Undoubtedly, religious places or museums are among the things that can be used to trace the culture and customs of the people of Istanbul. Now imagine that a place can accommodate both of these, so definitely this place can help us a lot in our understanding of the people’s culture and it can also inform us about the history and ancient background of the unique city of Istanbul. The Chora Church in Istanbul is exactly the place that can make a significant impact on our knowledg about the history and culture of the people of Istanbul.
Chora Church, which was originally the Church of the Holy Savior, owes its name to its location. During different eras, it has received many attentions, that is why it has faced countless changes and transformations, including the conversion of this church into a mosque and a museum. And also, it might be interesting to know that today this church has been able to welcome its visitors and enthusiasts as a beautiful and spectacular museum and open its doors to them. Long and several thousand years old, it has been able to attract many tourists and history lovers every year.
An Introduction of Chora Church in Istanbul, Turkey
It wasn’t until the fourth century AD that the Greeks decided to construct the Church of the Holy Savior around the city of Istanbul, which is now known as the Kariye neighborhood. It’s interesting to note that Chora in Greek means “outside the city,” and because the site on which the church was built was on the outskirts of the city, it became known as Chura Church.
But as time went on and as a result of earthquakes, this building had several restorations, and naturally, throughout each of these renovations, new portions and sections were added to the structure, doubling its beauty. However, as time went on, the Ottomans rose to power, the Greeks were routed, and this structure was transformed into a mosque, with additions made to it.
But again, these were not the last changes of Chora Church, because with the victory of Ata Turk and the independence of the government of the Republic of Turkey, this building became the Kariye Muzesi. Additionally, it was able to display one of the most magnificent and arresting works of mosaic art from the Eastern Roman Empire.
Where is Chora Church?
Chora Church lies three miles northwest of Sultan Ahmed district, on top of the Golden Horn hills and to the south of the Golden Horn. This old cathedral is 30 kilometers from Istanbul airport and 12 kilometers from Ataturk airport. You simply need an hour to view the most exquisite relics of this unique architecture at this cathedral.
The reason for the fame of Chura Church
The narratives that may be followed in each segment, one of the biblical stories in these works of art, are what distinguishes the paintings and tiles of Chora Church or Kariye Museum. The presence of 18 watercolor mosaic paintings depicting the life of the Virgin Mary are among the most important works of art in this building, which have made Chora Church famous.
Theodore Metochites was a scientist, researcher, poet and supporter of art, who in 1312 commissioned the brilliant paintings on the walls of Chora church. The entrance door of the inner vestibule depicts a painting with this theme, which depicts Theodore in Christian dress, offering a structure of the church to Christ. This image caused this person to be imprisoned, and released near the time of his death. In the last years of his life, Theodore Metochites was a monk in the Church of Chora, and after his death he was buried in the church.
Chora Church Architecture
The Chora Church in Istanbul is recognized as one of the most important historical buildings from the Byzantine era, second only to the construction of the Hagia Sophia Mosque. The walls of this church, which are decorated with exquisite paintings and mosaics from the 14th century, depict scenes from the lives of Jesus Christ and Mary.
The unique mosaics and paintings depicted in this building are an example of Byzantine art and a symbol of dynamism. The Church of St. Sophia, St. Sergius, and St. Irene in Constantinople and Ravena in Italy are two prime examples of Byzantine architecture.
In fact, in the evolution of this building, bricks replaced its stones and mosaics, and the domes got a more complex structure. The main space (nave), little church, and small and big vestibules (narthex) in the inner and outer regions make up the structure of Chora Church, and the entry door is situated on the west side of the building.
Chora features six domes in all, three of which are in the main structure, two of which are in the interior vestibules, and one of which is in the tiny church. The two-story structure (nnex), which can be seen on the north of the church, is one of the components that were added to the construction of this church in subsequent historical eras.
Different parts in Chora church
Internal and external vestibules
As was already noted, the Chora Church’s main entrance is situated on the building’s western side, dividing it into two internal and outdoor vestibules.
The paintings depicting the birth of Jesus Christ (AS) in the external vestibule and the birth of Hazrat Maryam (AS) in the inner vestibule have both produced lovely effects in the vestibule’s two main characteristics. The genealogy of Christ is depicted in this part with an image of Christ and a picture of his ancestors. A very impressive depiction of the Virgin Mary and a Christian infant also shines out at the top of this piece of art.
The Main Building of Chura Church
Three domes may be observed as one approach the Chora Church’s central area. Marble stones are used to cover the main area’s walls and floor. This church’s main structure is unexpectedly simple and has a serene aura, as though the architect wishes to emphasize that it was once a monastery.
Small Church in Chora
The little church is well-known for its two Prophet Moses (pbuh) tablets and distinctive artistic mosaics. The little church’s mosaics feature depictions of the resurrection and life after death; thus, the funeral service is also conducted there.
Changing the use of Chora church
After Istanbul was taken over in 1453 AD, the Chora Church was converted into a monastery. The Kariye Museum was eventually housed in this structure, in 1948. Hadım Ali Pasha (Grand Minister of Beyazit II) transformed this old structure into the Kariye Mosque at the start of the 16th century.
It should be noted that this mosque eventually added a kitchen and a school. Unfortunately, most of the artwork and wall paintings were covered with whitewash and wooden structures after this change in use. However, the Turkish government became aware of Chora Church in the 19th century, and the American Institute restored the structure, restoring its magnificent artwork and paintings.
The Access Route to Chora Church
Chora Church, which is now known as Kariye Museum, is easily accessible by traveling more than 5 kilometers northwest of Istanbul’s Sultanahmet quarter.
Of course, knowing that you can readily visit this museum by public transit is a plus. It is sufficient to take a bus or cab to the Fatih district and Fawzi Pasha Street, and then locate the Kariye Museum to the north of the Fatih neighborhood.
Chora Church Visit Information
Since the entrance to the mosques in Istanbul is free, there is no charge to enter the Chora Mosque.
Visiting hours of Churai Kariye mosque are from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; but it is not possible to visit during prayer hours. During prayer, the mosaics are covered, and after the prayer, these covers are removed, and visitors can enter to visit this historic mosque.
Sights around Chora Church
- Istanbul Takfor Museum Palace is located in Edirnekapi neighborhood and 350 meters away from Chora Church.
- The Walls of Constantinople or Theodosian Walls, also known as the Edirne Gate, are located in Edirnekapi neighborhood and near the church, at a distance of 450 meters.
- Mehrmah Sultan Mosque of Istanbul is located in Fatih area and at a distance of 750 meters from this church.
- Balat tourist neighborhood is situated in the European part of Istanbul and on the west of the Golden Horn coast, which Balat neighborhood is located 950 meters from the historical Chora Church.