Saint Evgenios of Trebizond (today Trabzon) is a magnificent church which along with the church of the Chrysocephalos, once represented the centre of the town's ecclesiastic, ethnic and cultural life. When the Turks seized Trebizond in 1461, Fatih Sultan Mehmet II named it Yeni Cuma Camii (New Friday Mosque) because it was here that the conqueror performed his first Friday prayers. Heath Lowry states that St Evgenios functioned as a church until at least 14861.
There is some conjecture as to when St Evgenios was built. George Finlay visited St Evgenios in 1850 and states that it was burnt in 1340 and was rebuilt by Emperor Alexios III. Xiphilinos and Lazaropoulos give some evidence towards a church or monastery of St Evgenios existing around the 9th or 10th century. Selina Ballance however postulates the following: "there was an early church on the site, and it was endowed in 1021/22. This church was still standing in 1223. St Evgenios was rebuilt as a basilica in 1291. St Evgenios was repaired and enlarged after 1340 by Alexios III".2
The church measures 28m in length, 16m in width and 11m in height and has a dome without a balcony. Internally the church was divided into three vaulted apses which ended in arches. The side apses were narrow and lower than the central apse. It's possible that the central entrance to the church had a porch which was destroyed by the Turks and was reverted to a window. The entrance of the church was through the door of the north side. The beautiful frescoes that used to adorn the church were later covered by dust and Turkish decorations.
The church housed the relics of St Evgenios and his counterparts; Canidius, Valerianus and Akylas in a silver urn which is located beside the right hand beam of the temple - where the icon of St John Prodromos was located - and the south end of the church towards the arch of the southern apse.
Around the 11th century the church of St Evgenios was not only well known in Pontus but in the entire East. In the first half of the 11th century the Emperor of Byzantium Vassillios II the Bulgar Slayer came to pray at the church. The church held 2 festivals each year; one on the 21st of January, the feast day of the martyr St Evgenios, and the 24th of June the feast day of of his birthday. As with the church of Chrysocephalos, the church of St Evgenios also held formal ceremonies in its yard such as Emperors' coronations and weddings. The Emperor of Trebizond Alexios III was crowned at St Evgenios and it was here also that he was married to Theodora Catacouzinos.
The icon of St Evgenios came from depictions of St Evgenios from coins of Trebizond and also emperor's emblems which initially show him in military uniform and later on a saddle with a cross in his hand, ready to defend his town.
From all the treasures and jewels of the church of St Evgenios the only thing that has been saved is a religious manuscript which is housed at the church of Vatopedi in Ayion Oros, Greece. It has amazingly detailed Byzantine graphics. One of these is the cycle of the 12 months - a masterpiece of Byzantine art.
Encyclopaedia of Pontian Hellenism. Malliaris Paedia.
1. Trabzon's Yeni Cuma Camii. Why is it called this? Heath Lowry. Vol 3, 1975. p100
2. Byzantine Monuments and Topography of the Pontos. Dumbarton Oaks. p224.