Guided Tours Istanbul – Is it a church, a mosque or a museum?!
Both Chora and Hagia Sophia are part of Guided Tours Istanbul . As Chora Church has always been compared to Hagia Sophia, though much smaller in size, just like it, Chora might as well have suffered the crisis of identity.
Originally built as part of a monastery complex outside the walls of Constantinople, to the south of Golden Horn, in the early 5th century. The church’s full name was the Church of the Holy Saviour in the Country. Chora is the Greek word for ‘countryside’. Where the church was once built was the country area out of the4th century city walls of Constantine the Great. Later in the 5th century, when Theodosius II built his famous double line walls for the defense of the city, the church became incorporated within these city defenses and practically Chora church was no longer in the countryside. However, the name Chora was retained.
Then, in 1453 during the last siege of Constantinople, the icon of Theotokos Hodegetria – a depiction of Virgin Mary, known as the protector of the city, was brought to Constantinople. Nevertheless, the city was taken by storm. Around 50 years after the fall of the city, the Grand Vezier of the Sultan converts Chora Church into a mosque. Thus, Chora goes through another part of its life – as a mosque, for four centuries.
The size doesn’t matter with Chora museum and Guided Tours Istanbul know why
Chora is mostly praised for its mosaics and frescoes which illustrate the lives of Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ; Christ’s ancestry and even the Judgement Day. What distinguishes the church from other similar places is its size; it is definitely not as big as other Byzantine churches of Istanbul. The beautifully decorated arched ceilings are not high above one’s head and one can easily ‘reach up and touch them’.
That makes Chora Church a cozy and intimate place for its visitors on their Guided Tours Istanbul. It is considered to be a masterpiece of Byzantine art. The man principally responsible for Chora Museum’s breathtaking frescoes is Theodore Metochites – a Byzantine statesman, but also a poet, scholar, scientist and patron of the arts. He is the one who enlarged and made the impressive decoration of the church between 1315 and 1321.
However, these wonderful pristine examples of Byzantine art were covered up with plaster after the church was converted into a mosque. Chora also suffered from many disasters – both human and natural. At various times, earthquakes have damaged the foundations, walls and roof of the church, requiring frequent renovation. The first major recorded renovation occurred in the late 12th century.
After the Latin Occupation when an earthquake caused a partial collapse of the foundations. Fires have ravaged the church as well. The building that visitors can see today was built in the late 11th century by Maria Doukaina; mother-in-law of Emperor Alexius I Comnenus, with lots of repairs and restructuring in the following centuries. Virtually all of the interior decoration—the famous mosaics and the less renowned but equally striking mural paintings—dates from about 1320.
Then in 1948, the Byzantine Institute of America began the painstaking work of revealing and restoring these hidden masterpieces. The result: The Chora Church, which had previously undergone a metamorphosis into the Kariye Camii; was reborn as the Chora Museum. It’s not normally included among the other tours for Istanbul sightseeings but it can always be visited; preferably with a guided tour.
So, I leave to you to find the answer of the question whether Chora is a church; a mosque or a museum. One thing is certain; though – it is among the top 30 must-see museums in the world (according to a recent article). What you can do is enjoy Guided Tours Istanbul and find out about Chora!