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Great for: History, Byzantine Architecture, Mosaics, Churches
NOTE: After opening after a few years of restoration work, the Fethiye Mosque Museum is closed once again for more restorations as of mid 2023. A reopening date has not been confirmed.
This 13th century Byzantine church is an often overlooked gem. The small red brick building is regularly confused with the giant white marble Fatih Mosque because of their similar names. Slightly more reasonable is its frequent confusion with the similarly designed Byzantine Church now known as Chora Museum. While it may not be worth a dedicated trip to Fethiye Museum alone, the beautiful stonework and glowing mosaics make this lesser known museum well worth a visit if you include it as a part of a trip to some of the other nearby sites.
Theotokos Pammakaristos (often shortened to Pammakaristos) is a beautiful Byzantine-era church built in 1261 on the fifth hill of the seven-hilled Constantinople. The Church was decorated with magnificent mosaics, similar in style to those seen in Chora Church Museum or the Hagia Sophia, as well as a number of frescoes and ornate stonework. Some portions of the mosaics here are now housed in the Patriarchate in Fener.
Shortly after the Ottoman conquest of the city, the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church moved his seat to Pammakaristos where it remained until the mid 1500’s when it was converted into a mosque in commemoration of the Sultan’s conquest of Georgia and Azerbaijan and renamed Fethiye, meaning ‘conquest’.
In the 1950’s, in the modern Republic of Turkey, the mosque was opened as a museum then, in the 1960’s, the main portion of the building was reopened as a mosque leaving the Parekklesion on the south side remaining as a museum.
The highlights of the museum are the beautiful mosaics that cover a great deal of the ceilings in the parekklesion. Unfortunately next to nothing remains of the frescoes other than a couple of fragments that peek out from behind added sections of wall and a poorly aged depiction of the three wise men.
While the Mosque portion has become quite dingy and appears to be poorly maintained, it’s worth going in to take a look and see the original scale of the building and get an idea of what this beautiful place once looked like.
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How To Get There
As the roads are crowded and public transit is complicated in this part of the city I’d say that the best way to Fethiye Museum is on foot. Include Fethiye Museum in a day trip starting at the Patriarchate near the water, past the Church of St. Mary of the Mongols, Fethiye Musem, then on to the Chora Museum for a look at the present and past of the Greek community in Istanbul. There are no signs on the streets leading to the museum so you may want to have a map on you!
A taxi is another good option as it’s flexible and can take you right to the museum itself. Make sure that they are taking you to Fethiye not Fatih! Fethiye (pronounced fet-he-yay) Museum is in the neighborhood of Çarşamba (pronounced char-sham-ba).
Where To Stay
The immediate neighborhood isn’t overly touristic, however as Fethiye Museum is still near the heart of the old city there are hundreds of options within walking distance. The museum is just uphill from the neighborhoods of Fener and Balat where there are number of great boutique hotels in beautifully restored old houses in what was historically a wealthy Greek and Jewish neighborhood.
The streets in this part of the city are convoluted and don’t have a ton of major landmarks or signage so I’d recommend you have a map with you.
Please don’t post pictures online that confuse Fethiye Museum with either Fatih Mosque, Chora Museum, or the archeological museum in the city of Fethiye also called Fethiye Museum. There’s plenty of people adding to this confusion already.
Have any tips or info to add? Spot any mistakes? We’d love to hear about it.