Chora Church

The Chora Church (Greek Ἐκκλησία του Ἅγιου Σωτῆρος ἐν τῃ Χώρᾳ, Μουσείο Χώρας; Turkish Kariye Camii, Kariye Muzesi), located in Istanbul's Fatih, is a former Byzantine church. The mosaics and frescoes in the style of Renaissance palaiologischen are among the largest and most elaborate sacred cycles worldwide. The church was converted under the Ottomans in the early 16th century into a mosque, restored after 1948 and converted into a museum.


As early as the 5th century stood outside the walls, which Constantine the Great had built around his new capital in the 4th century, a church which was called Chora, meaning " land surrounding " means. As Theodosius II the defensive wall, the Walls of so-called, moved further to the west, remained the name even though the complex was now involved in the actual city. The term has also gained symbolic significance, since inscriptions in the church of Christ described as " land of the living " and Mary as the "Land of the infinite ."

1077-1081 donated Maria Doukaina, the mother Emperor Alexius I, the church, which is likely to be a four-pillar church, a then very popular design, acted. After a partial collapse in the early 12th century the church by the grandson of the founder, Isaac Komnenos, the third son of Alexios I was thoroughly renovated and remodeled consuming. But it was only in the third construction phase two centuries later, the Chora Church was, as we know it today. Theodoros Metochites, the chancellor and first treasurer under Andronikos II Palaiologos, was in the years 1315 to 1321, the nascent decline in church from the ground to restore and embellish with extensive series. The mosaics are the most important example for the renaissance of Palaiologos.

About half a century after the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans was the Chora Church, which had served the Christian rite until then, converted by Atik Ali Pasha, the Grand Vizier Bayezid II into a mosque and renamed Kariye Camii. The mosaics were due to the prohibition of images in Islam under plaster or were glossed over. Others broke in the frequent earthquakes of the walls.

Since 1948, Thomas Whittemore organized and Paul A. Underwood, a first by Byzantine Institute of America and later the Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies, sponsored restoration program. Around the Kariye Museum has renovated an entire complex of wooden houses from the Ottoman period, the Turkish Automobile Club ttŏk.


The church is preceded by a Eso and a Exonarthex, on the right side is a side chapel ( parekklesion ), on the left a two-story gallery. Across the center room rests a dome that was renewed in its present form by the Ottomans.


The mosaics and frescoes are qualitatively as well as their number according to the most important preserved Byzantine works of art. If there are differences in detail, they have ahead with their liveliness and their realism in Italian frescoes of the early Renaissance. With the Byzantine art traditionally been strictly stylized, they have only little in common. The gracefully moving people give the representations incomparable lightness and elegance that is further underlined by the fresh color scheme. The long-span variety of biblical topics gives an idea of the creative power of Byzantine masters. Significantly, the narrative pleasure and the detail of the mosaics. Your themes are the incarnation of God ( the incarnation ) and the redemption related people. The second coming of Christ as the central motif of the frescoes of the grave chapel completes this concept.

The mosaics

The mosaics in the church follow a strict iconographic order. Upon entering the Chora Church to look at the representation of Christ Pantocrator falls over the portal to the inner narthex. Lady appears Behind opposite the main entrance: The founding of Christ and Mary was thus consecrated. After passing through the outer narthex one encounters the founder mosaic, Theodoros Metochites is kneeling, as he offers Christ a model of his church. Two mosaic icons Peter and Paul flanking the passageway. The Südkuppel front shows Christ Pantocrator and the genealogy of Christ, the North Dome Maria and her ancestors. In the following, under the dome of the cycle from the original 20 scenes begins with scenes from the legend of the very popular in the Middle Ages Marienlebens. The cycle of paintings in the outer narthex begins with Jesus' childhood and deals with the representations of the public ministry of Christ in the inner narthex into continuing. Portraits of saints and the mosaic of the dying Virgin in the nave complete the overall picture.

Genealogy of Mary, in the center of the Virgin and Child mosaic in the north dome in esonarthex

Mosaic showing the Journey to Bethlehem

Census for collecting taxes before Kyrenios ( Quirinius )

Christ as the "Land of the Living", mosaic over the passage to esonarthex

The frescoes

The frescoes in the southern side chapel ( parekklesion ) were the last order of the Registrar Theodoros Metochites, dating probably from the years 1320 and 1321, the imagery is typical of representations in a grave chapel. There are themes of resurrection and the Last Judgment. The painting above the mantel make Christ the Judge, heaven and hell, and Mary as a mediator between heaven and earth dar. In the conch of the apse is to see the Descent into Hell (Greek Anastasis ). In the center is Christ, who has just blown up the rocks and gates of hell, the tethered Satan is at his feet. With his right hand he pulls Adam out of the grave, with the left he freed Eve. Behind Adam stand John the Baptist, David and Solomon, in Eva's grave Abel and a group of righteous. The four graves in the chapel are in deep niches. Originally there were sarcophagi. In are still traces of the former mosaics and frescoes to be seen.

Archangel Michael

The Last Judgement

The grave of Theodore Metochites

An elaborately carved and decorated Archivolte adorns the grave on the northern end of the chapel. The name inscription is lost, yet is certain that this is the grave of the founder of the church, Theodoros Metochites, is. He was one of the most important figures of his time, a typical representative of palaiologischen Renaissance: He was a diplomat, a high government official, theologian, philosopher, historian, astronomer, poet and patron of the arts. He is regarded as one of the initiators of the renaissance of Palaiologos. After the coup by Andronikos III. (1328-1341) were Metochites and the other leaders of the old regime in disgrace. They lost their property and were sent into exile. Only shortly before the end of his life could Metochites return to the city and withdrew to the Chora Monastery, where he died on May 13, 1331.