Friday, June 1, 2012

Blachernae and Tekfur Palace, Porphyrogenitos Palace

Blachernae is the name of the neighborhood located in northwest, within the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople. In the urban plan (Notitia Urbis Constantinopolitanae)  made in the period of Theodosius II., which divided the city into 14 parts including Galata and which showed the important structures on them, it was referred as the 14th district. Today its name is Edirnekapı, Fatih.
Notitia Urbis Constantinoplitanae

When Theodosian Walls were built in 4th century, Blachernae was included inside these ramparts like Chora Church which meant “located outside the ramparts, in suburban, rural areas” and became a part of the city. In times it was outside the Constantine Walls, it was probably an active place as you could guess from the Chora Church nearby. A spring came out of the skirts of this hill, near which the Byzantine Princess Pulqueria had a church (The Mother Mary Church found in today’s Mustafa Paşa Bostanı Street) constructed in 4th century. Its waters were believed to have a healing effect. Orthodox people now believe that these springs are sacred. We call them “ayazma” in Turkish. This word stems from the Greek words “Hagia”, which means sacred and “Ma”, which means water. This hagiama is still inside the Mother Mary Church. It is believed that you get relieved of your sins if you wash your eyes with its waters. There is a Greek writing on the tap; “Nipson anomemata me monan opsin” (“Wash your sins as well as your eyes”).

Tekfur Palace, Northern Side
Construction of Blachernae Palace complex started in 6th century. It consisted of several structures founded on terraces and it included the Tekfur palace, as well. In time, Blachernae Palace took the place of the actual Great Palace found in the south of the city. The palace, which was particularly invested on in the Kommenos Dynasty period became the actual palace of the Byzantine court which was founded again after the Latin invasion, and the Palaiologos Dynasty. When Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans, it had been the actual palace of the Byzantine Dynasty.
At late 13th century, the Emperor Constantine Palaiologos had Tekfur Palace built as a part of the Blachernae palace complex. It is located next to Theodosian Walls in Edirnekapı. If one walks 500-600 meters up the hill from the Golden Horn, it can be found next to the walls unfortunately in a ruined condition. ( ). The palace is among the few samples of secular (apart from religious structures such as churches and monasteries) Byzantine architecture. The ancient name of the palace is Porphyrogenitus Palace: Porphyrogenitus means coming from the empire blood, “born in the purple”. The reason we call it “Tekfur Palace” in Turkish is that; Tekfur means the Byzantine feudal landlord in Ottoman language, thus the Turkish name is sort of a “Byzantine feudal landlord mansion”. Tekfur Palace is the only and most significant part of the Blachernae Palace complex that has survived until today.

Tekfur Palace was greatly damaged during the Ottoman invasion as it was next to the walls. Following the conquest of the city by the Ottomans, it was respectively used as the farm of the sultan, a brothel, pots atelier, Jewish meal center and shelter and finally as a bottle factory in 19th century, and then abandoned.
The bricks and stones, arches and columns in its structure make it one of the rare beautiful samples of the Late Byzantine architecture. For 2 years it has been locked due to a so-called “restoration”. There aren’t any descriptive writings or signboards, either. There is just a board “on the building” written “Tekfur Palace” with blue spray paint. The writer must have felt guilty of his act that, he also drew a red heart in the middle, as if to seem cute.
Informative Signboard:  Name of the  historical building is spray painted
 on the body of the building!

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