Mosaics of Hagia Sophia

Saint John Studios ConstantinoplePlan Saint John Studion StoudiosThe mosque "Emir Ahor Jamissi", now a ruin, was situated in the quarter of Psamathia, a short distance from the Golden Gate.  It is the old church of Saint John the Baptist, which was a part of the celebrated monastery of Studius, ἡ μονὴ τοῦ Στουδίου. The church was erected in the year 450 by the patrician Studius, after whom the church and the monastery attached to it were named. He was a very rich member of the nobility and held the consulship in 454 during the reign of Marcian.  The vast building was at first a parochial church; its attachment to a monastery was an after-thought of its founder.  It had a huge atrium with a fountain in the center.  We don't know how the second floor galleries were accessed for sure.  They would have been external staircases.  The central door into the nave was really big and was called the Royal Door, just like Hagia Sophia. Parts of the 5th century chancel screen survive, strewn about in the grass and garbage.   The apse was decorated with a mosaic of Christ enthroned with Seraphim and fiery Cherubim, that dates from soon after the end of iconoclasm in the 9th century. Nearby - or in the apse itself - were images of the Theotokos and John the Baptist, making this another Deesis.Saint John of Stoudios

Above, Theodore the Studite and the Monastery of Saint John from the Menologion of Basil II

The organization of the monks of the "great and powerful monastery of the  Studion" reflected the social strata of Byzantine society.  There were three levels of monks.  At the top were the were those who managed the monastery, led by the Abbot or Oikonomos, followed by the priests and deacons with the Protopresbyteros at their head, and then the wearers of the great and small habits.  The Abbott would have been expected to have proven himself worthy through spiritual example and from many years of service at the monastery. The head priest, the Protopresbyteros, was very important to the community.  Our Theodore held that position.  The head priest could not conduct the liturgy without the blessing of the abbot.  If the abbot was absent the Protopresbyteros would substitute for him.  The monks seem to have lived separately based on these three classes.  Only priests could bless people.  One could met with a non-ordained monk at the Studios for spiritual advice or prayers, but you had to visit a priest for the final blessing.  This made ordained monks very important.  Monks could have servant - disciples who were also monks.  Abbots were greatly feared and all of the monks were required to prostrate themselves to the ground when he entered the refectory - or even just seeing him walking around the grounds.  The monastery had many official offices that monk could aspire to fill, once appointed these offices became personal fiefdoms. The monks were encouraged to form friendships within the community and join study groups that would meet in the refectory.  Every monk must be able to read.  During services the monks were arranged in the nave according to rank, with the priests and deacons facing west towards the community of great and small habit monks.

The monastery followed the Evergetine reform movement in Byzantine monastic life which called for the rejection of entrance fees, prohibition of clandestine eating (monks had been taking hot food from the refectory to their cells), and the requirement for every monk to confess to the abbot and to obey him in all things.

The monks of the Studion, like most Greek monks, lived under the rules prescribed by St. Basil for the discipline of men who aspired to achieve 'the angelic life.'  Theodore understood the weakness of human nature and allowed a lighter implementation of monastic rules.  Even so, life in the monastery was tough and rigorous.  Female animals were forbidden the monastery. A monk was not allowed to kiss his mother, not even at Easter, under penalty of excommunication for fifty days! The Empress could not visit the Studion.  Women were forbidden to visit even the monk's graveyard. Daily monks attended SEVEN services, and had often to keep vigil all night long. There was only one set meal a day; anything more in the way of food consisted of the fragments which a monk laid aside from that meal. No meat was eaten unless by special permission for reasons of health.  The monastery operated a school with both lay and religious teachers and housed workshops for the production of icons and manuscripts. The monks made their own parchment from the skins of goats and sheep they raised. They also made their own paper,  from fibrous plant matter or linen rags.

In Byzantium two words were often used to describe books made of paper – bagdatikon (βαγδατικός– ‘of Baghdad’) and bombykinon (βαμϐύχιυος – ‘of Mambydsch’?) – both indicative of the material’s arrival from near-Eastern markets (although some paper from Arabic centers in the West has also been identified in Byzantine manuscripts).

The monks were involved in many commercial ventures to support their community.  They produced honey, candles, lamp-oils, incense and rosewater for their own use in the Studion, as well as for sale to the public.  The monastery owned land outside the city and owned shops and other properties for rent in Constantinople.

Many monasteries, like the Studion and Pantokrator, had big hospitals and old-folks homes attached to them; along with kitchens and bathing facilities.  Because of this, monasteries (including their monks and nuns) in Constantinople were clean and efficiently-run establishments with high standards of cleanliness and public service.  Constantinople had highly-esteemed doctors and professional nurses who were assigned to these hospitals that provided free care to their patients.  Enormous sums of money could be spent on their operation and upkeep.  When John II Comnenus and his wife Irene endowed the Pantokrator they gave the money with minute details on how their hospitals were to be run.View from the minaret Imhahor Djami

Monastery of Saint John StudiosNorth colonade of St. John the ForerunnerSeveral Byzantine emperors sought the shelter of the Studion as a refuge from danger, or as a retreat from the "vanity of the world".  In 1041, Michael V Kalaphates (son of the Caulker) and his uncle Constantine fled from the popular fury excited by their deposition of the Empress Zoe - and their slaughter of three thousand persons in defending the palace. These two, now fugitives, made for the monastery by boat, and entered the church hoping for protection and sanctuary from the mob. But as soon as the hiding place became known, an angry mob forced their way into the church to wreak vengeance upon them, and created a fantastic scene of which Psellus has left us a graphic account.

Upon hearing the news of what was going on, he and an officer of the imperial guard mounted horse and galloped to the Studion. A fierce mob was madly attempting to pull down(!) the church, and it was with the utmost difficulty that the two of them managed to enter the church and make their way to the altar. The building seemed full of wild, blood thirsty animals, glaring with eyes on fire at their victims, and making the air resound with the most terrible cries. Michael was on his knees clasping the altar; Constantine stood on the right; both were dressed like monks, and their features were so transformed by terror as to be almost beyond recognition.

The spectacle of greatness thus brought low was so pathetic that Psellus burst into tears and sobbed aloud. But the crowd only grew more fierce, and got closer and closer to the fugitives as though to tear them to pieces. Only a superstitious dread restrained the mob from laying hands upon them in a shrine that was so sacred and venerated. The uproar lasted for hours, the mob gradually controlling its anger, at the same time striking terror on Michael and Constantine and making it impossible for them to escape. At length, late in the afternoon, the prefect of the city appeared, accompanied by soldiers and followed by large crowds of citizens. He came with orders to remove Michael and Constantine from the church. He tried to convince Michael and Constantine that they would be safe if they accompanied him out of the sanctuary and calm them down.  It didn't work. The fallen emperor and his uncle clung to the altar even more desperately. The prefect then gave orders that the two wretched men should be dragged forth by physical force. They gripped the altar yet more tightly, and in piteous tones invoked the heavenly aid of all the icons in the building! The scene became so heartrending that many of the spectators seemed to regain their humanity and felt empathy for these victims of misfortune and rose to their defense.  Only by giving solemn assurance that they would not be put to death was the prefect allowed to proceed to their arrest.

Michael and Constantine were then arrested, dragged by the feet and - after having their eyes burnt out and being castrated - were banished to different monasteries, there to muse on the vanity of human greatness and repent of the mistake of exiling his adopted mother, the Empress Zoe.  Perhaps if Michael had stayed dressed in Imperial vestments the crowd would have respected the sanctity of his being an Emperor and that could have saved him.  Dressed as a monk caused the crowd to have even more contempt for him.  Michael had been emperor for four months and was only 26 years old at his death on August 24, 1042, five months after his blinding.Saint John StoudiosColumns of Saint John of Studion NarthexOn the festival of the Decapitation of Saint John the Baptist, the emperor attended liturgy at the Studion. Early in the morning the members of the senate assembled at the monastery, while dignitaries of an inferior rank took their place outside the gate in the city walls below the monastery, and at the pier at the foot of the steep path that descends from that gate to the shore of the Sea of Marmora.  All of them were awaiting the arrival of the huge imperial barge from the Great Palace.

Both sides of the path were lined by the monks, holding lighted candles, and as soon as the emperor disembarked, the officials at the pier and the crowd of monks carrying crosses and icons, with the abbot at their head, swinging a silver censer of fragrant incense, led the way up to the gate of the monastery. There a halt was made for more court officials and select citizens of Constantinople, dressed in their finest clothes and official uniforms, to do homage with ritual chants and songs of praise to the emperor and join the procession carrying colorful banners and flags.  Then the procession made its way through the grounds attached to the monastery, and then along covered passages until it reached the south-eastern end of the narthex.

Before the entrance at that point, the emperor changed into richly embroidered robes, was given a tall lighted taper, and followed the clergy into the church, taking his designated position at the east end of the south aisle, nearest the altar. The most important act he performed during the service was to incense the jeweled, gilt-silver reliquary which encased the head of John the Baptist which was enshrined on the right-hand side of the bema.  At the conclusion of this service he was served by the monks with refreshments under the shade of the trees in the monastery gardens; and, after a short rest, proceeded to back to his barge with the same ceremonial as attended his arrival, and returned to the palace.  Through processions and ceremonies the people were able to come in close contact with the emperor on a regular basis.  Not all of the ceremonies were from the religious calendar, many were special days in the history of the city (like the founding of Constantinople), guild festivals and sporting events in the Hippodrome.  It would surprise us today how little protection the emperor needed in public, his guard was meant for show more than anything else.Church Saint John of Studion ConstantinopleInlaid floor Church of John the ForerunnerThe original floor of the church was in huge, plain slabs of white marble, like at Hagia Sophia.  Later, The floor of the church was repaved with pieces of marble and bands of mosaic, arranged in beautiful patterns, set with figures of birds, marine creatures, fantastic beasts and scenes from classical mythology.  This opus sectile pavement dates from the 11th century, around the same time as the Pantokrator, and are in the same style.  The floor has been attributed to the Emperor Isaac Comnenus (1057-58), who conducted an extensive renovation of the interior of church.  He and his brother had attended the Studion school and Isaac retired here for the last year of his life.

The Studion and Pantokrator pavements were probably made by the same workshop.  A team under the direction of the Russian Archaeological Institute at Constantinople uncovered it in 1909.  Unfortunately, the Russian Revolution brought the work of the Institute to a sudden end.  Since then the pavement has suffered greatly, which pieces being carried off by tourists.  You can see small panels that were taken from the church in 1923 and installed in 1930 in the Church of Peter and Paul in Preston, England.  I was offered pieces of the floor in the the 1970's by well-meaning guides.

During the Latin occupation the roof collapsed and sheep were seen grazing in the enclosure.  The school and monastery were ruined. The church was restored after the reconquest and, once again, became a renowned monastery and school.  Its restoration took place in 1292 and was financed by Constantine Palaeologus, the brother of Andronikos II.  The building was badly damaged in a fire in 1782 and restored as a mosque 20 years later. The final collapse of the roof took place in 1908 after a huge snowfall, followed by another fire in 1920 which left the church in its present ruin.

Opus Sectile floor Byzantine ChurchHere is a description given of the church of Saint John, mentioned by Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo who visited the church:

"And the first part (door?) of the church is very lofty and richly worked. And before this door is a large court beside the body of the church; and the said body is a round hall without corners (or angles), very lofty, and enclosed round about by three large naves, which are covered, they and the hall, by one roof. And it (the church) has in it seven altars; and the roof of the hall and naves and the walls are of mosaic work very richly wrought, in which are (depicted) many histories. And the (roof of the) hall is placed on twenty-four marble columns of green jasper (verd antique). And the said naves have galleries, and the galleries open on the body of the church, and these have other twenty-four marble columns of green jasper; and the roof of the hall and the walls are of mosaic work. And the elevated walks of the naves open over the body of the church, and where a balustrade should be found there are small marble columns of jasper."

Columns Cistern Imrahor Djami John Stoudios

Above is  a picture of the cistern under the church of Saint John the Baptist Monastery in Istanbul.Imrahor Ruined Church of Saint JohnJohn of Stoudios Today IstanbulSome of the text used in this page is from the Byzantine Churches in Constantinople by Alexander Van Millingen

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I am an icon painter, Russian Historian and Austin Web Designer formerly of Seattle, Washington and now living in Austin, Texas. My interest in Byzantium and icons began when I was 8 years old and read my first book on Byzantium called "The Fall of Constantinople".

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The Theodore Psalter

The manuscript is named for its creator, Theodore, a monk from Caesarea who lived and worked at the Studios Monastery in Constantinople. Unusually, it appears that Theodore was responsible both for the script and for the illuminations. It was more common for these tasks to be completed by two (or more) individuals. Theodore produced 435 marginal illustrations that act as a commentary on the text of the Psalms.

It was made for Michael, the abbot of the monastery, in February 1066.

Theodore PsalterTheodore PsalterTheodore PsalterPage from the Theodore PsalterHelios from the Theodore PsalterMiniature from the Theodore psalterMiniature from Theodore Psalterminiature from theodore psalterMiniature from the Theodore psalter

By the time this Psalter was made, the iconoclasts – those who interpreted the commandment against graven images to the letter and therefore destroyed any pictures or icons – had been deposed and excommunicated. In the lower margin of one page show here, a group of prelates, one holding a long brush, are shown in the process of whitewashing an icon. It is a reference to the iconoclasts.

There had been two main iconoclastic uprisings. The first was in 713–87. The Byzantine Emperor Leo III started it off when he removed an icon of Christ from the entrance to the Palace and Constantinople and replaced it with a cross, but the period ended with the reforms of his daughter-in-law Irene, who reputedly had been keeping a few icons of her own. In 813–42, Leo V tried again, once again replacing the icon of Christ from the entrance; but once again a daughter-in-law reversed the iconoclastic stance, this time the one of Leo's successor Michael.

Since 843 the defeat of the iconoclasts has been celebrated in Orthodox church, where the veneration of icons is central to worship, on the first Sunday in Lent as the 'Triumph of Orthodoxy'.

The iconoclasts were therefore deemed an appropriate subject for the artist's visual commentary on Psalm 26 (in modern numbering) in which the Psalmist states 'I abhor the assembly of evildoers' (Psalm 26: 5).Theodore the StuditeAbove is a mosaic of Theodore the Studite from the church of Nea Moni on ChiosVerde Antique Column from Hagia SophiaAbove is a column from Hagia Sophia in green breccia Verde Antique from the gallery of the church.  On the ground floor there are 48 56-foot tall columns. The ancient Romans called it marmor Atracium or marmor Thessalonicum. It was quarried at Atrax, Thessaly in Greece. There were three ancient quarries, Chasampalis, Kastri and Tisaion.

This was the same serpentinite stone used for the colonnades of Saint John the Forerunner.

This stone was very popular with Byzantine builders. Nine Byzantine rulers were buried in it, including the Augusta Eirene, wife of John II Comnenus.  Her tomb is in Hagia Sophia today. "Verde Antico" was also used for columns in the Erectheum on the Acropolis in Athens.  It can  be found in St. John Lateran in Rome.

The quarries were rediscovered in the late 19th century and were exploited until 1985. You can visit the ancient quarry on Mount Ossa near Larissa today.

Virgin of the Sign from Sinai

Saint Nicholas from Sinai

Saint Nicholas from Sinai