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May 16, 2018

The Holy Water of Saint Therapon in Constantinople

It has been said that although Greece may have its chapels, Constantinople has its holy springs. Though well known among Christians and Turks of Istanbul, the Ayiasma (Holy Water) of Saint Therapon in the City is little known to outsiders. For this reason outsiders hardly every visit, let alone know about it. Though it is an Orthodox Christian shrine dating to Byzantine times, it is primarily visited by Muslims who believe in the healing power of these waters, which they know is blessed by Saint Therapon. It is probably the third most visited Orthodox Christian shrine by Muslims, after the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos at Vefa and the Church of Saint Demetrios at Kuruçesme.

Originally the Ayiasma was in the location of Topkapı Palace, but with the building of the wall Topkapı moved a bit and the Ayiasma was left within the wall, taking its current location in 1820. It is believed it dates back to the ninth century, and it is located in the Saraglio wall near Pasha Kapusi. There you will find a grey bricked building with windows, with the Ayiasma, it mainly the basement. Though an Orthodox priest can be found there when it is open, usually on Mondays and Fridays, usually it brings Muslim visitors who pray and reverently touch the icons of Saint Therapon and the Virgin Mary, and take holy water as a blessing. Saint Therapon is celebrated annually on May 14th.

On the mezzanine floor there is also a chapel, however because only the basement and the mezzanine floor belong to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, it makes it difficult to keep up with repairs for the whole building. This goes back to 1901, when Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim III allowed the Turkish owner of the building to live in the top floor. In 1931 the Ayiasma began to take its current form, though it was partially destroyed in 1955 during the Septembriana riots, though afterwards rebuilt.