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Turkey: Chora Museum

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Chora Museum > Turkey > Europe

[Visited: March 2003]

Hidden in the Edirnekapi quarter of Istanbul, the Chora (Kariye in Turkish) museum is one of the historical jewels to be seen in this immensely interesting city. I walked here on a clear, cold late winter day, the snow still dripping from the ceilings, and when I arrived at the small square where the Chora museum is located, people were clearing the square from the snow, and through the barren trees I could see the typical Byzantine building with one minaret. From the outside, the building is quite plain, with mostly brick walls. After having served as a church for many centuries (the first church was built here in the 5th century), it was turned into a mosque after the 1453 conquest of the city by the Turks in 1511.

Picture of Chora Museum (Turkey): Chora Museum: mosaic of Jesus

Once inside, mosaics are everywhere around you. They tell the story of the life of Virgin Mary and the life and miracles of Christ. Although some parts of the mosaics are lost, in general they were well restored. It is possible to "read" the stories they tell by just walking in the proper order. In many mosaics, several episodes in a story are told by depicting the same persons several times in different scenes. There are several cupolas high above the floor, and also in their ceilings you can see mosaics. It is only the main hall that is largely without mosaics, but has colourful marble slabs of stone on its walls instead.

Picture of Chora Museum (Turkey): Saint depited in Chora museum, Istanbul

Once you have seen the mosaics, you are not done yet. There is the parecclesion, the annexed grave chapel. Here, you can see frescoes instead of mosaics, probably made by the same masters who also did the mosaics. Daylight flows in through openings in the cupola above. Even though the frescoes are equally beautiful, my attention was immediately drawn to the end of the apse, where a giant fresco depicts the Anastasis. In another fresco, we can see Jesus in the last judgment scene, while Virgin Mary with the child Jesus in her hands and twelve apostles are looking down on us from the dome.

Picture of Chora Museum (Turkey): Mosaic inside Chora Museum, Istanbul
Picture of Chora Museum (Turkey): Cupola of parecclesion, fresco, Chora museum
Picture of Chora Museum (Turkey): Fresco of saints inside Chora Museum
Picture of Chora Museum (Turkey): Kariye museum from backyard, Istanbul
Picture of Chora Museum (Turkey): Chora museum from outside, Istanbul
Picture of Chora Museum (Turkey): Turning water into wine: mosaic in Chora museum
Picture of Chora Museum (Turkey): Mosaics inside cupola of Chora museum
Picture of Chora Museum (Turkey): Anastasis fresco, Chora museum, Istanbul
Picture of Chora Museum (Turkey): Fresco of St. George, Chora museum, Istanbul

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