Kariye Museum (Church
of the Holy Savior in Chora), 5
km (3 miles) northwest of Sultanahmet near the Byzantine city
walls (map), has
the best Byzantine mosaics
in the region. If you
can spare two hours, you must
the museum has historically been closed on Wednesday, but in May 2016 it seems to have changed, and is now open every day.)
As the Kariye/Chora Church is out-of-the-way,
of the best ways to visit is on a
city tour that also visits
the nearby city
built in the 4th century as the 'Church
of the Holy Savior Outside the Walls'
or 'in the Country' (chora), it
was indeed outside the walls built
by Constantine the Great.
building you see was built in the late
11th century, with lots of repairs
and restructuring in the following
centuries. Virtually all of the interior
mosaics and the less renowned but
equally striking mural paintings—dates
from about 1320.
mosaics are breathtaking.
The first ones are those of the
dedication, to Jesus and Mary.
Then come the offertory ones: Theodore
Metochites, builder of
the church, offering it to Jesus.
two small domes of the inner
narthex have portraits of
all Jesus's ancestors back to Adam.
A series outlines Mary's
life, and another, Jesus's
early years. Yet another
series concentrates on Jesus's
the nave are three
mosaics: of Jesus,
of Mary as Teacher,
and of the Dormition of Mary (turn
around to see this one-it's over
the main door you just entered).
of the nave is the Parecclesion,
a side chapel built to hold the tombs
of the church's founder and relatives.
The frescos, appropriately,
deal with the theme of death and
church was enclosed within the walls
built by the Emperor Theodosius
II in 413, less than 100
years after Constantine, so the church
'outside the walls' has in fact been
'in the city' for 1550 years.
four centuries after the Ottoman conquest
of Istanbul it
served as a mosque (Kariye
Camii), and is now a museum (Kariye
Müzesi) because of its
get to the Kariye Museum (closed
if you don't take an Istanbul
city tour, a taxi is
easiest but most expensive.
can save money (but not time) by
taking any bus that stops at Edirnekapı.
you reach Edirnekapı, ask for directions
by saying Kariye (KAH-ree-yeh)
to anyone you see. The museum is
only a five-minute walk east of the
boulevard. Neighborhood people will
happily point the way through the
maze of tiny streets.
the south side of the Kariye Müzesi
is the Kariye Oteli, housed
in a renovated Ottoman mansion. Asitane (AH-see-TAH-neh,
an Ottoman sobriquet for Istanbul),
hotel's garden restaurant, features
fine Ottoman cuisine and excellent
service in a refined atmosphere,
at suitably lofty prices.
If you plan to visit Topkapı Palace and Hagia Sophia as well as the Chora Church, consider buying an Istanbul Museum Pass. It'll save you time and money. More...
building facing the Kariye
Museum was once the Kariye
Muhallebicisi or Pudding Shop,
an old Istanbul institution. It now
serves a variety of refreshments.
Kariye, head west to the city
then north again, and you'll soon
come to the Palace of Constantine
the Tekfur Sarayı (tehk-FOOR sar-rah-yuh),
closed in 2006 for restoration and is still closed.
Also, don't miss the Mihrimah Sultan
Mosque, one of the prettiest
in Istanbul. More...