The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora or The Chora Museum (Kariye Museum) as it is also known, is famous for its stunning 14th century frescoes and mosaics that adorn its walls and ceilings. It’s a museum you should not miss when you’re next in Istanbul!
The ancient Greek word Chora (Kamiye in Turkish) means outside the city. When it was first built in the 5th century, the original church was outside the city walls hence the name. It was destroyed in an earthquake and completely rebuilt in the 11th century. In the 16th century it was converted to a mosque, the Kariye Camii and in 1948 became a museum. If this sounds familiar, you are right…the Aya Sofia has a similar history!
It’s certainly worth the twenty minute taxi ride from Sultanahmet to Edirnekapi. You can also catch the 31E, 36K or 38E bus from Eminönü, as we did, and get off at Edirnekapi stop. From here it is a five minute walk to the museum past old wooden houses that once were part of this important area of the city.
As you wander around the back of the building to the entrance, you can see the additions each era has made to the building, including the minaret that replaced the original belfry.
The mosaics and frescoes date from 1312 when Theodire Metochites, who was the auditor of the treasury under Emperor Andronikos II in the late 13th, early 14th century, funded the work.
Thankfully, when the church was converted to a mosque, they were covered up and left untouched until 1948 when the Byzantine Institute of America began restoration. The Chora Church, which became the Kariye Camii finally became the Chora (or Kariye) Museum.
The mosaics tell the life of Christ and Mary. There is a particular order to seeing the mosaics so an audio cassette is an ideal way to see them properly. However it really doesn’t matter…their artistic splendour is easy to appreciate without it.
The outer passages lead to the nave of the church, where marble lines the walls and large windows allow light to flood the room.
To the right of the nave is a small side chapel, the Parecclesion, that was built to hold the tombs of the church’s founder and his relatives. It is decorated with stunning frescoes depicting scenes from the Old Testament.
What ever you do, don’t miss this beautiful little museum that holds some of the best Byzantine art that Istanbul has to offer!
Know before you go!
Kariye Camii Sok., Kariye Meydani,
Open from 9am- 7pm in Summer and 9am – 5pm in Winter. Closed Wednesdays
An entrance fee of 15TL is payable. If you have an Istanbul Museum, it pass can be used here.
How to get there:
1.31E, 36K or 38E bus from Eminönü getting off at the Edirnekapi stop, followed by a five minute walk
2.Ferry from Eminönü to Ayvansaray and walk up the hill.
This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Don’t forget to pop over and see the other contributions.
Istanbul’s Aya Sofia Museum
Istanbul’s Basilica Cistern
Rustem Pasha: My Favourite Mosque in Istanbul