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St Mary of the Mongols

Meryem Ana Rum Ortodoks Kilisesi‎, Tevkii Cafer Mh., 34087 Fatih/Istanbul, Türkiye

An obscure stairway to the west of the Patriarchate leads up the hill to the only Byzantine church still functioning. It was founded in the late thirteenth century by a Byzantine princess who was married in a diplomatic manoeuvre to the Mongol khan. After his assassination, she returned to a life of piety in Constantinople. She may also be the nun Melanie, the “Lady of the Mongols”, pictured in a mosaic at the Kariye. She is far more interesting than the tiny church, which was disfigured by later expansion. To get in, ask at the Patriarchate, or show up for the Feast of the Assumption on August 15. - Robert Ousterhout

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Issue 66, December 2023 Turkey’s Centenary Issue
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