One of the most wonderful sites in Istanbul sits far from both the city’s historic centre and its modern neighbourhoods. In fact, when it was first built, it lay entirely outside the city all together, and was only incorporated when an impressive land-wall extended the fortifications of Constantinople in the 5th century.
Today it is known by a variety of names–the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, the Kariye Camii, or even the Kariye Kilisesi–which reflect its long life as a church, a mosque, and now, a museum.
Despite its long history, most of the church visible today dates from an 11th century structure, with its decorative bands of brick reminiscent of the fortifications lying only a stone’s throw further north.
The interior of the Church, however, is all 14th century, and shows the wonders of Byzantine craftsmanship at its peak. Along all the walls and arches, and the insides of domes, are wonderful mosaics awash in the glimmer of gold. They celebrate Christ and the Christian story, but one of my favourite scenes is one in which the patron of the mosaics, Theodore Metochites, presents the finished structure to Christ.
The following pictures give only a glimpse into the wonderful scenes of the Church, but they testify to the deserved reputation which Byzantine art has held from the mediaeval period into the present day.
The Museum has a wonderful and informative English-language website, with information about visiting as well as articles on the history and interpretation of the Church.