Chora Mosque – A Church in the Fields

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Mosaic on ceiling of Chora Mosque

Once upon a time the Chora Mosque was the Byzantine Church of St Saviour in Chora, meaning ‘church in the country’. This reference is to an ancient monastery no longer in existence, built outside the walls of Constanintople. The current manifestation of Chora Mosque, or Kariyer Camii to use its Turkish name, dates back to the late 11th century. It was erected on the orders of Maria Doukaina, the mother-in-law of Emperor Alexius I Commenus, and underwent extensive repairs and remodelling in the early 20th century.

Mosaics in Chora Museum

However Chora Mosque is famous due to the magnificent Biblical ornamentations in the galleries and passages formed by deep barrel vaults, domes and double narthex. The marble revetments (masonry facings), frescoes and mosaics all date to the period from 1315 to 1321. These embellishments were completed under the patronage of the Theodre Metochites. The son of a local archdeacon, Metochites dedicated his life to religious and secular studies, as well as politics. When he was invested as the Grand Logethete (a position in the Byzantine Empire similar to a Minister or Secretary of State) in 1321, he became one of the richest men of his time. He used his considerable influence and purse on restoring and decorating the church of the monastery, now modern day Chora Mosque. His portrait can be seen on the ceiling of the narthex, the rectangular room which provides access to the nave. Unlike most paintings in the formal and stylised Byzantine tradition, the works in Chora Mosque are vibrant, fluid and alive.

Wall mosaics in Chora Mosque

If you’re a serious art lover or just fascinated by the city, I recommend you buy a copy of Hilary Sumner-Boyd and John Freely’s book, Strolling through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City. It gives a detailed step-by-step description of the Chora Mosque mosaics, as well as numerous other famous and less well known architectural structures in the city.


Planning to come to Istanbul or Turkey? Here are my helpful tips for planning your trip.

For FLIGHTS I like to use

Don’t pay extra for an E-VISA. Here’s my post on everything to know before you take off.

However E-SIM are the way to go to stay connected with a local phone number and mobile data on the go. Airalo is easy to use and affordable.

Even if I never claim on it, I always take out TRAVEL INSURANCE. I recommend Visitors Coverage.

I’m a big advocate of public transport, but know it’s not suitable for everyone all the time. When I need to be picked up from or get to Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Airport, I use one of these GetYourGuide website AIRPORT TRANSFERS.

ACCOMMODATION: When I want to find a place to stay I use

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: Let me guide you around Kadikoy with my audio walking tour Stepping back through Chalcedon or venture further afield with my bespoke guidebook Istanbul 50 Unsung Places. I know you’ll love visiting the lesser-known sites I’ve included. It’s based on using public transport as much as possible so you won’t be adding too much to your carbon footprint. Then read about what you’ve seen and experienced in my three essay collections and memoir about moving to Istanbul permanently.

Browse the GetYourGuide website or Viator to find even more ways to experience Istanbul and Turkey with food tours, visits to the old city, evening Bosphorus cruises and more!

However you travel, stay safe and have fun! Iyi yolculuklar.

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  1. Very informative article,thank you.We visit İstanbul in April,do you know if the renovations will be completed by then??

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