Monastery of the Myrelaion
Community ID
 
4983
 
Alternate Names
 
Church of the Myrelaion (Bodrum Camii)
 
Town
 
Constantinople
 
Medieval Location
 
Ninth Region of Constantinople, Blancha quarter
 
Modern Location
 
Yenikapi quarter, 400 meters north of the modern shoreline
 
Date Founded
 
922
 
Foundation Information
 

Emperor Romanus I Lecapenus constructed the Church of the Myrelaion and transformed his neighboring house into a female monastery. The church was intended to be a burial place for Romanus and his family and was completed by 922, the year of Romanus’ wife’s death.

 
Notable Members/Residents/Guests
 

Between 922 and 961, six members of the Lecapeni family were buried in the church. These were Romanus’ wife Theodora (922), Romanus’ eldest son Christopher (931), Romanus’ son Constantine (946), Constantine’s wife Helena (940), Romanus himself (946), whose body was brought from the Island of Prote, the site where Romanus had been exiled, and Emperor Constantine VII's wife Helena (961).

In 960, Romanus II sent his sister Agatha into retirement at the monastery. In 1059, Catherine, the wife of Isaac Comnenus, and her daughter entered the monastery.

 
Patrons/Benefactors
 

Emperor Romanus I Lecapenus, crowned in 920 and deposed in 944 constructed the Church of the Myrelaion and a palace at the site at the beginning of his career as emperor. At the same time, he transformed his house into a female monastery. The church was intended to be a burial place for Romanus and his family and was completed by 922, the year of Romanus’ wife’s death.

Prior to the construction of the Church of the Myrelaion, all emperors had been buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, and thus the erection of a separate imperial burial church was unprecedented. Although the sources are silent as to why he erected a separate imperial burial church, Romanus’ particular historical situation sheds light on his actions. Upon the marriage of Romanus’ daughter Helena to Emperor Constantine VII, Romanus usurped the throne but maintained Constantine VII as his co-emperor. In 944, fearing that Romanus would die and Constantine VII would inherit the throne, Romanus’ sons Stephen and Constantine exiled Romanus to a monastery on the Island of Prote. In response, Constantine VII exiled Stephen and Constantine to Prote as well and consequently restored the Macedonian line to full power. Constantine VII was buried at the Church of the Holy Apostles, while Romanus and his family were buried at the Church of the Myrelaion.

 
Art & Artifacts
 

Although no decoration is preserved in the interior of the church, excavators found decorative materials from the church in the rubble fill of the substructures. These materials included mosaic tesserae, opus sectile fragments, polychrome ceramic revetment, and fragments of marble liturgical furniture. Excavation in the substructures also revealed a frescoed panel on the north bema wall from the Palaeologian remodeling. The top portion had been destroyed, but the bottom portion was preserved and depicted a kneeling female donor supplicating a standing Mother of God Hodegetria.

 
Architecture & Archaeology
 

No archaeological evidence from the monastery survives. The Church of the Myrelaion has been subject to archaeological investigation during the 20th century.

Romanus I completed construction of the Church of the Myrelaion in 922. The church was constructed on a substructure so that it would adjoin the palace. During the church’s Macedonian phase, the substructure had no religious function. The great fire of August 18, 1203, set by a band of Crusaders, damaged the church. During this time, Crusaders pillaged the area around the church, as evidenced by Naumann’s excavation of the foot from the Tetrarch Group (the statue now stands in the Piazza di S. Marco in Venice), which was found near the substructures of the palace. The building remained in a ruined state until the end of the Latin Conquest in 1261. The building was repaired during the Palaeologian Dynasty, but work on the church was minimal and economical. During these repairs, a burial chapel was added in the substructure of the building. After the Turkish conquest, the church was adapted for Islamic worship.

Romanus’ church was a cross-in-square plan. A dome on a cylindrical drum rises from the center of the cross. Lateral polygonal apses of the prothesis and diaconicon flank the central polygonal eastern apse. A narthex sits at the west of the building, with three doors that open into the naos.

The architecture is closely related to the Theotokos Church of Constantine Lips, which was founded in 907. Icon of Saint Eudokia.

 
State Of Medieval Structure
 

The church structure was damaged by fire in 1786 and again 1911. After this, the area underwent a series of excavations and was restored by the Turkish government in 1964-1965. The modern restorations significantly impeded archaeological research on the building.