10-07-2019 - History

History of Chora Church

The Kariye Mosque (in Turkish, Kariye Camii) is a medieval Greek Orthodox church in Istanbul's Edirnekap neighborhood that is now used as a mosque. It is also known as the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora. The neighborhood is situated in the Fatih district municipality's western section. The Holy Saviour Church in Chora was built in the Byzantine style. During the Ottoman era in the 16th century, the Christian church was turned into a mosque; it became a museum in 1945, but was converted again into a mosque in Istanbul in 2020.


Since the building was secularized and turned into a museum, some of the oldest and most exquisite Byzantine Christian mosaics and frescoes were uncovered and restored. Take a look at this structure while you're in Istanbul, but first, let's take a look at the past of this lovely tourist attraction.


Construction of Chora Church

The Chora Church in Istanbul was built as part of a monastery complex outside Constantinople's city walls, to the south of the Golden Horn, erected by Constantine the Great in the early fourth century. The church was incorporated into the city's defences when Theodosius II built his strong land walls in 413–414, but the name Chora remained. 


The fabric of the current building dates from 1077–1081, when Maria Dukaina, Alexius I Comnenus' adoptive mother, rebuilt the Kariye Kilisesi as an engraved cross or quincunx, a common architectural style at the period. In the early 12th century, the church partially collapsed, most likely due to an earthquake.


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Fifty years after the city fell to the Ottomans, Atk Ali Pasha, Sultan Bayezid II’s Grand Vizier, ordered the Chora Church to be converted into a mosque — Kariye Camii. The name Kariye derives from the Greek word Chora. According to Islam's prohibition on classic paintings, the mosaics and frescoes were covered with a layer of plaster. As a result of this, as well as the region's frequent earthquakes, the artwork has suffered.


Isaac Comnenus, Alexius' third son, rebuilt the church. The church as we know it today did not begin building until the third century, two centuries later. The prominent Byzantine statesman Theodore Metochites contributed much of the church's fine mosaics and frescoes, which you will see when you visit Istanbul. Theodore finished his magnificent interior decoration between 1315 and 1321. The mosaic work is the Palaeologian Renaissance's most outstanding example. The artists' identities are unknown. In 1328, the usurper Andronicus III Palaeologus expelled Theodore.


The Byzantine Institute of America and the Dumbarton Oaks Centre for Byzantine in Istanbul Studies funded a renovation campaign in 1948 to repair, and preserve the frescoes in Chora, which had been plastered and whitewashed over twice to hide all representational imagery during the Ottoman persecutory period when the Byzantine era church was used as a mosque. The project lasted for twelve years in the 1950’s. Under the name of Istanbul's Kariye Muzesi, Chora was opened to the public as a museum in 1958.


Chora Church Today

In 2005, the Association of Permanent Foundations and Service to Historical Artifacts and the Environment filed a lawsuit to get the Chora Church's museum status overturned. In November 2019, the Turkish Council of State, Turkey's top administrative court, ordered that it be converted into a mosque. In August 2020, it was named as a mosque. The decision to transform Chora Church into a mosque was condemned by both Greek Orthodox and Protestant Christians in Turkey. Like the Hagia Sophia, Chora Church was converted into a mosque.


Are Istanbul Tourist Pass attractions covid-safe?

Yes! We, as well as the museums, take precautions very seriously. Istanbul is a low-risk travel destination in contrast to other countries, and travel experts take safety measures very seriously. Social distance is maintained during museum visits, and masks are required at all times. The number of guests is limited at any given time. In addition, since the Istanbul Tourist Pass is fully digital, there is less chance of transmission when registering or visiting Istanbul's museums and palaces, such as Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace.

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