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5. Main Churches in Trabzon (still standing)

There were christians in Trabzon before the 3rd century AD.  The earliest evidence of a bishop or a prelate, of Trabzon comes in 253–54.  The earliest church, St Anne, appears prior to 884.  Trabzon was well served with churches.  In 1847, Feruhan Bey reported that the town had 24 Greek churches, of which many were in ruin and only 12 were open continuously, others were closed for months at a time (Lowry 2009).  The Greek Metropolitan, Constantios of Trabzon (1830–79), rebuilt every medieval church still in Orthodox hands.  By 1973 only 10 monuments survived more or less intact, four as mosques and St Sophia as a museum and 12 in a ruinous condition (Bryer and Winfield 1985). 

St Andrea

        Situated on the western side of the western ravine in the Lower City.  The only surviving example in the town of an Anatolian barn church.  Built in the 10th or the 11th centuries.  The church was probably abandoned after 1461 and probably converted into the Molla Nakip mosque by 1609.  It was abandoned in the 19th century (Bryer and Winfield 1985). 

St Anne

Located off Meraş Caddesi in the eastern suburbs, it is the oldest surviving church in Trabzon.  It was restored in 884–85 and was an important mortuary chapel in the late 14th and early 15th century (Bryer and Winfield 1985).  It is now closed. 

Panayia Chrysokephalos (Golden-headed)

It stands in the centre of the Middle City (Figure 3) and was the most important church in the Trapezuntine Empire.  The Chrysokephalos was the metropolitical, coronation, and funerary church of the Grand Komnenoi and the church of one of the richest monasteries of the Empire.  It was the cathedral of Trabzon by 914.  It was rebuilt as an imperial basilica by 1235 and reconstructed by 1351 (at the latest).  After 1461 it became the principal mosque of Trabzon by Sultan Mehmet II.  It is now called the Ortahisar mosque (Figure 6) (Bryer and Winfield 1985). 

Figure 6. Panayia Chrysokephalos (Ortahisar mosque) (Kokkas 2005, p. 130) 

St Elefterios

        The church in the Çömleçi quarter was believed to be built by the Genoese (Figure 3) in the 15th century.  It was still used as a church after the Ottoman conquest up to 1923 when it was abandoned and was later used as a warehouse.  In 1953 it was converted into the Hüsnü Köktuğ mosque (Yücel 1988). 

St Eugenios

Originally dedicated to St Eugenios and is situated nearly 200 metres east of the Citadel of Trabzon, on a small hill overlooking the eastern ravine (Figure 3).  It was built before 1223 and the church was either fire damaged or burnt down in 1340.  St Eugenios and his martyrs were believed to have been put to death under Roman Emperor Diocletian (285–305 AD) after overthrowing the statue of Mithras on Mt Minthrion (Boz Tepe) (Bryer and Winfield 1985). 

Alexios I Komnenos (1204-1222) had the St Eugenios church built at the place where St Eugenios was buried (Yücel 1988).  It was converted into the Yeni Cuma mosque after 1486 (Figure 7) (Lowry 2009). 


Figure 7. St Eugenios (Yeni Cuma mosque) (Kokkas 2005, p. 131) 

Kaymakli monastery (Armenian monastery of the All Saviour)

Is situated on the eastern slopes of Boz Tepe, about 2 kilometres south of the harbour at Daphnous.  The monastery, consisting of approximately rectangular walled terrace of about 30 metres by 45 metres in which stand a main church, fountain, tower, a small chapel and an arcaded monastic building.  The chapel is dated 1421.  The Kaymakli monastery remained the centre of Armenian religious life in Trabzon till 1915, when its final function was as a transit camp for Armenians who were deported to Syria (Bryer and Winfield 1985), [during the Armenian massacres].  The remnants of the Monastery are now part of a farm. 

St Maria

Situated between the Meydan and the sea, the church was inaugurated in 1874 (Bryer and Winfield 1985).  It was still an operating christian church until it closed in 2006 after its Roman Catholic priest, Andrea Santoro, was tragically shot dead while praying inside the church.  Currently, there is no christian church open in Trabzon.

St Philip

          Situated in the southwest corner of Daphnous (Figure 3).  The church is believed to have been built before 1302.  In 1461, St Philip church became the second cathedral of Trabzon (after the Chrysokephalos church).  In about 1665 it was converted into the Kudrettin mosque (Bryer and Winfield 1985).  It was rebuilt in 1968–69 (Yücel 1988).

St Sabbas

Situated on the northern slopes and cliff face of Boz Tepe (Figure 3).  There had been a large rectangular enclosure and four chapels, three in the cliff face and one standing free below; all rock cut (Bryer and Winfield 1985).  In 1344 Trapezuntine Emperor John III was deposed and banished to St Sabbas.  In 1349 Emperor Michael was also deposed and banished for 1 year to St Sabbas (Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World).  Today the church is deserted and in disrepair. 

St Sophia (Holy Wisdom)

St Sophia is situated on a bluff nearly 2 kilometres west of the walled town just south of the seashore (Figure 3).  The monastery originally consisted of the main church (Figure 8), with three apses and three porches; a smaller church standing north of the main church; a tower standing west of the main church and remains of monastic buildings within a walled enclosure of about 90 metres by 50 metres.  The main church was founded by Manuel I (1238–63) or his

Figure 8. St Sophia, looking north (2003, author’s collection)

immediate successors (Bryer and Winfield 1985).  The conversion of the church of St Sophia into a mosque was in 1572, or slightly later (Lowry 2009). 

In 1601, Bordier observed it was always closed and allowed to fall into disrepair (Lowry 2009).  In 1836 it was still in a sad state of decay (Hamilton 1842).  By 1879, it had been appropriated for military purposes and was full of stores (Tozer 1881). 

During World War I it was used as a depot and military hospital.  After being restored by the University of Edinburgh, under David Talbot Rice and David Winfield, it was converted into a museum in 1964 (Yücel 1988).  The restored frescoes on the western entrance are quite spectacular.  In 2013, under some protest, it was again converted into a mosque. 

Panayia Theoskepastos (God-protected)

Located on Boz Tepe, midway between the harbour of Daphnous and the Citadel of Trabzon (Figure 3).  It was founded or endowed during the reign of Alexios III (1349–90).  The nunnery of the Theoskepastos included a 19th century church of St Constantine above the cave church, a large two-storied hall and the cave church of Theoskepastos itself.  The Theoskepastos was the only known nunnery in the Trapezuntine Empire and remained open until 1922 when it was abandoned (Bryer and Winfield 1985).  By 2003 it was run-down. 

Restoration of the monastery began in March 2014 and was nearing completion in January 2015.  The restoration will include the historical rock church and the rare frescoes.  Once completed, it is hoped the monastery will bring an increase in tourism to the town (Hurriyet Daily News, 30 January 2015).  As at June 2015 the restoration had not been completed. 

6. Ottoman conquest of Trabzon (1461)

The closest record of the population of Trabzon prior to the Ottoman conquest of Trabzon was by Pero Tafur who visited Trabzon in 1437–38.  Tafur estimated the town had about 4,000 inhabitants (Lowry 2009).  

In August 1461, the Emperor of Trebizond, David Komnenos, surrendered Trabzon to the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II after a siege of 32 days.  The Emperor and members of his family, together with their movable properties were sent to Istanbul (work of Chalkokondyles c.1430–c.1465).  The Emperor’s officials, plus other notables and some of its wealthiest families and their belongings, were also sent by ship to Istanbul (Lowry 2009). 

Mehmet II then selected around 1,500 young men and women from Trabzon and the surrounding countryside (the overwhelming majority came from the latter).  Of this number, around 800 of the boys were sent to Istanbul to join the Janissary Corps.  The remaining around 700 young women and men were enrolled in the personal service of the Sultan and also sent to the capital.  The remainder of the inhabitants were left in the town and confirmed in the ownership of their properties.  Mehmet II appointed a governor and left a garrison of 400 Janissaries in the citadel and settled a community of guards in the town (Chalkokondyles, Lowry 2009). 

Mehmet II died in 1481 and his son Bayezid II (1481–1512) became Sultan.  Bayezid II married Maria, a Greek girl from the village of Doubera, (over 30 kilometres south of Trabzon).  Maria was called Gulbahar Hatun and she held court in Trabzon where she died in 1505.  Bayezid’s son, the future Sultan Selim I (1512–20), was governor of Trabzon from 1489 to 1512.  Selim’s son, the future Sultan Suleyman (1520–66), was born and brought up in Trabzon (Bryer 1998).

7. ‘Estimated’ population figures

C.1486 to 1583

This section summarises the detailed research by Lowry (2009).  After the fall of Trabzon in 1461, there were four Ottoman tax registers (tahrir defters) compiled between c.1486 and 1583 and they provide information on the ‘estimated’ population in the Trabzon region.  The following estimated population figures, including a breakdown of the christian population, (Table 2) relate specifically to the town of Trabzon and exclude the nearby villages. 


Table 2. ‘Estimated’ population in Trabzon from c.1486 to 1583 tax registers 






% Greeks





% Armenian orthodox





% Catholic





% total christian

Less than 77%

Less than 84%



% muslim

Over 23%

Over 16%



‘Estimated’ total population





aAdjusted estimates by the author, of Lowry’s (2009) original work, producing a slight increase in the number of muslims to accommodate for widowed heads of muslim households and muslim guards not counted in the c.1486 tax register. 


In c.1486 there was an estimated 7,080 people recorded in Trabzon of which less than 77% were christians (author’s adjusted estimate of Lowry’s (2009) original work).  Most of the Trabzon’s muslims were involuntary immigrants.  (See Note 3 on the limitations of the tax registers for estimating population figures.)

In c.1523 there was an estimated 7,115 people recorded in Trabzon of which less than 84% were christians, mostly Greek (author’s adjusted estimates of Lowry’s (2009) work).  From c.1486, the recorded muslim population decreased in c.1523 as some muslims who were forced to settle in the town prior to c.1486, subsequently returned to their former homes.  

In 1553, the estimated population decreased to 6,100 people.  Around 47% of the total estimated population was recorded as muslim (see Note 3) with 53% christian.  In the around 30 years between the c.1523 and 1553 tax registers three factors were evident:

  • The town’s muslim population increased dramatically due to muslims moving into the town.
  • Probably around 2,000 christians were deported, probably to Istanbul. 
  • A smaller number of the town’s christians converted to Islam, probably so they would not be deported. 

In 1583, the estimated population rose dramatically to 10,575 of whom 46% were christians and 54% professed muslims.  The muslim population grew at a much faster rate than the christian population.  There was also a large number of christians converting to Islam.  The most important reason for the conversions was probably due to the higher taxes paid by christians (compared to muslims), a strong economic incentive for the poorest christians.  In 1583, around 70% of the population was most probably still largely Greek speaking. 

Into the 17th century there were limited Ottoman registers on Trabzon’s population.  It is estimated that in the middle of the 17th century, Trabzon had a population of around 13,000 people.  During 1651–56, muslims and non-muslims did not live separately in ghettos.  They were living within the same quarter neighbouring each other.  The local community displayed close interaction between the religious groups (Tuluveli 2002). 


Population figures for the town of Trabzon can be gleamed from population ‘guestimates’ from some of the travellers who visited Trabzon in the 19th century (Table 3).  The population appears to have risen most in the late 19th century/early 20th century with a strong christian minority (possibly up to 44% of the population). 

Table 3. ‘Estimated’ population and ethnicity in Trabzon 1840 to just prior to 1914








Prior to 1914g

% muslims








% Greeks
















% catholics








% foreigners








Estimated population








a  Fallmerayer (in Matossian 2009)

b  Feruhan Bey (in Lowry 2009)

c  Palgrave (in Bryer 1970)

d  Tozer (1881)

e  Shortly before 1890, Cuinet (in Hewson 2009) 

f  Trabzon villayet (province) Salname (Lowry 2009).  Population figure is high and is
not reported here, but the percentage of ethnic groups is reported.  Population is
believed to be lower than 44,000.

g  Dickerman (in Akarca 2002). Estimated population figure is high and is not reported
here, but the percentage of ethnic groups is reported.  Population is believed to be
lower than 44,000.

8. Oldest Trabzon mosques and tombs 

The following summary identifies the oldest mosques in Trabzon built before 1700, which had not been pulled down, sourced from Yücel (1988).  These mosques have undergone many alterations and some have lost their original features.  Excluding the Gülbahar Hatun mosque with its reverse T-plan, in general the mosques have a rectangular plan. 

The major tombs in Trabzon are also described which are also sourced from Yücel (1988). 

Ayşe-Gülbahar Hatun mosque

This mosque (Figure 9) has a special place in Trabzon as Ayşe-Gülbahar Hatun, [a Greek girl named Maria from Doubera, south of Trabzon] was a wife of Sultan Bayezid II and most probably mother of Sultan Selim.  Sultan Selim had this mosque built in Atapark, in the western suburbs, probably during 1505–06, while he was Governor of Trabzon.  Architecturally it has a reverse T-plan.  The Ayşe-Gülbahar Hatun Tomb is built next to the mosque.  The mosque’s praying area is covered by a dome measuring 15 metres by 15 metres.  The minaret on an octagonal base on the right side of the mosque has a balcony.  In 1803 and 1905 the mosque was repaired.  The fountain in front of the mosque indicates the presence of a former court.  This fountain was repaired in 1967. 

Erdoğdu Bey mosque

This mosque was built in 1577 by Trabzon Governor, Erdoğdu Bey.  It is located less than 1 kilometre south of the Ayşe-Gülbahar Hatun mosque.  It was repaired in 1899 and 1970.  The entrance on the northern side leads to the two-storeyed praying spaces onboth sides of the gate and then to the main praying area. 

Fatih Küçük mosque

Built between the 13th and 14th centuries in the Bahçecik quarter and was probably originally a church (name unknown) prior to its conversion to a mosque after 1461.  It is made of stone on a rectangular plan and is covered by a vault.  The minaret on the street in the west was built in 1981.  [The mosque was restored in 2012.]

Haci Kasim mosque

Built in the Haci Kasim quarter in the eastern suburbs by Haci Kasim (the Finance Minister of Sultan Selim) in the second half of the 16th century and has been through many modifications. 

Hasan Ağa mosque

The mosque was built in 1552 on Sakiz Meydani Street in Mumhane Önü in the western suburbs.  It has a pentagonal plan and does not have praying areas on the sides.  A balcony in the north serves as a minaret. 


Figure 9. Gulbahar Hatun Mosque (Yücel 1988, p. 51)

Hatun Hatuncuk mosque

Built on Kabak Meydane Street in the western suburbs, probably in the 16th century.  It was built as a Dervish lodge and then converted into a mosque after the Dervish lodges were abolished.  The concrete minaret with one balcony was built in 1971. 

Iskender Paşa mosque

It was built by Iskender Paşa who became Governor of Trabzon in 1512.  The mosque is located at Taksim Square behind the Trabzon Municipal Building in the eastern suburbs.  The tomb of Iskender Paşa is in the west of the mosque.  The stairs inside the mosque lead to the minaret carried by an octagonal base.  The mosque was repaired in 1803 and 1883. 

Kemer Kaya mosque

The mosque was converted from a church (name unknown) possibly in 1888 in the Kemerkaya quarter in the eastern suburbs near the sea.  The original construction date of the church is unknown. 

Musa Paşa mosque

Built in 1668 in the Musa Pasha quarter by Musa Paşa.  Preserving its original characteristics, it is the only single domed mosque in Trabzon belonging to the early Ottoman era.  Its minaret has one balcony. 

Semerciler mosque

Built on the Semerciler slope in the Çarşi quarter in the eastern suburbs in the 16th century and repaired in 1820.  It has a square plan and ashlar walls.  It has two gates, one in the west and the other in the north.  The stone minaret at the northwest corner is small and has one balcony. 

Şirin Hatun mosque

Built in 1470 in Içkale, by prince Abdullah, son of Sultan Bayezid II and Şirin Hatun and was dedicated to his mother.  It is a historical landmark and was repaired in 1869.  It has a rectangular plan, stone walls and a wooden roof. 

Tavanli mosque

Built in 1650 in the Gazi Paşa quarter next to the Tabakhane Bridge.  The mosque was repaired in 1874 and 1890.  The stone minaret, with one balcony, is ascended through the praying area.

Ayşe-Gülbahar HatunTomb

        In the east of the Ayşe-Gülbahar Hatun mosque (Figure 9) lays the tomb of Ayşe-Gülbahar Hatun, most probably the mother of Sultan Selim and a wife of Sultan Bayezid II (1481–1512).  The tomb was built in 1505 by Sultan Selim while he was Governor of Trabzon.  It has 3.8 metre wide octagonal sides covered by a dome with arched windows.  There are two additional marble sarcophagi in the tomb belonging to Prince Salih and Princess Kamer Sultan the daughter of Sultan Selim. 

The uncovered tomb (Açik Türbe)

        The Açik Türbe tomb is located opposite the Police Headquarters, 300 metres west of the Ayşe-Gülbahar Hatuntomb.  The hexagonal structure is built on a slope and is covered by a low dome supported by piers at each corner.  It houses the graves of Hasan Efendi (1778) and his son (1777). 

Osman Ağa Tomb (Emir Mehmet Tomb)

        This tomb is located next to the Hatun Hatuncuk mosque at Kabak Square.  Emir Mehmet, who is assumed had some relationship with the Dervish lodge (that was located there) is buried here.  The second grave there belongs to Şeyh Osma Baba, a respected religious leader.  The tomb has an octagonal plan covered by a dome. 

Ahi Evren Dede Tomb

        This tomb is located next to the Ahi Evren mosque in the Boztepe district.  The square tomb is covered by a dome.  It was repaired in 1887–88 by Haci Hakki Baba and includes the grave of Ahi Evren Dede and the graves of Haci Hakki Baba and his sons. 

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