scientist who received the Vehbi Koç Award for education in 2012.