Chora Church Museum - Kariye, Istanbul

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  • Chora Church Museum - Kariye
    by magor65
  • Chora Church Museum - Kariye
    by magor65
  • Chora Church Museum - Kariye
    by magor65
  • nicolaitan's Profile Photo

    A Highlight of Our Trip

    by nicolaitan Updated Apr 25, 2009

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    The Kariye Museum occupies an 11th Century church built under the auspices of Maria Dukaina, the mother in law of Emperor Alexius I Comnenus whose appeals to the west for aid against the Selcuk Turks began the Crusades. A monastery occupied this site as early as the 3rd C, with a with an early 5th C church built outside the city walls created by Constantine, hence the name St. Savior in Chora with chora meaning 'outside the walls". Never mind that after the 414 expansion of the walls by Theodosius the church was inside - the old name persisted. From the Latin, chora means womb and the name may also reflect the dedication of the church to Mary with an eternal womb for the Son of God larger than earth and sky, outside the boundaries created by man, an alternative explanation of the name.
    The church interior was sacked by the 4th Crusade. It fell to Theodore Metochites to endow the creation of the beautiful mosaics and frescoes we see today, created by an unknown team of artists between 1315-21. This statesman and scholar is buried in the church and is depicted in one mosaic presenting a model of the church to Jesus.
    58 years after the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the church was converted to a mosque ( Kariye Mosque - the name now used for the museum ) by the eunuch Grand Vizier Ali Pasha. A minaret was added and the artwork was covered with plaster as images of living creatures including humans are forbidden in mosques. Protected from damage, the mosaics and frescoes survived in good condition. Initally discovered and again recovered in the late 19th C, the final restoration over 11 years began in 1948 under the auspices of the Byzantine Institute in the United States. The mosque was opened as a museum in the 1950's.

    The museum structure is basically unchanged from the 11th C plan with the addition of a burial chamber along one side in the 14th C and the addition of the minaret 100 years later. The rear of the building lies in a little park with a small kiosk for snacks and serviceable if not pristine free toilets. These are located just beyond the ticket gate.
    The Kariye Museum is located in the western Edimekapi district far removed from most tourist attractions and most but not all tour bus visits - it is just too far out of the way, parking is limited, etc. The best way to get here is a taxi. Public bus service is available, but the stop is several blocks away without obvious directions or signage.
    In the last few years, it appears that the neighborhood has gentrified as the fame of the museum has spread. We saw a few souvenir stores, a boutique style hotel, and a few small restaurants in the area and one, the Asitane, is apparently quite famous.

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    Chora Museum

    by Arkeolog Written Feb 25, 2009

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Chore-Kariye

    Chora Church (Kariye Camisi in Turkish) is the most interesting Byzantine church after Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The importance of the church does not come from the building itself , the frescoes and the mosaics are superb and reflect the magnificient heritage of Byzantine Art. The Chora Church Museum is open every day from 9 a.m to 4:30 p.m except Wed.

    The word "Chora" means "in the country" in Greek because of the original church which was outside the city walls. There are no remains left from the original church and the first form of the present structure dates back to 11C. The church was founded by Maria Doukaina, mother-in-law of Alexius Comnenos I between 1077-1081. Today's church was constructed after two centuries, the walls were revetted with superb mosaics and a pareclession was added decorated with beautiful frescoes. The founder of the church was Theodore Metochites who served as a prime minister during the time of EmperorAndronicus Palaeologus I. He was also an astronomer, poet, theologian and philosopher. Actually he lived a very sad life, after Palaeologus was replaced by another emperor, he was sent to exie. After he came back to Konstantinople, he devoted himself to the church as a monk and he died there. Early in the 16C, the church was converted to a mosque by Atik Ali Pasha and the mosaics were covered with plaster. In 1948, it was restored by Byzantine Institute of America and opened as a museum in 1958.

    The mosaics in Chora Museum dates back to 14th C and they can be divided into 4 parts, the ones on the nave, outer narthex(entrance), inner narthex and frescoes in pareclession(funerary chapel)

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    Kariye Camii/Saint Saviour in Chora Museum

    by WulfstanTraveller Written Feb 20, 2009

    This former Byzantine church, in its current structure dating to the later mid-11th century, is famous mostly for the extensive, rich, excellent 14th century mosaics as well as extensive frescoes. The mosaics portray many stopries and scenes from Christian tradition and indeed are extensive.

    The building was converted into a mosque, but under the republic became a museum.

    It is located near the walls, in a generally poor area of town, not far from really dilapidated areas. However, the immediate vicinity of Kariye Camii itself, due apparently mostly to the tourist trade, is quite nice. There are not only shops, but some nice places to eat and even some nice-lookng hotels and even the houses in the immediate area are in good shape. There are also shady trees all round it.

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    St.Savior church

    by eugini2001 Written Jul 29, 2008

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    chora church from outside
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    I was there on Tuesday,so it's closed on Wednesdays,not Tuesdays,as some people say.Kariye is located at Edirnekapi section of Istanbul. The dictionary meaning of Kariye (Chora) is "outside of the city", or "rural" in old Greek. The existence of a chapel outside the city walls in very old is mentioned in some sources. The first Khora Church was built on the site of this chapel by Justinianus.

    The building which managed to survive until the times of the Commenos with various additions and repairs, gained importance when the Imperial Palace Blakhernia near the city walls was expanded.
    At the end of 11th century Maria Dukaina, the mother-in-law of Emperor Alexi I had it rebuild. The church has a kiborion shaped space whose dome is carried by four arches. During the Latin occupation of 1204 - 1261, both the monastry and the church became extremely run down. During the reign of Andronikos (1282 - 1326), one of the prominent names of the day, the writer, poet and the minister of treasury Theodore Methocite had the monastry and the church repaired towards 1313, and had an annex to the north of the building, an outer narthex to the west and a chapel (Parekklesion) to the south. These new additions were decorated with frescoes and mosaics. Parekklesion, which is a long single naved chapel going along the southern faзade, is built above a basement floor. It is partially covered with a dome and the remaining sections are covered by vaults. It has a single abscissa. The outer narthex which runs along the full western facade forms the present faзade. The northern wing is only an insignificant corridor. The central dome has a high drum. It is a Turkish period restoration and is made of wood. Outer faзades are given plasticity and movement with round arches, half braces, niches and rows of stone and brick. The eastern faзade is finished with abscissa extending to the exterior. The middle abscissa is supported with a half arched brace.

    The building was used as a church after the conquest of Istanbul but was converted into a mosque in 1511 by the Visier Grand Hadým Ali Pasha, who later added a school and a alm kitchen next to it. After the conversion, the mosaics and frescoes were covered, sometimes by wooden blinds and sometimes by whitewashing over them. All the mozaics and frescoes were uncovered with the work carried out by the American Institute of Byzantine Research between 1948 - 1958. Chora mosaics and frescoes are the most beautiful examples of the last period of Byzantine art (14th century). They show a striking similarity. The monotonous background of the former period cannot be seen here. The concept of depth, recognition of the placticity and movement of the figures and the elongation in the figures are the characteristic of this style. Scenes from life of Jesus are given on the outer narthex while the inner narthex has scenes from the life of Madonna.On the portal of the door joining the outer to the inner narthex, there is Christ the "Pantocrator". On the left the scenes depict the birth of Jesus, population cencus being carried out under the supervision of Governor Cyrinus, the angel telling Joseph to leave taking Mary with him, the multiplication of loaves of bread, water turning to wine and on the right side scenes such as messanger kings informing about the birth of Christ, healing of the stroke victims and the massacre of children.

    The most beautiful mosaic on the inside is Deisis. There is Jesus in the center with Mary on the left, below Mary, Isaac Commenus and a nun on the right of Jesus. This woman is the daughter of the Mikhael Palaiologos VIII. She was married to the Mongolian Prince Abaka Khan and following her husband's death returned to Ýstanbul and became a member of a religious order. In this section, under the dome there is Jesus and his ancestors are shown in the segments. On the portal of the church proper, there is Christ in the middle and on the left Theodoros Metochites who has restored the church and adorned it with the mosaics presenting a model of the church. The life story of Mary, which is not included in the Bible is taken from subjects based on the Apostles. At the inner narthex the scenes about Mary can be followed depicting her birth, her first steps, Gabriel telling her that she shall have a child, Mary buying wool for the tebernacle and others. Mosaic above the inner portal of the entrance to the main church depicts the death of the Virgin, Madonna bearing the child Jesus and a Saint. Parekklesion is totally decorated with frescoes. The Anastasia (rebirth) scene seen on the abscissa is a masterpiece. The last judgement above it is shown here in full. It is known that the niche on the right and left sides of the Parekklesion are graves. On the dome of the Parekklesion there is Mary and the child Jesus and 12 in the segments.

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    Kariye Muzesi

    by Hopkid Written Apr 22, 2008

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    The Kariye Muzesi, formerly the Chora Church and then the Kariye Camii, which was established in the 3rd century when it was literally out in the country. Chora means "country". However over time the city made its way out to the western areas and the city walls constructed by Theodosius in the early 5th century ensured that the church would forever more be "inside" the city and not in the country.

    The current building was constructed in the late 11th century and what draws visitors to this fairly small former church (and mosque) are the fabulous mosaics and frescoes which depict the life of Christ. The mosaics and frescoes date from the early 14th century and are simply beautiful. It was fun to figure out what parts of Christ's life was being depicted in each scene. Luckily our guide book was pretty comprehensive in its listing of the mosaics/frescoes which was especially helpful to a couple of non-chuch goers although Rita has read the Bible.

    This small museum is a must see when in Istanbul and is more than worth the effort to get out here from Sultanahmet or Taksim. The art is exquisite! I will have separate travelogues for the mosaics and frescoes because 5 photos per tip is not enough!

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    Treasure trove of mosaic and frescoes

    by albaaust Written Feb 17, 2008

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    Mosaic of Jesus and ancestors
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    The Museum of Chora or Kariye Museum is a treasure trove of wonderful mosaics and frescoes which depict various Biblical stories. Those related to the Virgin Mary are particularly interesting and the Dome depicting Jesus and his ancestors is also stunning. The word, Chora means land, country, and a suburb. The monastery was therefore named because it was built outside the city walls built by Emperor Constantine.It was originally built by Emperor Theodosius in 413 AD but over time rebuilt again rebuilt by numerous Emperors. The mosaics and frescoes were added in 1312. After 1453 when Istanbul was conquered by the Turks it was converted into a mosque and then a museum. Between 1948-1958 the American Byzantine Institute completed restoration of the museum.

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  • traveloturc's Profile Photo

    Chora museum II

    by traveloturc Written Jan 4, 2007

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    fresques of Kariye

    The mosaics in Chora Museum dates back to 14th C and they can be divided into 4 parts, the ones on the nave, outer narthex(entrance), inner narthex and frescoes in pareclession(funerary chapel)
    Nave; Koimesis, the Dormition of the Virgin. Before ascending to Heaven, her last sleep. Jesus is holding an infant, symbol of Mary's soul; Jesus Christ; The Virgin Mary.
    Inner Narthex; The Enthroned Christ with the Donor, Theodore Metochites presenting a model of his church; St. Peter; St. Paul; Deesis, Christ and the Virgin Mary (without St. John the Baptist) with two donors below; Genealogy of Christ; Religious and noble ancestors of Christ.
    The mosaics in the first three bays of the inner narthex give an account of the Virgin's birth and life. Some of them are as follows: Rejection of Joachim's offerings; Annunciation of St. Anne, the angel of the Lord announcing to Anne that her prayer for a child has been heard; Meeting of Joachim and Anne; Birth of the Virgin Mary; First seven steps of the Virgin; The Virgin given affection by her parents; The Virgin blessed by the priests; Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple;The Virgin receiving bread from an Angel; The Virgin receiving the skein of purple wool, as the priests decided to have the attendant maidens weave a veil for the Temple; Zacharias praying, when it was the time to marry for the Virgin, High Priest Zacharias called all the widowers together and placed their rods on the altar, praying for a sign showing to whom she should be given; The Virgin entrusted to Joseph; (22) Joseph taking the Virgin to his house; Annunciation to the Virgin at the well; Joseph leaving the Virgin, Joseph had to leave for six months on business and when he returned the Virgin was pregnant and he is suspicious of that.

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  • Spincat's Profile Photo

    Byzantine frescoes & mosaics: Kariye museum

    by Spincat Updated Dec 29, 2006

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    The church of Chora, or 'Kariye museum', is an C11th building near the old city walls.

    Breathtaking C13th mosaics and fescos of Christ and the Virgin and various saints. This is a jewel-like place.

    There is one particularly fine set of frescos showing Christ breaking down the gates of hell and raising Adam and Eve.

    The church was a mosque for four centuries and the decorations were covered over - this may have preserved them. They were restored in the last century.

    Entrance fee is 10ytl; open 9.30-4 Thurs-Tues in Nov - March
    Open 9.30-6 (also Tues - Thurs) April- October.

    If you walk on from here for 5 or 10 minutes you can see the imposing old city walls. Take care walking around on your own near the walls, however, as we saw groups of men drinking from cans around there, and that area has a poor reputation. The area around the church seemed very safe and there was a pleasant restaurant and coffee house opposite it.

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    Kariye Camii Museum (St. Savior in Chora

    by mightywease Written Nov 18, 2006

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    Kariye Camii Musuem
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    Built between 1316 and 1361, around an earlier church, the small brick building of St. Saviour in Chora (now called the Kariye Mosque Museum) contains some of the most wonderful and best preserved examples of Byzantine art anywhere.

    The church’s patron, Metochites, a Byzantine scholar and politician ended his days as a monk at the church having been allowed to return after falling from power and spending two years in exile.

    The mosaics found in the church portray scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, the Day of Judgement and Heaven and Hell. The colours in the mosaics seem as vibrant and fresh as they were when first created. When the church was converted to a mosque in the 15th Century the mosaics were covered over with plaster rather than destroyed remaining so until the mid 19th Century, and this covering may have helped to preserve their appearance.

    They are also intricately detailed and one of the pleasures of standing in front of them is being able look deeper into the images picking out different things with each sweep of the eyes, for instance one small beautifully realised scene where water is being poured from a pitcher into large earthenware pots.

    Although slightly off the beaten path it is well worth taking a trip to the Kariye Camii to see these magnificent pieces of art.

    Open: Mon-Tues, Thurs-Sun Closed: Wed.

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  • midnight_mike's Profile Photo

    St. Chora Church

    by midnight_mike Written Jun 15, 2006

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    A five-minute walk from Blachernae Palace, St. Chora Church is a lavish example of 11th century Byzantine architecture and craftsmanship. Like Hagia Sophia, its frescos and mosaics were covered up by the Muslim Turks after their takeover. Much of the interior artwork has been successfully restored. It is now a museum.

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  • toshigiappone's Profile Photo

    Chora Church; Mosaics Death of Mary

    by toshigiappone Written May 4, 2005
    Mosaic of Death of Mary

    This mosaic depicts the death of Mary. She is inside the sacrophagus, and Jesus, apostles, and other people are surrounding her and lamenting. As you can see, above Mary there is a soul with wings. It means her soul goes to heaven.

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  • toshigiappone's Profile Photo

    Chora Church; Mosaics of Jesus Christ

    by toshigiappone Written May 4, 2005
    Mosaic of Christ

    Yes, inside the Chora Chuch most of walls are covered with either mosaics or frescos. All of them are the masterpieces of Byzantine Arts. Anyway, this is one of them. This mosaic depicts Christ with Bible with Greek inscriptions. His right hands means Trinity.

    Above Christ, you can see the mosaics which show "Wedding at Cana and the miracles". On the left side Jesus makes changes water to wine, and onethe right he increases bread.

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    Chora Church; General Info.

    by toshigiappone Written May 4, 2005

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    Chora Church

    Chora Church is an ummissable site in Istanbul. Here you can see the one of the best Byzantine mosaics as well as in Ravenna, Italy.

    Chora Church, or "Church of the Holy Savivour Outside the Walls" was built during Constantine the Great's reign(A. D. 306- 337). But later, it was rebuilt in 11th century, and kept constructed for centuries. This church's main attractions, marvellous mosaics and fairly good frescos dates from 1312. They are funded by Theodoros Metochites, one of beaucrats during the reign of Andronikos II(1282-1328). During the Ottman Empire, this church was turned to the mosque, and mosaics and frescos were covered with whitewash and plaster. In the middle of 20th. century, they are removed, and this "mosque"was open as a museum.

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  • terrycowan's Profile Photo

    Chora Church (Kariye Muzesi)

    by terrycowan Written Apr 25, 2005

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    The Ascension of Christ, mosaic in Chora Church

    This should be on everyone's Istanbul itinerary. In my view, this church has the best Byzantine mosaics that have survived. They are simply sublime. The present church dates to the 11th century, and it later served as a mosque after the fall of Constantinople. Chora is a little out of the way, and a little hard to find without a good map. Best to take a taxi there and back.

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  • call_me_rhia's Profile Photo

    Kariye Camii

    by call_me_rhia Updated Apr 23, 2005

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    one of the mosaics

    Do you like bizantine mosaics? Then head to Kariye Camii for some really fine one. At the beginning this building used to be a church, the church of The Holy Savior in Chora, but like the more famous Aya Sophia, it was converted into a mosque at the end of the 15th century, and became known as Kariye Camii. Today it has been turned into a museum.

    The museum is small, so it tends to look a bit crowded when there are tour groups around, and my advice is to go there as early as possible - you need peace and quiet to admire the mosaics. They cover both walls and ceiling - and the glitter as gold - if you can get hold of a good descriptive guidebook you'll be very happy.

    Mosaics aside, there's also a nave covered in frescos: it's interesting as well but it can't be compared with the mosaics - really among the finest in the world.

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