AYA IRINI (HAGIA IRENE)
Built in the 4th century, the Aya Irina Church was rebuilt in the year 548 by the East Roman Emperor Justinianus following its destruction in a fire in the year 532. The 3-naved basilical plan structure consists of three sections, a naos, nartex and atrium. On the surface of the semi dome of the apse is a stepped cross figure on a gilded mosaic background, and lines from the Torah written on the apse arch, meaning “[It is he] that builds his ascent up to the sky, and establishes his foundations on the earth; the Lord almighty is his name.”
As it was not converted into a mosque following the conquest of Istanbul, nothing much has been changed in the building’s interior or exterior; and as it was used as a depot for weaponry and trophies, it took on the name of “Arsenal.” In the entrance arcade built in the Ahmed III period, there are two repair epitaphs. From this epitaph, dating 1726, it is understood that the structure was repaired to be used as a Darü’l-Esliha, and by organizing the weapons stored here, it has been virtually turned into a weapon museum. The second epitaph in the arcade is dated 1744 and it presents us with the information that Following the restorations of the structure during the Mahmud I period, it was converted back to being an Arsenal. Continuing its function as a place of storage in the 19th century with the name “Harbiye Ambari,” it was converted into a two-section museum with the initiation of the Tophane Field Marshal Fethi Ahmed Pasha, and took on the name of “Mecma-i Esliha-i Atika ve Mecma-i Âsâr-ı Atika” (Museum of Antique Weaponry and Works of Art). Later converted back into a depot, the building was used as a Military Museum between the years 1908 and 1940.