Chora Church (Kariye Museum) Istanbul
Visitors who allocate a day or two to visit Istanbul see such famous places as Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace, Basilica Cistern, Grand Bazaar. Chora Church is usually not included in the itineraries because it is not centrally located although it is a precious gem in Istanbul.
Renaissance of Byzantine Art
Chora Church was previously the center of a big Byzantine monastery complex. The only surviving building from the complex is the Church dedicated to Jesus Christ The Saviour.
Incredibly beautiful mosaics of the Church are regarded as the last sparks of Byzantine art. According to some historians, artistic breakthrough of the Church signified the Renaissance movement of the collapsing Byzantine Empire.
History of Chora Church
The real date of construction of Chora Church is not known. But it is thought to have been built outside the city walls of Constantine period because the name Chora means the rural area outside the city. During the Theodosios period, the city borders were expanded and therefore the Church remained in the center.
Chora Church was reconstructed by Emperor Aleksios Komnenos at the 11th Century and was restored many times during history. The most important restoration was during the Byzantine statesman Theodore Metochites period.
Primary treasurer of the Empire, Metochites got the main dome of the church rebuilt and got Parekklesion section, a tomb room, integrated to the Church. The Church was decorated meticulously. The enchanting mosaics of the Church was made in this period by respectable Byzantine artists.
Splendid Mosaics of Chora Church
Mosaics are grouped together in the inner and outer narthex. Most mosaics in the inner narthex of Chora Church depicts the life of St. Mary. Mosaics of the outer narthex depicts the life and miracles of Jesus Christ. The main site is fairly plain and there is only one mosaic. It is recommended that you visit the Chora Church with a private tour guide in order to have a better understanding of the mosaics because they are not aligned chronologically.
There are invaluable frescoes in the tomb chapel section called Parekklesion. Frescoes depicts the day of the Apocalypse. The patron of Chora Church, Theodoros Metochites, is buried here.
The history of Byzantine Empire is full of palace intrigues. Destiny of Metochites, who was one of the top administrators in the Empire took a bad turn when the Emperor was overthrown and he was exiled to Thrace only to be forgiven two years later. He then secluded himself to Chora Church which he devoted his life to and lived in until his death.
Best Byzantine Mosaics
Chora Church characterizes the golden years of late Byzantine art in a splendid way and the colors of gold, khaki, purple, lilac and saxe gleam like sunset lights. This secret gem of Istanbul has the most impeccable iconographic depictions inherited from the Byzantine Empire. I definitely recommend you to add this wonderful piece of art of the Middle Ages to your itinerary.
Please note that the church is known as Kariye Museum by most of the locals.
Where Is Chora Church Or Kariye Museum Located?
The Chora Church unfortunately not very easy to get by public transport from Sultanahmet or Taksim Areas. Taking a taxi is the best option to get to Chora Church from these places. It costs about 15 Turkish Lira from Sultanahmet, 20 Turkish Lira from Taksim by a yellow cab.
Furher Recommended Reading:
By Serhat Engül
Licensed Tour Guide In Istanbul