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chora church museum Istanbul



St. Teodius built the Chora Church in 534, during the reign of Emperor Justinian. The monastery was restored by empress Maria Dukaina in the 11th century. In 1511, the church was converted into a mosque. The Chora Church has many mosaics on the wall, and they are from the 11th and 14th centuries.


The mosaics can still be seen as they were plastered when the church was converted into a mosque. The mosaics are basically about the birth of Jesus Christ, the birth of the Virgin Mary, the miracles of Jesus Christ, and the saints of Christianity. Chora Church was converted into a museum in 1949. With the cabinet’s decision, the museum’s statue has been changed and has become a mosque once again. Like the other mosques in Turkey, everyone is allowed to visit Hagia Sophia. The museum is located in the Edirnekapı neighborhood of the Fatih district.

The Istanbul Chora Mosque is the home of many priceless mosaics and frescoes, making it an essential part of the global art world.

Chora Mosque, also known as Kariye Camii, contains many exquisite mosaics and frescoes that have been painstakingly preserved over the centuries. It showcases the finest and most significant works of East Roman painting from the period just before the art form died out. In the Middle Ages, artists started to use depth in mosaics and draw people in a more lively way, which was a sign of what was to come in the Renaissance.

Because the original church and monastery were located beyond the city walls of Constantinople, the name “Kariye” was derived from the ancient Greek word “Khora,” which means countryside. The construction of Chora Church dates back to the 5th century, during the reign of Emperor Justinian. The original layout has been drastically altered due to repairs and additions. The current structure dates back to the 14th century.


Consider Jesus and Mary in light of these mosaics

The Chora Church, which had previously served as a palace church and a chapel for major religious ceremonies, kept on operating as a church for some time. During Bayezid II’s reign, the grand vizier Atik Ali Pasha transformed it into a mosque in 1511. The minaret in the southwest corner and the niche in the east wall are period details. When it was renovated in 1945, it became a museum.

A program of restoration was funded in 1948 by the Byzantine Institute of America and the Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies, respectively, and led by Thomas Whittemore and Paul A. Underwood. After that, it was no longer used as a place of worship. It first welcomed visitors as a museum in 1958.

The highest administrative court in Turkey, the Turkish Council of State, issued an order on 11/11/2019 for the building to be converted back into a mosque. The building was officially designated as a mosque by presidential decree published in the Official Gazette on August 21, 2020.

Theodoros Metokhites, the treasury administrator, is responsible for the Chora’s beautiful frescoes and mosaics from the 14th century. Mosaics depicting scenes from Jesus’ life can be found in the outer narthex (the generally western entrance section in eastern Roman basilicas and churches), and scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary can be found in the inner narthex.

Narrative frescoes depict pivotal moments in Christian doctrine. The Chora’s floor and wall surfaces, which are decorated with colorful and high-quality marble, are worthy of admiration.


The Kariye Museum in Istanbul is home to some of the most well-known frescoes in the world.

Art historians consider the Kariye Museum (Chora Monastery) in Istanbul’s Edirnekapi neighborhood to be a late Byzantine-era monument. The curator, Miray Can Kirkocoglu, was kind enough to answer our questions about the museum, most of whose visitors come from Europe.

Kariye is the name of a place that is located beyond the city limits

According to Kirkocoglu, the Chora Monastery/Church in Kariye was constructed in the sixth century. According to Kirkocoglu, “Karye” comes from the Greek word “Chora,” which means “outside the city,” and the Arabic word “Karye,” and the church was given its current form in the 14th century thanks to outstanding repair and maintenance efforts funded by Theodoros Metochites, a statesman and an artist.

According to Kirkcoglu, after the conquest of Istanbul, Kariye was still used as a church until 1511, when the Grand Vizier, Hadim Ali Pasa, converted it into a mosque by adding a pulpit, a mihrab, and a minaret. None of the buildings surrounding Kariye remain today.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism opened Kariye in 1948 as a museum connected to the Ayasofya Museum. The beautiful frescoes and mosaics in the Kariye Museum are well-known landmarks because of how important they are to history.

Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and her death are depicted in mosaics at Chora Church (Kariye Museum) in Naos.

Above the main entrance on the Naos’ western wall is a mosaic known as the Death of the Virgin (Greek: ), which depicts the Virgin dead and lying on a funeral bier, surrounded by the apostles. Standing behind Mary’s deathbed, Christ is depicted in a double mandorla (an almond-shaped light encircling the entire figure of a holy person) while holding the swaddled infant who represents Mary’s soul being born into eternal life.

Virgin Hodegetria (Greek: “one who shows the way”) is depicted on the south side of the temple panel of the bema. Mary, the Virgin Mother, stands on a terrace, her head cocked slightly to one side as she contemplates the Christ Child in her arms.

There is a mosaic of Jesus Christ facing north on the templon panel of the bema, holding a Bible open to Matthew 11:28.

The lunettes in the outer narthex of the Chora Church (Kariye Museum) depict stories from the Cycle of the Infancy of Christ. Joseph’s dream, in which an angel confirms Mary’s miraculous conception; the trip to Bethlehem; Mary and the Holy Family’s enrollment for taxation; Elizabeth and John’s escape; the birth of Jesus; the Holy Family’s return to Egypt; Jesus’ presentation in Jerusalem; and Jesus’ ascension into heaven.


The biblical account of the Magi’s visit to King Herod, who is seated on his throne, and their announcement of their discovery of Christ’s birth through astronomical means as well as the Massacre of the Innocents, in which King Herod orders the slaughter of all male children.

Many of Christ’s miracles, including the changing of water into wine, are depicted in mosaics that line the outer narthex. Christ’s healing of the paralytic at Capernaum and the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda; Jesus’ first public miracle; the multiplication of loaves; a segment from the Miraculous Feeding of the Five Thousand; the Samaritan Woman; Jesus’ encounter with and conversation with Lazarus; and more.

The two scenes on either side of the dividing line in the southern half of the second vault of the outer narthex show either John the Baptist baptizing Christ or the four times the Devil challenged Christ to prove he was divine.

The inner narthex (Greek: v) of Chora Church (Kariye Museum) is a four-by-eighteen-meter rectangle that is perpendicular to the outer narthex. The structure’s lunettes and vaults are covered with statues of saints and images of the Virgin Mary and Christ’s miracles.

The Virgin’s life is depicted in three bays of the inner narthex, beginning with her miraculous conception by her grandparents Joachim and Anna, continuing through her childhood visits to the temple, her birth, her first steps toward Anne at the age of six months, her marriage to Joseph, also an elderly man, and culminating in her miraculous pregnancy.

On the eastern wall of the narthex, there is a big statue of Deesis that shows Christ, the Virgin Mary, Isaac Komnenos, and Sister Melanie, the founders of the convent, bowing down before them.

There are two elaborate domes in the inner narthex. The 24-fluted, nine-windowed southern dome measures 3.74 meters in diameter and features an image of Christ as Pantocrator at its pinnacle. For each flute in the set, 39 portraits of ancestors are placed, one for each generation in Christ’s lineage from Adam. Some of Christ’s miracles are depicted in the pendentives that encircle the Dome of the Ancestors. These range from the healing of a blind man and a dumb man to that of a bleeding woman.

The 3.40-meter-diameter northern dome features two rows of flutes, five windows, and mosaics depicting Mary’s ancestors, including sixteen kings of the House of David. The Virgin Mary and the Christ Child are depicted at the peak.

The funerary chapel of the rectangular and single-aisled Chora Church (Kariye Museum) features fresco paintings, figural representations and portraits, lunettes, and four arched tombs, or Arcosolia, vaults placed on either side of the central bays, two in the south wall and two in the north wall. The scenes of resurrection and the afterlife, as well as the intercession of saints, show that Parekklesion was not only built as a shelter for the tombs, including that of Metochites but also used for the performance of rituals related to death and burial.


Christ’s and Mary’s salvific powers are emphasized in the frescoes that adorn the Parekklesion in the Church of Chora. Each side of the anastasis, which extends over the arch of the bema, depicts a different resurrection miracle performed by Christ, including his role in Adam and Eve’s resurrection. The Second Coming of Christ, also known as the Last Judgment, is a salvific event because it features Christ sitting in judgment, conquering death, and redeeming the righteous.

In the medallion of the dodecagonal ribbed dome on the western side of the chapel, the theme of incarnation is evident, with the Virgin and Child surrounded by a host of angels and Byzantine hymnographers seated on the pendentives of the dome, writing hymns that were incorporated into funeral services honoring the Virgin and emphasizing her role in the process of salvation.

The Byzantines considered the saints and martyrs depicted on the walls of Periklesia to be intermediaries between themselves and God. The Martyrs are depicted on the walls from the south to the west to the northeast.


The mosaics are basically;


Six large dedicatory or devotional panels in the outer and inner narthexes

The Ancestry of Christ in two domes of the inner narthex

The Cycle of the Life of the Blessed Virgin in the first three bays of the inner narthex

The Cycle of the Infancy of Christ in the lunettes of the outer narthex

The Cycle of Christ’s Ministry in the vaults of the outer narthex and the fourth bay of the inner narthex

The three panels in the nave


Frequently Asked Questions About the Chora Church Museum

Q: What is the Chora Church Museum?

A: The Chora Church Museum is a Byzantine church located in Istanbul, Turkey, that has been converted into a museum.


Q: Where is the Chora Church Museum located?

A: The Chora Church Museum is located in the neighborhood of Edirnekapi, Istanbul, Turkey.


Q: What is the history of the Chora Church Museum?

A: The Chora Church was built in the early Byzantine period, and it has been renovated several times over the centuries. It was converted into a mosque in the Ottoman period and then into a museum in the 20th century.


Q: What are the popular tourist attractions in the Chora Church Museum?

A: The Chora Church Museum is known for its well-preserved Byzantine mosaics and frescoes, which are considered some of the finest examples of Byzantine art.


Q: What are the opening hours of the Chora Church Museum?

A: The Chora Church Museum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day except Monday.


Q: How much does it cost to visit the Chora Church Museum?

A: The entrance fee for the Chora Church Museum is approximately 20 Turkish Lira.


Q: What is the dress code for the Chora Church Museum?

A: Visitors to the Chora Church Museum are expected to dress modestly and cover their shoulders and knees.


Q: Is there a guide available at the Chora Church Museum?

A: Yes, there are audio guides available for visitors to the Chora Church Museum.


Q: What is the transportation like to the Chora Church Museum?

A: The Chora Church Museum is easily accessible by bus or metro.


Q: Are there any restrictions on taking photos at the Chora Church Museum?

A: Yes, taking photos inside the Chora Church Museum is restricted, and visitors are not allowed to take flash photos.


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