We take a closer look at what has been decribed as “the most interesting Byzantine church in the city” after Aya Sofya.
And, not only is this described as “the most interesting Byzantine church in the city” after Aya Sofya but it also “contains a magnificent heritage of Byzantine art that has no equal in the world” according to our Istanbul Guide book by Freely, so we headed off to seek it out.
It lies just within the walls near to the Edirne Gate and can be reached on the 86V bus from outside Istanbul University. Although we had been given that bus number by a very helpful lady in the Tourist Information in Sultan Ahmet Park, when we got to the group of bus stops by the university we ended up on an entirely different bus whose driver said he was also going that way. So just find the ‘Vezneler’ bus terminus and ask for Kariye Camii and you will get there. Or be lazy and take a taxi.
Originally the church of St Saviour’s in Chora built in 1077 – 81 by the mother-in-law of the then Byzantine Emperor, it was remodelled in 1315 – 21by Theodore Metochites, who had been both Prime Minister and Lord of the Treasury to a later Emperor. It is his church that we see today although the monastic buildings that surrounded it have long since disappeared.
Inside the gilding in the mosaics and frescoes is dazzling. If you want to know the meaning of the art works be sure to take a good guide book with you – Freely devotes no less than 17 pages to his commentary on the mosaics and frescoes – as there is a lot to see.
Be warned, though, the place operates a kind of one-way system with separate entrances and exits and if you exit you won’t be allowed back in except by paying all over again.