22 October 2013

Kariye Muzesi - St. Saivour in Chora

With so many recent visitors I've been to many of Istanbul's museums and mosques multiple times over the last few weeks. I was especially happy to visit again the Kariye Museum, or St. Saviour in Chora Church. Before KMac and I went to the Gelati Monastery in Georgia I'd have said that this was the most impressive church of its age. However at least this time I remembered my super wide lens!

Chora is actually quite close to where I live but I had no idea how to get there via public transportation so KMac and I took a cab. Leaving the cab drivers who hang out there obviously didn't want a fare because they were trying to tell me that it would take like 90 minutes to get to Sirkeci. Likely it would have done if they'd gone straight through the city rather than along the Bosphorus road. So KMac and I wandered down the hill the church is on in the general direction of where I my memory (from three years ago) told me the road should be. Poor KMac, I made her walk quite a bit longer than I originally thought we would...but I did get us to the road eventually!

The Parekklesion

Inside this dome of the Parekklesion is the Virgin and Child with attendant angels.
The Parekklesion

Towards the top of the picture, the thing that looks like an extremely well attended last Supper, is actually the Day of Judgement. To our left of the central Christ figure is the Theotokis (Greek for 'bearer of God') or the Virgin who was the 'supreme intercessor' for Byzantine Christians who felt that they could not appeal directly to God; that He could be more easily reached through holy people/figures who could more easily reach Him. While Mary being the supreme intercessor is still true for Catholic and Orthodox Christians at least, I was surprised to learn that the second most important intercessor for the Byzantines was John the Baptist, whom we see to the right of Christ. In this depiction, Mary, John, and the hosts of angels and saints behind Christ are pleading for mercy on behalf of people.

Still the Parekklesion

The walls of the Parekklesion depict a number of life sized martyrs and warrior saints.

The Parekklesion again

In the apse is a depiction of the Anastasis (Greek for Resurrection). Here Christ is standing on the crushed gates of Hell and pulling Adam to our left and Eve to our right from their graves. Behind Adam and Eve are groups of the Righteous, including John the Baptist and Abel. Above Christ in the center of the partial dome is the Archangel Michael.

The six figures below are life sized depictions of important patriarchs and bishops of the time.

Guess where? That's right the Parekklesion
The inner narthex
In the center dome of the inner narthex (top of the pic) is the genealogy of Christ including: Adam, Seth, Noah, Cainan, Maleleel, Jared, Lamech, Sem, Heber, Saruch, Nachor, Thara, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Phalec, Ragau, Methuselah, Enoch, Enos, and Abel. Below them are the 12 sons of Jacob, two sons of Judah, and the son of Pharez. 

On the wall (right of pic) are the Chalkite Christ and the Virgin who is offering up a sorrowful prayer or humanitys sins.

This area of the church portrays various depictions of the life of the Virgin...which are sadly not so easily seen in my picture.

Long shot of the inner narthex

This dome in the inner narthex of the church features a Virgin and Christ Child (I lose count of how many there are throughout the church) in the center surrounded by the genealogy of Mary. It's hard to see in this picture but there are two rows of 16 in the dome, the larger, longer ones visible and smaller ones below those above the windows. In the top row are the 16 kings of the House of David: David, Solomon, Roboam, Abia, Asa, Josaphat, Joram, Ozzias, Joatham, Achaz, Ezekias, Manasses, Amon, Josias, Jechonias, and Salathiel. The lower ring includes: Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael, Daniel, Joshua, Moses, Aaron, Hur, Samuel, Job, and Melchizedek.

The lesson here: Bible people had kick ass names.

Technically this is the entrance to the church but it's actually the exit to the museum. So the first thing you're supposed to see, the Christ Pantocrator, is actually the last thing.

In other areas of the church, of which I did not this time take pictures, are depictions of the ministry of Christ including the miracles of changing water to wine, the raising of Lazarus, curing of the leper, and more.

Because it's a bit off the beaten track I get the feeling that the Chora Church is under visited, which is a huge shame. The church has a rich history going back to 536 (although much of the church, mosaics, and frescos are much newer) and has survived Turkey's turbulent past. It's also far ore intact than the lauded Hagia Sofia which, while madly impressive, cannot hold a candle to the much smaller Chora Church.

Since, through some experimentation and more walking around in the wrong direction a few times, I finally figured out how to get here via public transportation (sorry KMac and mom), it's likely I'll go back more often. Especially since I bought the large, glossy photograph, lots of information (where I got most of mine) official museum guide as it was 50% off! Now I'll know what I'm looking at!

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