August 11, 2020

Consecration of the Church of the Theotokos Eleousa in Constantinople

Pantocrator Monastery in Istanbul. From left to right, one can see the apses of the Church of Christ Pantocrator, the Imperial Chapel and the Church of the Theotokos Eleousa.

On this day, the 11th day of August, we celebrate the Consecration of the revered and most-beautiful house and divine Temple of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos Eleousa.

We have no other specific information about this church. It may perhaps refer to the northern church of the Monastery of the Pantocrator (currently the Zeyrek Mosque). Between 1118 and 1124 the Roman Empress Irene of Hungary built a monastery dedicated to Christ Pantocrator. The monastery consisted of a main church (katholikon) also dedicated to Christ Pantocrator, a library and a hospital. After the death of his wife, shortly after 1124, Emperor John II Komnenos built another church to the north of the first dedicated to the Theotokos Eleousa ("the merciful Mother of God"). This church was open to the population and served by a lay clergy.

The Church of the Theotokos Eleousa was where the famous Icon of the Hodegetria was displayed on specific days. Huge crowds accompanied the procession of the icon from its shrine in the Great Palace. When the icon was at the the Theotokos Eleousa it was continuously thronged with the townspeople of Constantinople. The shrine that held the icon was surrounded with masses of flowers, lamps and candles. The air was full of incense and the icon was honored with round-the-clock chants and prayers to Christ and His Mother. In the complex of the Pantocrator Monastery this was the only church that was always open to the public.