Istanbul • Hagia Irene, Turkey

"Dive into Istanbul's ancient history in just over 4 minutes! Explore Hagia Irene, the first cathedral of Constantinople, and a true treasure of heritage. Witness to the upheavals of history, this basilica has survived fires, earthquakes, and political shifts. Admire its timeless mosaics, hear the tale of its transformation from cathedral to arsenal, then to the Museum of Military Antiquities. Our video will help you understand why it's now one of the best venues for classical music concerts in Istanbul. Accompanied by detailed historical explanations, our video is a bridge to the past. Prepare to be dazzled by the 'Peace of God'!"

This film was made on the basis of photos and videos taken during the trip Turkey • Istanbul 2015

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Reading the text below will help you better understand the cultural context of the images in this video.

Hagia Irene


This church located in the outer courtyard of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, was the first cathedral of Constantinople. Its construction dates from the 4th century, and according to tradition, a church already existed on this site when the Roman Emperor Constantine I had it transformed into a cathedral.

The church is not dedicated to a saint who would have borne the name of Irene, but her name means in Greek "Peace of God".

Saint Irene predates Hagia Sofia, which was to succeed it from the end of the 4th century in its role as a cathedral.

Ste Irene and Ste Sophie constituted from the 5th century the seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The two churches were neighbors and led by the same clergy. St Irene was also the seat of the first ecumenical council which took place there in 381. This council will be the second in the history of Christianity.

A revolt broke out in Constantinople in 532 against the Emperor Justinian. During this revolt, known as the "Nika sedition", the church was burned down. The emperor had it rebuilt as a domed basilica.

Another destruction struck Saint Irene in 740, but this time it was the result of an earthquake. Once again it was rebuilt and Constantine V had its interior decorated with mosaics and frescoes, some of which are still visible today.

A major historical moment in the city of Constantinople was the capture of the city by the Muslim Turks of Mehmet II in 1453. Most of the churches were looted and burned and some were converted into mosques at this time.

This was not the case of Saint Irene which was used as an arsenal until the beginning of the 19th century. This is probably why it was integrated into the Topkapi Palace, the construction of which began under Mehmet II in 1459.

After having served for more than three centuries as an arsenal, it was transformed in 1846 into the Museum of Military Antiquities.

The ownership of Hagia Sophia was transferred to the Ministry of Culture of Turkey in 1978 and has since been used mainly as a concert hall for classical music. Its remarkable acoustic qualities and the atmosphere it gives off make it an excellent choice for a concert hall.


about the place, Istanbul:

Istanbul is the economic capital of Turkey. It is at the same time the largest city in the country. The city was founded in the 7th century BC under the name Byzantium. 

In 330 CE, Emperor Constantine the Great designated it as the new capital of the Roman Empire and initially called it New Rome. Later it became Constantinople. For 16 centuries it was the capital of several empires, Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman. 

Constantinople was a Christian city for a long time, even hosting 4 of the first 7 councils. With the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the city became Muslim before becoming the seat of the Ottoman Caliphate in the early 16th century. 

At the time of the formation of the Republic of Turkey, the capital was transferred to Ankara and the city was renamed in 1930 to become Istanbul.


Spoken comments in the film: 

Hagia Irene Church in Istanbul was the first cathedral in Constantinople, before the construction of Hagia Sophia in the 4th century AD. Since the capture of Constantinople by the troops of Mehmet II in 1453, this building no longer accommodates worship. For 3 centuries it served as an arsenal and in 1976 it was transformed into a musical performance hall, mainly for classical music.


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Disclaimer: Despite its appropriateness, copyright issues prevent the use of turkish traditional music in "Istanbul • Hagia Irene, Turkey", hence the use of royalty-free music. Despite our careful selection, some might regret this decision, which is necessary to avoid potential lawsuits. Although difficult, this decision is the only viable solution.

Hagia Irene in Istanbul, Istanbul • Turkey

Hagia Irene in Istanbul

entrance to the Saint Irene basilica in Istanbul, Istanbul • Turkey

entrance to the Saint Irene basilica in Istanbul

cupola of Saint Irene in Istanbul, Istanbul • Turkey

cupola of Saint Irene in Istanbul

inside Hagia Irene basilica in Istanbul, Istanbul • Turkey

inside Hagia Irene basilica in Istanbul

Istanbul, Turkey

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