Chora Monastery, Church of the Holy Savior in Chora (Kariye Museum)

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Chora Monastery, Church of the Holy Savior in Chora (Kariye Museum)

Kariye Museum is just converted into a mosque

Chora (church(?) museum(?) mosque(?) or whatever it is) is located in Edirnekapı district of Istanbul. Kariye, which is one of the most interesting places in Istanbul,is a building that looks modest from the outside and drives people crazy with its inner decoration of incredible mosaics and frescoes. History of Chora, attracting many local or foreign tourists, dates back 1700 years ago.

What is this old Chora issue? What did they build Chora for and what will happen to it?

History of Chora

Kariye museum is actually a big complex monastery church. The original name Chora means suburban in ancient Greek. This name transformed into Kariye in Turkish. I’m going to call it “Chora  Church” since I consider earlier periods.

Why was the suburban area of Chora church important for Christian history?

Kariye museum is actually a big complex monastery church. The original name Chora means suburban in ancient Greek. This name transformed into Kariye in Turkish. I’m going to call it “Chora  Church” since I consider earlier periods.

In ancient sources, according to Simeon Metaphrates who lived in 10th century, the graves of Saint Babylas and his 84 students who were martyred in the great massacre in Nikomedia (todays Iznik) were buried here in 4th century during emperor Diocletian’s reign in 298. 

That’s why the area got important. There used to be a small chapel which collapsed long ago.

Emperor Justinian built a monastery on the ruins of that chapel in 536. But this building also collapsed in 557. Byzantines rebuilt the monastery a few more times. 9th, 11th century by Maria Dukaina, the mother-in-law of Alexios I but devastated by the Latin invasion of 1204-1261. Today’s Kariye was constructed by Theodoros Metokhites; the treasurer of Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II. (He also got himself depicted on a mosaic presenting Chora Church to Christ). Metokhites filled the church with all those frescoes and mosaics which we won’t be able to see again probably.  

Architectural design of monastery?

Outer narthex + inner narthex + naos + additional chapel for burial niches: parekklesion 

Why did they apply narthex and naos plan?

The reason is very simple. Practical uses, ceremonies and rituals…

Same time Solomon Temple had 3 main sections, too; a courtyard + sacred area and naos(holiest room). 

Furthermore it reminds me of  emperor Justinian’s words about Hagia Sophia: “Oh Solomon! I have outdone thee.” 

What to do with the Temple of Jerusalem?

Let me explain how was it in the sanctuary, in the Temple of Jerusalem

Courtyard: Section 1. People present for prayers, sacrifices and other rituals in the courtyard.

Sacred Area: Section 2. The priests prepare for these rituals.

Naos: Section 3. The high priest could enter the most sacred area (naos) only once a year.

Similar here in Chora:

Outer narthex helps people think about theirs and god’s identity, why they come there just before they enter the sacred area. 

Inner narthex is where priests get ready for rituals and enter the Naos with a cross. Building had 4 domes covering all sections.

Especially the inner(life of virgin mary mosaics) and outer narthex (life of Jesus icons) of the church are decorated with magnificent mosaics. 

Some examples from Chora mosaic forest:

Ancestors of Jesus, Deisis, Christ the Pantokrator,Hodegetria, Koimesis, Jesus and Theodoros Metochites, Saint Peter, Saint Paul, The Ascension, Anastasis and many more about Mary’s and Jesus’ life.

These mosaics and frescoes are made far beyond the strict religious forms that were valid at the time. The ​​depth in mosaics and the dynamic style in figures carry a superior artistic value that heralds the Renaissance period even in the Middle Ages.

Kariye Mosque

Ottomans did not harm the building after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. By the order of Mehmet II, the mosaics and frescoes in the church were preserved and covered with plaster thus it was converted into mosques later easily in 1511 by Sultan Bayezid’s Grand Vizier Atik Ali Pasha.

Here comes the museum

By the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Turkey, Kariye Mosque got converted into Kariye Museum on August 29, 1945. Plaster over mosaics and frescoes were removed during restorations and opened to the public in 1958.

 

Kariye is also in UNESCO World Heritage List. 

Kariye is a mosque again

21 August 2020 Kariye is a mosque again and it’s open to prayers from now on. That means they will cover the floor with carpets and walls&domes with no one knows what! 

 

Did we need it? No. 

Did we want it? No.

Frankly speaking, many locals heard about Kariye for the first time in their lives by the news. They didn’t even know that it existed before.

Kariye (Chora) is also standing behind the shadow of political decisions like Hagia Sophia.

I don’t know what harms more the earthquakes, vandalism, wars, riots or just politics alone?

 

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