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Chora Church (Kariye Museum)

Visit the stunningly beautiful museum and admire the magnificent mosaics and intricate frescoes adorning the walls of this ancient church.

Sitting in the heart of the Edirnekapı district, just west of the city centre, lies one of Istanbul’s greatest treasures. Widely considered one of the most beautiful churches surviving from the Byzantine era, the serene Chora Church and Kariye Museum is a fitting custodian of the magnificent 14th-century mosaics and frescoes that adorn its interior.

Having survived centuries of invasion, natural disaster, reparation and reconstruction, this ancient site has been home to some form of religious building since the 4th century, when Emperor Constantine decreed a church be built just west of the city walls. This original church was known as “The Church of the Holy Saviour Outside the Walls”, sometimes shortened to "Chora" which literally means "outside of the city". The Turkish word “Kariye”, used in the church's later incarnation as a mosque, has the very same meaning.

Sometime later in the 5th century, the city walls were expanded by Emperor Theodosius II and the church officially came within the municipal boundary of Constantinople. Maria Dukaina, the mother-in-law of Alexius I Comnenus, further renovated the church in the 11th century and, although it has undergone many improvements, repairs and changes in the intervening years, including its conversion into a mosque in the 16th century, it is this 11th-century church that is home to the present-day Kariye Museum.

While the exterior of the church is arresting enough in its glory, the exquisite interior will truly take your breath away. As you wander through the sacred space, take in the extraordinary mosaics and pristine frescoes that depict the life of Christ and stories from the Old Testament. All around, decorated arched ceilings feed into intricately detailed walls. Each delicate mosaic and fresco is a stunning masterpiece in its own right, but do keep a special eye out for the Deesis (Christ in Majesty), the Mosaic of the Koimesis in the main body of the church and the Virgin Mother with child in the north dome of the inner narthex.

Before you leave this impressive structure, make your way up onto the enormous Theodosian city walls for a breathtaking view of Istanbul. The city’s turbulent history is quite literally written into this centuries-old bulwark, with intricate Greek and Ottoman writings carved into the crumbling cannon-marked stonework.

The Chora Church and Kariye Museum is easily one of Turkey’s most impressive museums and, while it may not be on the traditional tourist trail, it is most certainly worth the little effort it takes to seek it out.


Guide to Exploring Chora Church


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Kariye Oteli - Special Class
Kariye Oteli - Special Class

Kariye Oteli - Special Class

Kariye Camii Sok No 6 Edirnekapi, Istanbul, Istanbul
     
    0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

    Located in Istanbul City Center, this hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Constantinople Walls and Chora Church. Spice Bazaar and Galata Bridge are also within 3 miles (5 km). Edirnekapi Station is 8 minutes by foot and Sehitlik Station is 12 minutes.

    Noi Suites Rs2,799
    Noi Suites

    Noi Suites

    Dervisali Mah. Vaiz Sok. No:1, Fatih, Istanbul, Istanbul
       
      0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      Located in Istanbul City Center, this apartment building is within 1 mi (2 km) of Constantinople Walls and Chora Church. Spice Bazaar and Galata Bridge are also within 3 miles (5 km). Edirnekapi Station is 6 minutes by foot and Sehitlik Station is 10 minutes.

      DoubleTree by Hilton Istanbul Topkapi Rs3,853
      DoubleTree by Hilton Istanbul Topkapi

      DoubleTree by Hilton Istanbul Topkapi

      Orta Mahalle, Anit Sokak: No: 1, Bayrampasa, Istanbul, Istanbul
         
        5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

        Located in Istanbul City Center, this luxury hotel is 1 mi (1.7 km) from Axis Istanbul and 1.9 mi (3.1 km) from Historia Fatih Shopping Centre. Grand Bazaar and Suleymaniye Mosque are also within 6 mi (10 km). Bayrampasa - Maltepe Station is 11 minutes by foot and Topkapi Station is 16 minutes.

        Elele Boutique Aparts
        Elele Boutique Aparts

        Elele Boutique Aparts

        Toptanci Sk. 35, Ayvansaray, Istanbul, Fatih
           
          0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

          Located in Istanbul City Center, this aparthotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Fatih Mosque and Chora Church. Eyup Sultan Mosque and Suleymaniye Mosque are also within 2 miles (3 km). Edirnekapi Station is 16 minutes by foot and Sehitlik Station is 20 minutes.

          Ottobalat
          Ottobalat

          Ottobalat

          Balat Mah. Ayan caddesi No:12/1, Fatih, Istanbul, Istanbul
             
            0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

            Located in Istanbul City Center, this apartment building is within 1 mi (2 km) of Fatih Mosque and Chora Church. Eyup Sultan Mosque and Suleymaniye Mosque are also within 2 miles (3 km). Edirnekapi Station is 15 minutes by foot and Sehitlik Station is 19 minutes.

            Rooftop Balat Rooms & Apartments Turkuaz Olive
            Rooftop Balat Rooms & Apartments Turkuaz Olive

            Rooftop Balat Rooms & Apartments Turkuaz Olive

            Hizir Cavus Koprubasi Sk. 45, Istanbul, Istanbul
               
              0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

              Located in Istanbul City Center, this apartment building is within 1 mi (2 km) of Fatih Mosque and Chora Church. Spice Bazaar and Eyup Sultan Mosque are also within 2 miles (3 km). Edirnekapi Station is 18 minutes by foot and Sehitlik Station is 23 minutes.

              Dosso Dossi Hotels & Spa Downtown Rs5,880
              Dosso Dossi Hotels & Spa Downtown

              Dosso Dossi Hotels & Spa Downtown

              Vatan Caddesi No:46-48 Fatih, Istanbul, Istanbul
                 
                5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                This family-friendly Istanbul hotel is located near the airport, within 2 mi (3 km) of Historia Fatih Shopping Centre and Grand Bazaar. Spice Bazaar and Galata Tower are also within 3 mi (5 km). Findikzade Station is 9 minutes by foot and Topkapi - Ulubatli Station is 14 minutes.

                Doruk Palas Hotel Rs2,829
                Doruk Palas Hotel

                Doruk Palas Hotel

                Emekyemez Mahallesi, Nazli Hanim Sk. No 19 Galata, Istanbul, Istanbul
                   
                  0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                  Located in Istanbul City Center, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Galata Tower and Pera Museum. Galata Bridge and Spice Bazaar are also within 1 mile (2 km). Tunel Square Station is only a 4-minute walk and Karakoy Station is 8 minutes.