The Kariye Museum, the 11th-century church of “St. Savior” in the Chora complex, is after Hagia Sophia, the most important Byzantine monument in Istanbul. Unremarkable in its architecture, inside the walls are decorated with superb 14th-century mosaics.
A small church built here before the erection of the 5th century Roman city walls gave its name to the later churches built on the same site. The present-day edifice is dated to the llth-14th centuries. Besides its attractive exterior, the mosaics and frescoes inside are considered masterpieces of the Byzantine “renaissance”. These decorations and the additions made in the 14th century were ordered by Theodore Metochites.
Illustrating scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, these brilliantly colored paintings embody the vigor of Byzantine art. In restored wooden houses in the area surrounding the church you can enjoy tea and coffee in a relaxed atmosphere far removed from the city’s hectic pace.
The Chora monastery and its church gained in importance in time when they became neighbors with the imperial palaces. These rich and meticulous decorations were made by master artists under the difficult conditions of the 14th century.
The famous scholar and statesman Theodore Metochites built the side chapel, the exonarthex and had the church decorated in the 1320’s. The mosaic panels were created by a group of artists. The mosaics on the upper sections of the inner narthex have not survived to our day. It was characteristic of Byzantine art to add monograms and inscriptions next to the figures. The museum is located in a charming district with old wooden houses, hotels and cafes.
Address: Kariye Cami Sokak, Edirnekapy Istanbul
Open every day except Wednesday