The Turkish word Kariye is derived from the ancient Greek word Chora, meaning outside of the city (land). Chora is considered one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture. Famous for its late Byzantine mosaics and frescoes, Chora is one of the most important Byzantine sites in Istanbul. The first church was known as Chora, which carried the double meaning of being affiliated to a monastery outside the city walls, and of one of the adjectives used to describe Jesus “the widest sphere enclosed by man’s spiritual world’’. The church was built in the 6th century. Later destroyed in an earthquake, the church was rebuilt in the 11th century.
The building was originally known as the Church of the Holy Saviour Outside the Walls (Chora literally means ‘country’), reflecting the fact that when it was first built it was located outside the original city walls. It constructed by Constantine the Great.
The mosaics and frescoes in the Chora are the most beautiful examples of their kind, dating from the last period of the Byzantine painting (14th century). The characteristic stylistic elements in those mosaics and frescoes are the depth, the movements and plastic values of figures and the elongation of figures.
After continuing to serve as a church following the conquest of Istanbul in 1453, the building was converted into a mosque in 1511 by Vizier Hadim Ali Pasha. It was converted into a museum in 1945, and during the restoration in 1948-1959 carried out by the Byzantine Institute of America, the mosaics and frescoes were uncovered and brought to the daylight.
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Eyüp, Kariye Mosque street No:26, Istanbul – European part.