Hagia Irene

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The Church of St. Irene is a superb sample of the early Byzantine architecture.

Hagia Irene or Hagia Eirene (Greek: Αγία Ειρήνη, Turkish: Aya İrini) is an ancient Byzantine church located in the outer courtyard of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. It is open as a museum every day except Monday, but requires special permission for admission.

The building reputedly stands on the site of a pre-Christian temple. It ranks, in fact, as the first church built in Constantinople. Roman emperor Constantine I commissioned the Hagia Irene church in the 4th century and Justinian I later had the church restored. It served as the church of the Patriarchate before Hagia Sophia was built.

Dating in its present form largely from the 8th century, Hagia Irene is the only example of a Byzantine church in the city retaining its original atrium. A great cross above the main narthex, where the image of the Theotokos was usually placed in Byzantine tradition, is a unique vestige of the Iconoclastic art.

The Janissaries (Ottoman soldiers) used the church as an armoury after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Today, the museum serves mainly as a concert hall for classical music performances due to its extraordinary acoustic characteristic and impressive atmosphere. Most of the concerts of the Istanbul International Music Festival in summer time are being held here since 1980.

In 2000, the Turkish haute couture designer Faruk Saraç produced a special show here. A collection of 700 designed pieces inspired by the Ottoman sultans, including the dresses of 36 sultans ranging from Osman Gazi, the founder of the Ottoman Empire to Sultan Vahdettin, the last sultan were on display. The show was accompanied by music and the story of the sultans' lives and Ottoman-era dancing was demonstrated.

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Hagia Irene

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