Not far from the most famous landmark of Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, there is another ancient religious building, it is called the Church of Hagia Irene. Despite the fact, that the building is not so popular among tourists visiting the city, I am sure that it also deserves attention, because the building was once the second largest church in this amazing city.
How to get on the excursion
The Church of Hagia Irene is located in the first courtyard of the Topkapı Palace. A visit to the ancient temple is already included in the ticket for the territory of the palace, in the spring of 2023 it costs 500 Turkish lira. If you have already been to the palace or simply do not want to go there, then you can pay for a walk only through the church, its cost will be 180 lira.
The most convenient way to get to the museum complex is by tram, a ten-minute walk from here is the Gülhane station.
A bit of history
The ancient church of St. Irene was built on the site of an even more ancient temple in 330. The structure existed for two centuries, after which it was destroyed during the Nika uprising of 532. By the way, at the same time, the church that existed on the site of the Hagia Sophia I mentioned was also destroyed. Soon both buildings were rebuilt.
The name of the church (Aya İrini or Hagia Eirene) means "sacred world". This is a reference to the events of 324, when Emperor Constantine the Great became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire, ending many years of intrastate conflicts. In one of the sources on this topic, I also came across a mention that the name of the church is associated with St. Irene.
For many centuries of existence, the church of St. Irene was repeatedly rebuilt. To tell the truth, unlike the neighboring Hagia Sophia, it was not turned into a mosque. After the conquest of Constantinople, the building was used as an armory. By the middle of the 19th century, an exposition with collections of archaeological artifacts and ancient weapons was opened within the walls of the former religious building. Since 1908, a military museum has been operating in the church.
Although tourists do not have the opportunity to fully appreciate the interior of the building, they can view its individual elements. You can get acquainted with the facades of the church even without buying an entrance ticket.
The Church of St. Irene is located close to many of the city's tourist attractions. A walk along it can be combined, for example, with a visit to the most interesting Archaeological Museum of Istanbul.
Have a nice trip!