Blachernae (Greek: Βλαχέρναι) was a suburb in the northwestern section of Constantinople, the capital city of the Byzantine Empire. It is the site of a water source and a number of prominent churches were built there, most notably the great Church of St. Mary of Blachernae (Panagia Blacherniotissa), built by Empress Pulcheria in c. 450, expanded by Emperor Leo I (r. 457–474) and renovated by Emperor Justinian I (r. 527–565) in the 6th century.
The Romanian philologist Ilie Gherghel, wrote a study about Blachernae and concluded that it possibly derived from the name of a Vlach (sometimes written as Blach or Blasi), who came to Constantinople from the lower Danube, a region named today Dobruja. Gherghel compared data from old historians like Genesios and from the Greek lexicon Suidas and mentioned the existence of a small colony of Vlachs in the area of today Blachernae. Similar opinions were sustained by Lisseanu.
But Blachos was the name given a posteriori by Greek and other Slavs to the thraco-latin population of the Empire. Since the times of origin of the part of town and church belong still to the latin beriod between Constantine and Justinian, it is more than likely that the name was an a posteriori name given by the dominant rulers of Constantinople to places founded by latins before.
The quarter is recorded as regio XIV in the early 5th-century Notitia Urbis Constantinopolitanae, where it is recorded as being enclosed by a wall of its own. The quarter was connected to the city proper at the construction of the Theodosian Walls, but the Church of St. Mary remained outside of the walls until 627, when Emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641) built another wall to enclose it. By that time, the church had become the major Marian shrine of the city, and the second-most important church in Constantinople after Hagia Sophia, if only because the emperors' residence was nearby. In 1347, Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos (r. 1347–1354) was crowned there, instead of at Hagia Sophia.
South of the church and situated on the city's Seventh Hill stood the imperial Palace of Blachernae, which was first erected in c. 500. During the Komnenian period, it became the favourite imperial residence, eclipsing the older Great Palace of Constantinople on the eastern end of the city. Although the Latin emperors returned to the Bucoleon Palace, the Palaiologos emperors of the restored Byzantine Empire again used the Blachernae Palace as their main residence. The Palace of the Porphyrogenitus (Turkish: Tekfur Sarayı) and the so-called Prison of Anemas are the main surviving structures of the Palace of Blachernae, which was a complex of multiple buildings.
Following the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in May 1453, the Sultan's residence was moved to Topkapı Palace on the site of the ancient acropolis of Byzantium, opposite to the original site of the Great Palace, which had by this time fallen into complete ruin, and the Blachernae area (with the exception of the Palace of Porphyrogenitus) fell into disuse.
The historic Blachernae area is in the present-day Istanbul quarter known as Ayvansaray. The sacred spring, associated with the Virgin Mary, can still be visited today; in Turkish it is named Ayazma, a name derived from the Greek term hagiasma (Greek: ἁγίασμα), meaning "holy water".
- Kazhdan 1991, p. 293.
- Gherghel 1920, p. 4-8
- G. Popa Lisseanu, Continuitatea românilor în Dacia, Editura Vestala, Bucuresti, 2014, p.78
- van Millingen 1899, p. 119.
- Ekonomou, Andrew J. 2007. Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes: Eastern influences on Rome and the papacy from Gregory the Great to Zacharias, A.D. 590–752, page 42. Lexington Books.
- Kazhdan, Alexander Petrovich, ed. (1991). Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York, New York and Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
- van Millingen, Alexander (1899). Byzantine Constantinople: The Walls of the City and Adjoining Historical Sites. London, United Kingdom: John Murray.
- Gherghel, Ilie (1920). (Romanian) Cateva consideratiuni la cuprinsul notiunii cuvantului "Vlach". Bucuresti: Convorbiri Literare.
- I. Gherghel on etymology
- Church of Panagia of Blachernae
- 3D Reconstruction of the Blachernae Walls at the Byzantium 1200 Project