Get skip-the-line admission with your talented guide and visit Hagia Irene in the garden of Topkapı Palace.
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Duration 1 Hour
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Hagia Irene, meaning Holy Peace, was an Orthodox Church built by order of Constantine I on the ruins of a pagan temple. It was the first church of Constantinople and the main church until Hagia Sophia was completed. Due to fires and earthquakes, the church was renovated several times.
After Mehmet II conquered Constantinople, he allowed the church to remain inside Topkapı Palace's walls but closed it to prayer and used it as an arsenal and warehouse instead. During the latter years of the Ottoman Empire, it was used as a military museum.
Hagia Irene was renovated in 2014 and reopened as a museum. Soon after, the incredible acoustics of the building were discovered and, since then, it has hosted many classical music concerts.
This tour ticket does not allow you to enter the museums alone. You need to meet with our guide at the scheduled time.
The Hagia Irene (Aya Irini in Turkish) is a former church that is now a museum and a center for cultural activities. Hagia Irene Museum is located in the Sultanahmet area of Fatih district, along the Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul. The history of the Hagia Irene Church dates back to the 4th century. In Greek, “Hagia Irene” means “holy peace.” Hagia Irene was first built as a three-nave basilica on top of a temple, made of wood.
Today, Hagia Irene serves as a museum as well as a place for social and cultural gatherings and exhibitions. Hagia Irene is an excellent venue for classical music events due to its perfect acoustic construction!
Hagia Irene Church was named after a young woman named Penelope. According to the legends, Penelope was a devout Christian. When Pagan Romans saw her telling people to believe in Jesus, they tortured her and tried to force her into Paganism. They stoned her, accused her of witchcraft, drag her behind the horses for hours. Penelope, however, did not give up on her religion. Romans were, the story says, impressed by her faith. Constantine the Great who came to Constantinople like many other Romans declared Penelope a saint and built a church in her honor that means “holy peace”.
Both Hagia Irene and Hagia Sophia were burned and destroyed after the Nica revolts in 532 and were rebuilt. Then, in 740, Hagia Irene was damaged by an earthquake and had to be rebuilt again. In its history, Hagia Irene witnessed a lot of destruction, yet, it has succeeded to remain a landmark until now.
The upper structure of Hagia Irene was entirely reconstructed during the renovations of the Byzantine period. Its upper structure now has the look of a vaulted basilical church, which gives Hagia Irene its unique characteristic. Hagia Irene was not converted into a mosque like Hagia Sophia after the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. Interestingly, it was used as army storage instead.
The Hagia Irene Museum is located in the outer courtyard of the Topkapı Palace. It is the oldest church built during Constantine the Great’s rule. It was also Istanbul's second-largest church, after Hagia Sophia. Hagia Irene, which means “holy serenity” or “sacred place” in Turkish, holds a unique significance in Turkish history since it is the birthplace of Turkish museum culture. At first, it was utilized as a Military Museum since it was army storage for a while, now it has various features and functions.
The one-of-a-kind Hagia Irene Museum in Istanbul, which has been damaged by earthquakes and fires throughout its life, has been unable to restore its previous magnificence. Sadly, the former church, Hagia Irene, has never received the same level of attention as Hagia Sophia or other Byzantine churches in Istanbul. However, it is at least as crucial as Hagia Sophia for its cultural and historical values.
There are a lot of Byzantine structures that have been converted into museums or mosques in Istanbul. In this long list, you might think to delete the Hagia Irene. However, in the vibrant atmosphere of Istanbul’s historical attractions, Hagia Irene offers a very unique experience. To plan your trip to Istanbul carefully and find time to visit all the attractions and places you want to, book a guided Hagia Irene tour. With guided Hagia Irene tours, you will be able to save time and see the surroundings of the former church better. You will be incredibly touched and impressed with the Hagia Irene as your guides explain all the details about the history it has witnessed