Review of the recent restoration of the Vefa Kilise Camii

Mine Esmer
Fatih Sultan Mehmet Vakıf University, Istanbul, Turkey.


Abstract The Vefa Kilise Camii is a small but interesting Byzantine structure in Istanbul that has been of particular interest to researchers because of its mass, facade layout, and spatial composition. It was converted into a mosque in 1484 and listed as Kilise Camii in the Vakıflar Tahrir Defteri. Before its last repair in 2018, the structure was damaged by neglect, unplanned repairs, deterioration of materials, fires, earthquakes, functional changes, and vandalism. Both its Byzantine and Ottoman components were damaged. To this end, the Regional Directorate of Pious Foundations began repairing the structure in 2018 and reopened it to worship in early March 2021. The article presents an assessment of the restoration and makes a remark on general threats against its preservation, and maintenance. Restoring medieval structures requires a multidisciplinary, multi-expert team to define, repair, and maintain them. Vefa Kilise Camii repairs have revealed that a few things could have been handled better.
Key Words: Mid-Byzantine Era, Constantinople, Vefa, Kilise Camii, preservation.


1. Ayvansarayi, H. (2001), Hadikatü’l Cevami, İstanbul Camileri ve Diğer Dini-Sivil Mimari Yapilar, İşaret Yayinlari, İstanbul.
2. Ayverdi, E.H. (1953), Fatih Devri Mimarisi, İstanbul Fetih Cemiyeti, İstanbul.
3. Barkan, Ö.L. and Ayverdi, E.H. (1970), İstanbul Vakiflar Tahrir Defteri, no: 915, İstanbul Fetih Cemiyeti, İstanbul.
4. Brounoff, N. (1926), “Rapport sur un voyage a Constantinople”, REG 39, Librairie Ernest Renoux, Paris, pp.1-30.
5. Brunov, N. (1930/31), “Über zwei byzantinische Baudenkmäler von Konstantinopel aus dem XI. J”, Byzantinisch-Neugriechische Jahrbücher 9, pp.129- 144.
6. Cezar, M. (1963), “Osmanli Devri’nde İstanbul Yapilarinda Tahribat Yapan Yanginlar ve Tabii Afetler”, Türk Sanati Tarihi Araştirma ve İncelemeleri I, İstanbul, pp.327-414.
7. Ebersolt, J. (1979). Les Eglises de Constantinople, The Dorian Press, London.
8.Erdoğan, A. (1941), Şeyh Vefa: Hayati ve Eserleri, Ahmed İhsan Basimevi, İstanbul.
9. Erdoğan, E. G. (1996), “İstanbul’daki Osmanli Yapilarinda Kullanilan Devşirme Malzemenin Değerlendirilmesi”, Unpublished Master Thesis, İstanbul University, İstanbul.
10. Esmer, M. (2020). “Transformation of the Urban Cultural Landscape through the Perspective of a Family Mansion: Mebus Münir Bey Mansion in Süleymaniye”, Bailey, G., Defilippis, F., Korjenic, A., and Čaušević, A. (Ed.s), Cities and Cultural Landscapes: Recognition, Celebration, Preservation, and Experience, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp.298-315.
11. Esmer M., Kasmo, R., Dabanli, Ö., Kudumovic, L., and Cesur, S. (2023, forthcoming). “A critique of the scope, methodology, and impact of the urban renewal project at Tarlabasi in Istanbul”. Proceedings of 6th Heritage Forum of Central Europe (16- 18 Haziran, 2021), Krakow, Polland.
12. Eyice, S. (2006), Eski İstanbul’dan Notlar, Küre Yayinlari, İstanbul.
13. Eyice, S. (1995), “Toklu Dede Mescidi”, Tekeli, İ. and Eyice S. (Ed.s), Dünden Bugüne İstanbul Ansiklopedisi, Tarih Vakfi ve Kültür Bakanliği Yayinlari, İstanbul, vol.7, p.375.
14. ICOMOS. (2003), “Charter- principles for the analysis, conservation and structural restoration of architectural heritage”. Available: https://www. ressources/charters-and-standards/165- icomos-charter-principles-for-the-analysis-conservation- and-structural-restoration-of-architecturalheritage (accessed 20 October 2022)
15. ICOMOS. (2012), ”The Valletta Principles for the Safeguarding and Management of Historic Cities, Towns and Urban Areas”. Available at: https://civvih. (accesed 23 November 2022)
16. Karaman, S., and Dağli, Y. (Ed.s). (2008). Günümüz Türkçesiyle Evliya Çelebi Seyahatnamesi: İstanbul, 2 vols., Yapi Kredi Yayinlari, İstanbul, pp. 278, 281, 278-286.
17. Kuban, D. (2000), İstanbul Bir Kent Tarihi, Bizantion, Konstantinopolis, Tarih Vakfi Yurt Yayinlari, İstanbul.
18. Kuban, D. (1998), Kent ve Mimarlik Üzerine İstanbul Yazilari, YEM Yayinlari, İstanbul.
19. Kuban, D. (2001). Türkiye’de Kentsel Koruma / Kent Tarihleri ve Koruma Yöntemleri, Tarih Vakfi Yurt Yayinlari, İstanbul.
20. Mango, C. (1965), “Constantinopolitana B: Kilise Camii”, JDI 80, pp.323-330.
21. Mango, C. (1990), “The work of M. I. Nomidis in the Vefa Kilise Camii, Istanbul (1937-38)”, (Μεσαιωνικά και Νέα Ελληνικά 3) Mesaionika kai Nea Ellinika 3, pp.421-429. Available at: http://, (accesed 12 December 2022)
22. Müller-Wiener, W. (2007), İstanbul›un tarihsel topografyasi: 17. yüzyil başlarina kadar Byzantion- Konstantinopolis-İstanbul, YKY, İstanbul.
23. Nomidis, M. (1958). “Rapport Preliminaire des Travaux Executes dans une Eglise Byzantine (Kilise-Camii )”, Notre Dame d’Ephese 2, vol.8, pp.14-19. Available at: yordam/?p=1&dil=1&q=&fq[]=kunyeBirliktelik KN_str:O/3541 (accessed 12 December 2022)
24. Nomidis, M. (1958). “Rapport Preliminaire des Travaux Executes dans une Eglise Byzantine (Kilise-Camii )”, Notre Dame d’Ephese 2, vol. 11- 12, pp. 36-40. Available at: tr/yordam/?p=1&dil=1&q=&fq[]=kunyeBirliktelik KN_str:O/3541 (accessed 12 December 2022)
25. Ousterhout, R. (1987), The Architecture of the Kariye Camii in Istanbul, Dumbarton Oaks Studies 25, Washington D.C.
26. Paspatis, A.G. (1877), Bizantinai Meletai Topographikai kai Istorikai, Kontantinoupolei, Antoniou Koromila, İstanbul.
27. Theis, L. (2005), Die Flankenraeume in Mittelbyzantinischer Kirchenbau, Reihert Verlag, Wiesbaden.
28. Tümer, Ş. (1957), “İstanbul’da Vefa Kilise veya Molla Gürani Camii, Tarihçesi, Mimari Durumu, Mozaikleri”, Unpublished Undergraduate Thesis, İstanbul University, İstanbul.

Corresponding Author:
Mine Esmer,
Fatih Sultan Mehmet Vakıf University,