St Savior in Chora | Attraction Guides | History Hit

St Savior in Chora

Dervis Ali, Marmara Region, Turkey

Lucy Davidson

07 Jun 2021

About St Savior in Chora

St Savior in Chora (Kariye Camii) in Istanbul is an eleventh century church turned mosque and, more recently, the Chora Museum (Kariye Muzesi).

History of St Savior in Chora

The mosque is located in the Edirnekapi neighbourhood of Istanbul, Turkey.

The church was originally built during the reign of Constantine the Great in the early 4th century within a Christian complex outside the boundary of Constantinople’s walls. St Savior in Chora therefore derived its name from its countryside setting, with ‘in chora’ meaning ‘rural’.

When Theodosius II built his extensive land walls in 413-14, the church was incorporated into the city’s defences.

Most of the church’s current outline dates from 1077-1081, when it was rebuilt in the shape of an inscribed cross. It unfortunately collapsed early in the 12th century, perhaps due to an earthquake.

The church was rebuilt in the 14th century, and two centuries later was endowed with many of its most striking features, such as its mosaics and frescoes. The mosaic work is the finest example of the Palaeologian Renaissance style.

Around 50 years after the fall of the Ottomans, the church was converted into a mosque, with the mosaics and frescoes being covered by plaster due to the prohibition against iconic images in Islam.

In 1945, the building was designated a museum by the Turkish government, and ceased to be a functioning mosque. In 2005, a lawsuit was filed against the then museum, challenging its status as a museum. This was upheld, and in 2020, its status changed to a mosque.

St Savior in Chora Today

Today, a highlight of visiting St Savior in Chora is its incredible set of Byzantine mosaics dating to the fourteenth century, when the church underwent redecoration.

They are incredibly complex, depicting scenes which can be grouped into three topics: the ancestors of Jesus Christ, events of his life, and events of the Virgin Mary’s life.

Hidden by plaster during its time as a mosque, these works now remain beautifully preserved.

There are also a number of architectural features such as a mosaic covered nave and two mosaic-covered domes which are strikingly beautiful.

It is recommended that you visit with a guide when visiting the site.

Getting to St Savior in Chora

From the centre of Istanbul, the site is reachable in around 25 minutes by car via Abdülezelpaşa Cd. For those who want to enjoy a walk through Istanbul’s scenc city centre, the site is reachable in a little over an hour via Fevzi Paşa Cd.


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