Friday, November 21, 2014

Chora Museum - Istanbul / Turkey

kariye chora istanbul turkey
The Chora Church - Istanbul
The Chora Museum (Turkish: Kariye Müzesi), located in the present day Fatih district, is widely considered to be one of the most stunning surviving examples of a Byzantine church. Its remarkable mosaics and frescoes are unparalleled. It's difficult to imagine the time and creativity it took to complete such overwhelming beauty. Although it's a little out of the way, you won’t regret visiting this gem.

The Chora Church was originally part of a monastery complex outside the walls of Istanbul. The church's full name, literally translated, was the Church of the Holy Saviour in the Country. The original church was built in the early 5th century outside Istanbul’s 4th century city walls. Later, Theodosius II built new walls and the church became a part of the city’s defences. 

The majority of the current church dates from 1077-1081 AD, when the church was rebuilt as an inscribed cross by Maria Dukaina, the mother-in-law of Alexius I Comnenus. After a partial collapse in the 12th century, the church was rebuilt by Alexius’ third son, Isaac Comnenus. However, the church as it stands today wasn't completed until two centuries later.

Mosaic of the Virgin Mother with child
Mosaic of the Virgin Mother with child
Many of the ornate mosaics and frescos that we see today were created between 1315 and 1321 ADVirgin Mary was considered the holy protector of Istanbul, she is repeatedly portrayed throughout the museum. There are fascinating and detailed scenes of the Virgin Mary’s conception, infancy, and life not found in Scripture. The museum’s most important mosaic is The Dormition of the Virgin’ (Koimesis) and can be found in the Naos.
by unknown artists. They're some of the finest examples of the Palaeologan Renaissance. As the

In the portrayal of the Resurrection (Anastasis), it shows a literal and detailed account of what awaits those in the afterlife. Christ has broken down the gates of hell and is pulling Adam and Eve from their tombs. He is surrounded by John the Baptist, David, Solomon, and righteous kings. It is a truly powerful and haunting fresco.

Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator
Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator
During the conquest of Istanbul in 1453, the Icon of the Theotokos Hodegetria, believed to be the protector of the city, was brought to the church to aid the Byzantines against the Ottoman attack. It did them little good and was lost in the siege. Around fifty years after the fall, Atik Ali Paşa (Grand Vizier of Sultan Bayezid II) had Chora Church converted into a mosque (Kariye Camii). Unfortunately, few signs of the former mosque remain today. A modest mihrab can be found in the Naos.

As iconic images are forbidden in Islam, the mosaics and frescoes were covered with plaster and whitewash (which consequently helped to preserve them). The building has been open to the public as a museum since its restoration in 1948, sponsored by the Byzantine Institute of America and the Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies.

If you want a detailed explanation of the frescoes and mosaics, it s worth it to get the audio guide for 5 TL, as the are no signs explaining history and depictions in the museum.

Admission:15 TL
Free with 5-Day Museum Card
Audioguide 5 TL
Hours:Summer (April 15 - September 30) 09 00 -19.00
Winter (October 1 - April 14) 09:00 - 17.00
Closed on Wednesdays

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