Museums of Istanbul: Kariye Museum (Chora).

It has taken me far far too long to come to the Kariye Museum (Chora) and I am grateful that Uffi and Annmaj (Ville's parents) realised that I needed the gift of awe and wonder even more than I needed sleep and got me there. They bought the audio guide and enticed Anton away from his usual position as my little satellite, so when I walked into the Parekklesion with Neve asleep in her sling I was free to be overwhelmed. There are few occasions in my life when I have felt so moved by the interior of a building, but then this place is extra-ordinary. Make sure you come, even on a short visit to this city. (Dad, how have I failed to bring you here? Please let me correct my mistake.) The colours, the gleam, the painstakingly considered and created beauty reveals humanity elevated and stretching heavenward. I imagined the squinting,  the neck-ache and the prayers for precision of those who made, square by tiny square, the most beautiful (and complete in situ) mosaics I have ever seen.

In the naos it is the marble that provides the exquisite beauty. It is the perfect balance of craft-work and nature, the stonemason revealing and celebrating the beauty that was found. When Neve woke up I showed her the panels placed to give symmetry to the grey veins of the rock. I showed her the panels that did for marble what Georgia O'Keefe did for flowers. Look, look, my little daughter.

When Constantinople came under Ottoman control  in 1453 Chora was not damaged and continued to be a Christian place of worship. Sixty years later when it was used as a mosque the mosaics were not hidden under plaster or limewash. Instead wooden shutters were built so that it was still possible to reveal the glories beneath. The Kariye Museum has a minaret and a mihrab (a niche showing the direction of Mecca) from this time which sit in this place so comfortably that for a moment you find yourself imaging this as a place in which believers of different faiths sat side by side and contemplated their role of God on earth, and walked out into the cobbled streets with a determination to be gentle and just.

Exterior of Chora Church

Marble in the naos

Mosaic in the naos

Little daughter



Looking into the parekklesion



Looking up

Faffa entertaining Anton

Rock veins

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2 thoughts on “Museums of Istanbul: Kariye Museum (Chora).

  1. Wow! How lucky you are to have such a beautiful place to take a day trip.

  2. I love all of these shots, the textures and colours are all glorious!


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