Balikli Greek Church: Church of St. Mary of the Spring
According to a legend the church with its Holy Spring was built by Leo I, first half of V. century. After the church and Holy Spring was constructed on the area, it became famous. During Justinian I period church was reconstructed and amplified. During that restoration it is said the surplus metarial from Hagia Sophia was used. The region was a recreation area in Byzantine period for emperors and Holy spring was used as a health center. The building many times repaired over centuries, mainly by the damages made during eathquakes.
The icon that represents the Virgin of the Spring shows the Virgen Mary blessing and embracing the Child. She is surrounded by two angels and usually is sitting on the more elevated of two basins which are sustained by a water jet coming from a larger marble basin adorned with a cross. Around this, stands the Emperor with his guard, while on the left there is the Patriarch with his bishops. On the background, is represented Leo I with the blind man together with the walls of the City. Under the basin a paralytic and a mad are healed with the spring’s water.
According to the epigraphs of the church, in 1833 by an edict of the Sultan Mahmut II, it was reconstructed and was opened in 1835. The present church is rectangular in shape. It is roughly oriented in E – W direction, and has three naves divided by columns and preceded by an esonarthex. By the Northwest corner rises a metallic bell tower. The interior is richly adorned. On the right side near the middle of the nave there is a pulpit, while at the end lies a rich iconostasis. Right of the iconostasis there is an icon which the tradition says painted by Saint Luke. The source lies in a subterranean crypt outside the church, and can be accessed descending a stair parallel the long sides of the church. A symmetric stair leads from the crypt to the church’s yard. The crypt is adorned with paintings and icons, and is surmounted by a dome painted with Christ in a starry sky. The water flows into a marble basin, where fishes are swimming. These fishes, present in the basin since centuries, gave origin to the Turkish name of the complex (balikli in Turkish means “place where there are fishes”).
The church was restored in 1933 and in 1955 last time. From the conquest of Costantinople, until today from 268 patriarchs, 20 of them buried here. Some of the gravestones with Karamanli inscriptions (Turkish language written in Greek alphbet), which constitute by far the largest surviving group in this language.
Balikli Greek Church on Google Maps