Chances are you may have never heard of a church in Istanbul named Chora. Before I traveled to Turkey and started researching Istanbul’s attractions I didn’t know about it either. But nothing you may read about Chora Church can prepare you for the revelation you’ll have when you see it. If I were to name one church in Istanbul that rivals the beauty of Hagia Sophia, it would be Chora Church. Like its famous sister Hagia Sophia, Chora Church also suffered a crisis of identity, going from an Orthodox church, to a mosque and to a museum (Kariye Museum).
The church’s full name was the Church of the Holy Saviour in the Country and it was built in the 4th century, as part of a monastery complex outside the city walls of Constantinople. Chora Church is considered one of the most beautiful examples of Byzantine architecture. But what sets it apart are the 50 fabulous mosaics dating back to the 14th century, most of which are still in excellent shape.
In the 16th century the church was converted into a mosque and the Byzantine mosaics were covered in plaster. They were first uncovered in the 19th century, just to be covered again by the order of the government several years later. Fortunately, during the World War II a group of American archaeologists rediscovered the stunning mosaics and brought them back to light. In 1947 the church-turned-mosque was declared a museum.
The exterior of the church is rather modest compared with Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque. But once you step inside you’ll be astound by the splendor that surrounds you. Part of the church displays mosaics with scenes from the New Testament and the early life of Christ, while another part features beautifully colored frescoes. Continue Reading