By Şerif Yenen
Well, lockdown measures may not allow you to travel and visit places of interest. However, I will continue bringing some of them to you. My online cultural tour will be in the Chora Church or Kariye Museum this time. The tour is in English. My virtual guided tour will soon be available on YouTube. You can also ask questions during the tour.
Let me emphasize that this is not in a documentary format, but a guided tour. I will be interpreting and summerising Chora with breathtaking images and videos.
Chora Monastery - Church of the Holy Savior in Chora - Kariye Museum
Kariye Museum is among the top must-see museums in the world. It may well be accepted as the most important Byzantine monument in İstanbul after the Hagia Sophia.
Kariye Museum was originally the center of a Byzantine monastery complex. Only the church section, which was dedicated to Jesus Christ the Savior, has survived. A little after the arrival of the Turks in İstanbul, this building, was converted into a mosque. In 1948 it was made a museum leaving no Islamic element in the building except the mihrap in the apse and the 19th century minaret outside in the corner.
The mosaics depict the lives of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. Background elements and architectural motifs are highlighted to give depth. The scenes are realistic, as if they were taken from real life, with figures correctly proportioned. Jesus has a humanitarian look upon his face. The art of painting in both mosaics and frescoes indicated a new Byzantine art movement which was parallel to the Italian Renaissance started by Giotto (1266-1337).
The mosaics can be divided into 7 sections: the nave panels, the six large dedicatory panels in the inner and outer narthexes, the ancestry of Jesus in the two domes of the inner narthex, the life of the Virgin Mary in the first three bays of the inner narthex, the infancy of Jesus in the lunettes of the outer narthex, the ministry of Jesus on the vaults of the outer narthex and the fourth bay of the inner narthex, and finally, the portraits of the saints on the arches and pilasters of the inner narthex.
The mosaics that give an account of the Virgin’s birth and life are based on Apocryphal (not canonical) Gospel of St. James.