This trek will take us to see one of the most beautiful examples of mosaics and frescos of the latest Byzantine painting (14th century): The Chora Church (Kariye Mosque meanıng in old Turkish a village or the countryside). This photo trek will take two hours and yes! you can take as many pictures you want but not flash and tripots are allowed. It is recomended to get an audio guide to have as much information as posible of the beauty you are looking.
Deesis: Christ with Mary and John the Baptist.
To get to the Chora museum is easy, you can take a bus (any of the bus No.’s 31E, 37E, 38E or 36KE will do) from Eminonu and get off the bus at Edirnekapi stop. The museum is 5 minutes walk from the bus stop. The museum is open from 09.00 and 17.00 during winter season and is closed on Wednesdays.
Front exterior of the former church.
What is now the Chora Museum started life as the Church of St Savior of Chora, taking its name from the Greek word 'chora' meaning 'country'. Todays there's precious littie sign of any country side here, but when the original church was built it lay outside the Constantinian city walls.
It is known that there was a chapel outside of the city before the 5th century when the city walls were erected. "The first Chora Church was rebuilt by Justinianus (527-565) in place of this chapel. In the era of Komnenoi, it served as the court chapel for important religious ceremonies, thanks to its nearness to the Palace of Blachernae." http://www.choramuseum.com/chora-church/
Back of the Church.
The church was destroyed during the Latin invasion (1204-1261) and repaired in the reign of Andronikos II (1282-1328) by the Treasury Minister of the palace, Theodore Metochites (1313). It was expanded towards north, an exonarthex was added to its western side and a chapel (Parecclesion) to its southern side, and it was decorated with mosaics and frescoes.
The mosaics and frescoes in the Chora are the most beautiful examples dating from the last period of the Byzantine painting (14th century). The characteristic stylistic elements in those mosaics and frescoes are the depth, the movements and plastic values of figures and the elongation of figures.
11th-Century mosaic of Christ Pantocrator over the door between the exonarthex and narthex.
After continuing to serve as a church following the conquest of Istanbul in 1453, the building was converted into a mosque in 1511 by Vizier Hadim Ali Pasha. It was converted into a museum in 1945, and during the restoration in 1948-1959 carried out by the Byzantine Institute of America, the mosaics and frescoes were uncovered and brought to the daylight.
Above the Chrıst Pantocrator on the left, the Miracle at Cana.
The Governor Cyrenius carries out census before leaving tax.
Many of the images depicted in the narthex will be familiar to Western Visitors form their own churches. For example, see mosaıcs of the Three Magi arriving to visit baby Jesus, and Mary and Joseph on the fligh into Egypt after they learn of Herod's intended Massacre of the İnnocents, which is also vivdly depicted.
Birth of Jesus.
and Temptation of Christ (above the ceiling).
One of the more intriguine groups of images is high on the vaults where the Temptetion of Christ in the desert is rendered in four scenes: Satan tries to persuade him to turn rocks ınto bread, or jump off a tower in Jerusalem to prove his divinity, before offering him endless riches if he will ownly bow down and worship him.
Theodore Metochites presenting a model of the church to Christ.
Corridor of the outer narthex.
Virgin and the child (window).
The mosaics here tell the story of Mary's elderly parents Anne and Joachim, and of the birth of their daughter. Unusually in the story of Christ himself there are no depictions of the events surrounding his death or of the Crucifixion or Resurection, although the later is depicted in the frescos of the parecclesion. The domes of the ınner narthex depicts Christ's lineage traced back to Adam and Jacob, and the Virgin Mary's running back throuh a line of 15 kıngs to David.
The inner narthex is like a corridor.
Family tree of Virgin Mary
Deesis: Christ with Mary and John the Baptist.
Family Tree of Jesus.
The upper part of the mosaıcs shows the childhood of Mary, and the lower part her birth.
St Paul, once Saul of Tarsus holds a holy book.
St Peter holds the keys to heaven.
The nave of the church is more conspicuos for hte beauty of the marble panels decorating the walls, some of them created by slicing a single sheet of marble down the middle and then placing the two pieces side by side, a technique also used ın Hagia Sophia. However the three mosaic pannels to be seen herea re as ımportant as those ın the narthex.
Mosaic of the Dormition (Death) of the Virgin Mary.
İmmedıately above the entrance a large panel depicts the Dormition (Death)of the Virgin. Beside her, enclosed in a mandorla, stands Christ holding a baby that represents her soul. Above him hovers a seaphim with six wings that loks very like a flower.
Parecclesion and the frescos
The wonderful parecclesion served as funerary chapel and feels almost lıke a separate buildıng. Not all the eıth people buried here have been identified but among them were Meichael Tornikos, a friend of Metochites and his wife; İrene Raulaina Palaeologina, a princes with ties by marriage to MEtochites; and the despot Demetrius Doukas Angelus Paleologos. Most important tomb in the north wall is believed to have been the lst resting place of Metochites himself.
The mosaics of the nave and narthex may be ımpressive but the frescos of the pracclesion that will propably leave the strongest ımpressıon on many visitors mainly because the contrast between the pastel colors and bold black and white designs is so visually stunning.
Fresco of the Last Judgment.
The second most extraordinary scene ın the pareclession is the image of the Last Judegment spread across the ceiling vault. Always a a favorit with iconographers because of the potential it offered for mischief-making, this depicts Christ sitting in judgment between souls of the saved on the right and condemned on his left. Below him to his left a spreading red blod symbolizes Hell and the river of fire waiting the guilty. Inmediatly beneath him Adam and Eve kneel in front of a throne that will remain empty untith the Second Coming of Christ. Above him is Heaven is represented as what looks lıke a giant white snail borne aloft by an angel.
The Harrowing of Hell (Anastasis).
As soon as you enter the parecclesion you will notice the dramatic image of the Anastasis (Resurrectionö Harrowing of Hell) covering the ceiling of the apse. İn the center Christ surrounded by a double mandorla decorated with stars reaches out his hands to raise Adam and Eve from their tombs. Beneath his feet the Gates of Hell lie broken ın pieces while Satan appears as prisioner in handcuffs. Behind the white bearded Adam stands St John the Baptists and the righteous kings, David and Salomon. Behind Eve, Abel stands in an open sarcophagus holding a staff, while behind him are assembled more of the righteous.
The Virgin Mary and the Christ Child.
The walls of the parecclesion are divided into two sections; along the lower part run a lain of saints, most of the best known to the Easter church although St George should be recognizible to most people. The dome is adorned with a wonderful central image of the Vırgin and Chid wnd with series of beautifully rendered standing angels in Byzantine-style outfits, all agains a backdrop of deepest navy blue.
Virgin Mary Cupola (Detail).
Fathers of the Church.
Lined up under the Anastasis and clad in glorious black and white robes are the Fathers of the Chruch: St Athanasius, St John Chrysostom, St Basil, St Nicolas of Myra (alias Father Christmas), St Gregory the Theologian, and St Cyril of Alexandria.
İt is imposible to take all the details of this beautiful place. İt was a challenge to get to this photo trek. I even forgot to take pictures of some frescos and I had to come back but it was worth it. I would absolutley return to this place is beautiful and absolutely a must one!!!
As of now I hope you enjoyed the views!
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