This church/mosque, begun by Justin and Theodora in 527, is only a few hundred yards from the pensione, but almost impossible to find in the laneways. Up the hill from it is the Sokollu Mehmet Pasa Mosque, with the most outstanding Isnik tile decoration, fragments of the Kabaa in the minbar, over the entrance.
The Church, part of an original monastery, It is quite neglected inside, with damp on the walls, and is still a functioning mosque. Without a guidebook, you would never know how innovate its dome was - a crooked octagon with a dome of compartments. Its Turkish name means 'little Hagia Sophia', as it is a precursor of the much larger church. The octagon, of course, is familiar in the Eastern churches - and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
I could still see the beautiful capitals on the columns, with the royal logos, and a Greek inscription to Justinian and his consort around the base of the dome. However, cheap paint or whitewash has really made a mess of it. From the gallery, up a steep staircase, the beauty of the building can be better appreciated.
Someone had left a pile of photos (which I was too chicken to steal one of - where was the collection box?) of different parts of the church. Why was it a strange person? He or she had left a photo reproduction of a leaflet concerning the restoration of the building, the significance of the martyrdom of Sergius and Bacchus, to whom the church was dedicated, and some subtle, theological statements about the importance of the church. I was surprised that the Turkish-speaking caretaker hadn't first checked out the propaganda with someone knowledgeable.
I actually did a search on the web for information about the martyrs, and this is what I found:
"Sts. Sergius and Bacchus are ancient Christian martyrs who were tortured to death in Syria because they refused to attend sacrifices in honor of Jupiter.
Recent attention to Greek manuscripts has also revealed that they were openly gay men and that they were erastai, or lovers. The manuscripts are found in various libraries in Europe and indicate an earlier Christian attitude toward homosexuality.
After their arrest, the two saints were paraded through city streets in women's clothing, treatment that was meant to humiliate them as officers in the Roman army. They were then separated and each was tortured. Bacchus died first and appeared that night to Sergius, who was beginning to lose heart.
According to early manuscripts, Bacchus told Sergius to persevere, that the delights of heaven were greater than any suffering, and that part of their reward would be to be re-united in heaven as lovers.
The feast of these saints is October 7. The saints are particularly popular throughout the Mediterranean, Latin America, and among the Slavs. For nearly a thousand years they were the official patrons of the Byzantine armies, and Christian Arabs continue to revere them as their special patron saints."
This might explain the odd and evangelical material I found in the mosque.
There is a Turkish medrese attached to the Church that I walked into - now artists workshops, but no-one seemed to interested in me. I walked all the way around the back of it, and found a magnificent entrance to it, closed.
In fact, I decided to revist the church a couple of days later - and found it straight away - , but it was closed for prayers, and I think, just 'closed'. This certainly upset a tour bus of Germans and their Turkish guide. There is the most beautiful gate into the church quarter, supposedly inscribed in Greek, but I could not see anything. I decided to walk, I think, to the Islamic Arts museum, but I got lost (surprise!) and walked...and walked...and walked... through neighbourhoods of shoe makers and leather workers. And like the area around Aksaray, there were lots of Russian signs
I don't think it is a mosque designed by Sinan, but it has a lovely courtyard, and a fountain in the middle, in the Turkish style. There are Ottoman graves all around the mosque. In Freely's guidebook I read that the harbour came up to here, but you would never think it. The shore is now way down the bottom of the hill, near the church.
And no, it seems so little visited that nobody has put pictures of it on the web to nick!!