Chora Museum , Istanbul Overview

Chora or Kariye Museum is a historical building in Istanbul that depicts authentic Byzantine architecture. The monument is basically a church that goes by the name of The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora. The museum is highly known for its intricate and one of the oldest interiors of the Byzantine designs. The architecture, the paintings and the museum depicts a large part of the country’s history in terms of religion, culture and traditions. The word Chora translates to countryside or outskirts in ancient Greek as the chapel was initially built outside the city in the open land.

The whole monument has six domes and the areas can be separated into 3 parts :

1. The main entrance or narthex

The entrance is broad and magnificent and makes way to the main building. The narthex has a total of 2 domes and the walls are decorated with stunning mosaics. Some of the famous ones are :
  1. Joseph’s dream and journey to Bethlehem
  2. Nativity, the Birth of Christ
  3. Mothers mourning for their children
  4. Miracle
  5. Virgins praying
  6. The Land of the Living
  7. Saint Peter
  8. Saint Paul
  9. Birth of the Virgin Mary
  10. The Virgin entrusted to Joseph
  11. And many more

2. The main body or naos 

The main building has 3 domes out of 6, with the largest one being in the centre. The most known mosaics in the naos are :
  1. Koimesis
  2. Jesus Christ
  3. Theodokos

3. The other chapel or parecclesion 


The chapel is located on the side of the monument, and was used for funerals and burials of the royal family members. The parecclesion has only one dome, and is connected to both naos and narthex. The walls are covered with many frescoes such as:
  1. Virgin and Child
  2. Anastasis
  3. Second coming of Christ
  4. Heavenly Court of Angels

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History

The Chora Church was built outside the city walls of Constantinople in the beginning of the 4th century. However under Theodosius II, the walls extended and the church came within the city walls. The church was severely damaged due to an earthquake in the early 12th century and rebuilt by Isaac Comnenus. The re-building took almost two centuries, and the final monument is what we see now. Between the years 1315 - 1321, Theodore Metochites who was a typical Byzantine further beautified the monument with the best of mosaics and frescoes the world had at that time. In the 16th century, the church was converted into a mosque by the Ottoman rulers that covered the mosaics and frescoes as it was against Islam. From 1948 to 1958, the church has gone through many series of restoration after which it was opened for public as a museum.

Tips

  1. Since Chora Museum is on the far side, it is not well connected by public transport. It is advised to hire a cab from Sultanahmet.
  2. Visit this monument when you have a full day so that you can spend time admiring the mosaics.

How to Reach Chora Museum

Tram: Sultanahmet to Topkapi and then change Topkapi to Edirnekapi. Then walk for 10 mins.
Bus: 38E from Eminonu to Edirnekapi and then walk for 10 mins.

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