Istanbul Chora (Kariye) Mosque (Where, What to See, How to Get)

Kariye Mosque stands as a testament to the grandeur of the Byzantine Empire, once forming the central structure of the expansive Chora Monastery dedicated to Jesus. The name “Chora”, meaning the outskirts or countryside in Greek, was aptly chosen as the building lay beyond the walls of Istanbul. The Turkish rendition of this name is “Kariye”.

While the exact construction date remains uncertain, historical records affirm that Emperor Justinian (527-565) ordered the rebuilding of a chapel, existing in ruins outside the city, into the magnificent structure we know today during the 6th century. During the Komnenos Era, its proximity to the Blackhernal Palace saw the church repurposed as a chapel for significant religious ceremonies within the palace grounds.

History of Chora (Kariye) – What to See?

Part of a monastery which dates back to the 6th century, the Chora Mosque (formerly Church-Museum), Kariye in Turkish, is one of the most impressive historical sites in Istanbul. Chora houses very beautiful examples of Byzantine mosaics and frescos.

Renowned globally for its impeccably preserved mosaics and frescoes, this architectural gem encapsulates the essence of East Roman painting, offering a mesmerizing glimpse into the final epoch of this artistic tradition.


Here you can witness the divine narrative unfold through intricate mosaics and frescoes, where the notion of depth in the former and the dynamic rendering of figures foretell the artistic innovations that would blossom in the Renaissance.

“Chora” means “Rural Area” in Greek. According to the record, there had been a chapel outside the ramparts of the area. The first Chora Church was built in the 6th century in the era of Justinianos (527-565), and instead of this chapel.

Derived from the ancient Greek term “Khora” meaning countryside, the name Kariye encapsulates the essence of this historical marvel. Nestled beyond the walls of Istanbul, the Chora Church, initially built during Emperor Justinian’s reign in the 5th century, underwent transformative repairs and additions, culminating in the present structure we marvel at today—a testament to the evolution of architectural prowess through the ages.

Originally a palace church and a venue for significant religious ceremonies, the Chora Church underwent a metamorphosis into a mosque in 1511 under the patronage of Atik Ali Pasha. Later, in 1948, a restoration program sponsored by the Byzantine Institute of America and the Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies breathed new life into its ancient walls.

In 1958, it opened its doors to the public as a museum, revealing its artistic treasures to the world.


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However, the winds of change swirled around this cultural haven. In 2019, the Turkish Council of State decreed its reversion to a mosque, a status formalized in 2020 by a presidential decree.

The Chora Mosque, once again echoing with the echoes of prayer, now stands as a testament to the fluidity of its cultural identity.

There are very good examples of mosaics and frescos at the Chora, belonging to the 14th century late East-Roman painting art.

The Chora owes its resplendent 14th-century frescoes and mosaics to Theodoros Metokhites, the custodian of the treasury. In the outer narthex, mosaic tales unfold the life of Jesus Christ, while the inner narthex narrates the intricate story of the Virgin Mary.

Vivid frescoes adorn the walls, offering a visual symphony of Christian theology, while the rich marble decorations, both on the floor and walls, beckon admiration.

The Chora Mosque isn’t just a structure; it’s a living canvas that transcends time, inviting all who enter to witness the vivid chapters of history etched in its walls.

How to Get to There?

Location

Chora Museum is situated in the Edirnekapi neighborhood of Fatih district, within a walking distance from the Edirnekapi public bus stop. See the location map.


Transportation

There are several transportation options for getting to Chora Museum.

  • From the Asian side of Istanbul, you may take the Metrobus buses and get off at the Edirnekapi stop. And walk from there.
  • You may find variety of public busses operating for Edirnekapi from Seyrantepe, Topkapi, Kadikoy, Levent, Beyazit, Mecidiyeköy and Taksim.
  • You may see the public bus routes and timetables as well as make a route/station search from the Istanbul Municipality Public Busses website.

Contact Details

Address: Kariye Mahallesi, Kariye Camii Sokak No.18 Fatih, Istanbul
Tel: +90 212 631 92 41


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