One of the most beautiful and ancient Christian shrines of modern day Istanbul is the Church the Holy Martyr Euphemia, which amazes with its beauty, history and unusual aura of a really holy place.
About Saint Euphemia
St. Euphemia was born in Chalcedon, not far from Constantinople. Together with 48 Christians she refused to take part in a pagan holiday, organized by the ruler of Chalcedon – Priscus. For that she and her fellow Christians were subjected to different tortures that the ruler organized, hoping that the believers would renounce Christianity. But in spite of her young age Euphemia persistently bore all the tortures, and during one of them a wonder happened – an Angel appeared and took the tools of torture off Euphemia, relieving her from the sufferings. Astonished, the ruler started inventing new punishments for her, but the Angel saved the believer again and again. Only during the last torture, invented by the cruel Priscus, when wild animals were set on the girl, she didn’t manage to survive. A she-bear caused her a little wound on her leg, but the girl died at once because of this wound. Her parents managed to take her body and bury it, according to Christian traditions.
The Church of Saint Euphemia in the Hippodrome
Above the tomb of Euphemia there was raised a great basilica in the period of the reign of Constantine the Great. In the seventh century the relics were moved to Constantinople because of the regular invasions of Persians, who had destroyed the basilica. The relics were placed in a church, situated near the Hippodrome square. At that time the church received its name – “The Church of Saint Euphemia in the Hippodrome” (Ἀγία Εὐφημία ἐν τῷ Ἱπποδρομίῳ).
During the period of Iconoclasm Constantine V converted this church into a storage of arms and manure and threw the relics of the Saint into the sea, where they were later found by two fishermen from Lemnos island. The empress Irene restored the church and returned the relics of Saint Euphemia to Constantinople. After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 the church was ruined and Patriarch Gennadius II Scholarius transported the Saint’s relic to the church of the patriarchate. Today the relics of the Saint are kept in the church of Saint George in the Phanar district.
The hexagonal building of the church was situated 45 meters from Hippodrome Square. According to the suppositions of the scientists, initially, the building was raised as a bath house, and the ancient chronicles say that this place used to be the palace of the emperor Antiochus.
At the main sight of the church are now the unique wall-paintings from the thirteenth century, displaying the life of the Holy Martyr. One of the most remarkable frescoes tells about the tortures and the death of Euphemia.
In 1951 the ruins of the church, left from the fifteenth century, were finally destroyed in order to free the space for the construction of the Justice Palace. Only a part of the wall was left – it is covered with wall paintings, and you can see it even today behind protective glass.
by John Sanidopoulos
Ruins of the Church of Saint Euphemia in the Hippodrome
The palace of Antiochos and the Church of Saint Euphemia (source)