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Holy Shrine of the Virgin Vefa

The Church of the Mother of God and the Aghiasma known as Vefa stand opposite the Comnenian monastery of the Pantocrator. In Byzantine times the quarter was called “Ta Sophrakiou”, but later it became Vefa Meidan, taking the name of a distinguished Turkish poet, Seyh eb ul Vefa.

According to legend, Constantine Palaeologus, the last emperor of Byzantium, is buried in Vefa Square in an "invisible and insignificant" grave, besides which is the grave of the Arab who killed him. Tradition relates that as he fell Constantine cried out "μ' έφαγες!" ("You've done for me!"), the name 'Mepha' and thence 'Vefa' deriving from his last words.

The church was demolished after the Fall in 1455 and a garden was laid out on the site. In 1750 the garden was bought by an Epirote one of many thousands who left the craggy mountains of continental Greece to seek their fortune in the City. His daughter had a dream that there was an Aghiasma on the property and followed her father to Constantinople to persuade him to search fork. Excavations in 1755 revealed the passage-way and reservoir as well as a marble icon dated 1080. On the death of the Epirote and his daughter the Aghiasma passed to his heirs. Over the years it was purchased from them by the Macedonian Educational Brotherhood of Constantinople, which carried out extensive repairs and alterations. Twelve steps lead down from the church to the Aghiasma. It is said that in addition to a number of ex-votos preserved there, the marble icon, now broken, is kept there in a bronze casket.

Here too, as at Blachernæ, on the first day of every month Turks, both men and women, wait patiently in line with Christians to collect some holy water which they sprinkle about their homes and shops. On New Year's Eve the queue stretches to even a kilometre in length.

Ismini Kapandai
Churches in Constantinople
Nikos Ghinis – Constantinos Stratos

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