Chora Church (end of 19th century)

February 21, 2017 by  
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Chora Church 19th Century

Black and white photo from the era Chora Church were using as masque. 

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The Christian Past of Istanbul

February 21, 2016 by  
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chora museum church istanbul
The Chora Museum, also known as Kariye Müzesi, is an oddball site in Istanbul. It pre-dates Islam, but is located in one of the city’s most conservative Muslim neighborhoods, in an area known for its historic wooden homes and nearby city walls built by the Romans and Byzantines.

This museum doesn’t make the cut for visitors trying to hit the greatest hits of Istanbul in one day, but for anyone who has more time to spend, it’s a must.

The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora was originally built in the 400s and was expanded in the 1000s of Constantinople. Most of what survives today—including the incredible mosaics covering the interior—were finished between 1315 and 1321. Alas, the city fell to the Ottomans in the mid-1400s and around 50 years later the building was converted to a mosque.

As with Hagia Sofia, the conversion process meant covering up all the icons with plaster, which in the long run was a much better outcome than just defacing them, as happened in so many other churches in lands that fell to Muslim invaders. The action ended up preserving the mosaics and paintings, which were restored in the mid-1900s, after Turkey became a republic. In 1958, Kariye opened to the public as a museum.

The church itself is an asymmetrical oddity built on a slope, rebuilt and added onto several times. The mosaics though, restored to their former glory, are a stunning site. They are grouped into three large rooms, some illuminated by domes overhead, while doorways between them have some of the most impressive works over the top.

While the beauty of the artwork is arresting on its own, the explanation of a guide or good book can shed some light on what you’re seeing. Jesus and Mary take center stage, of course, but in a different light than usual. The pre-Jesus lives of Mary and Joseph get more action here than in most churches, including one panel where he returns from a business trip and finds Mary pregnant. Plus we see Jesus in that seldom-covered stage between being a baby and being an adult. Then there are the saints important and minor, righteous kings, church benefactors, and angels.

Although the artists are uncredited and unknown, their work is of a high quality and the colors are still vivid. Creating mosaics is patient work done by masters over long periods, while the paintings were done while the plaster was still wet, causing them to fade less over time.

By Tim Leffel

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Chora Museum opens 7 days a week

April 26, 2015 by  
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Chora Church

Chora Museum opens in 7 days a week till further notice. Museum will be open inbetween 9 am to 7 pm in everyday.

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Museum Pass Istanbul Cards are valid for Chora Museum too

August 4, 2011 by  
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Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister announced last week the introduction of the Museum Pass Istanbul Card for tourists visiting museums of Istanbul. Museum Pass is valid for Chora Museum and Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism -owned museums in İstanbul.

The Museum Pass Istanbul Card allows travelers to enter into Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism -owned museums in İstanbul. It costs 72 Turkish Liras and permits a single entrance to the museums for a maximum of three days or 72 hours. International travelers can purchase The Museum Pass Istanbul at four- and five-star hotels, mobile card stores and Tourism Information Offices.

This is a great solution for tourists who want to see the masterpieces of İstanbul that everyone talks about. No more standing in queue, this pass allows you to go straight to the turnstile and save time.

There are 6 museums which travelers can enter easily with this card. The museums are as follows; Hagia Sophia Museum, Topkapi Palace Museum (except Harem Apartments), Chora Museum, Istanbul Archaeological Museums, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul Mosaic Museum.

The ministry in cooperation with the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) introduced Museum Card in 2008 for Turkish citizens only in order to bring Turkish people to the museums.

Turkish Hotels Federation President Ahmet Barut and Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry Director of Promotion Cumhur Guven TasbasiAndy Kurum; Los Angeles representative attended the reception held at Istanbul Archaeological Museum.Reception and conference organized with the participation of Mr. Ertugrul Gunay; Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister.

The head of the Culture and Tourism Ministry’s Revolving Capital Administration; Murat Usta said that number of museum cards issued for Turkish citizens reached 2.2 million by the end of 2010 and number of Turkish travelers visiting museums 61% from 2006 to 2010. Thanks to the “Museum Card”, Turkish travelers can visit more than 300 museums and archaeological sites in Turkey for a period of one year.

Mr. Günay also introduced a new museum card for Turkish citizens; Museum Card Plus. The new card has additional advantages compare to the Museum Card. Turkish travelers can get some discounts at culture and art events, free pass or discounts at some private museums. The new Museum Card Plus which is valid for one year and costs 40 Turkish Liras.

Mr. Günay also made another announcement during the reception held at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum for the return of the ancient Hittite Boğazköy Sphinx, which arrived in Istanbul after more than nine decades in Germany.

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Byzantine encounters, Fener in Istanbul

John Brunton, The Guardian, Saturday

Istanbul is one of those destinations that guarantees a shock to the system, a seething metropolis that is a chaotic meeting place of east and west, ancient and modern. But when it comes to choosing where to stay, there is a surprising return to normality, with most visitors choosing between reliable budget accommodation concentrated around the tourist golden triangle of the Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and Sultanahmet, or the funkier neighbourhoods of Beyoglu, Taksim and Ortakoy, where there are a host of famous-name luxury hotels.

On my last trip, though, I booked a brilliant new holiday rental that offers a completely different way to discover this fascinating city, the chance to experience a genuine slice-of-local-life where there isn’t another tourist in sight. Verystanbul is hidden away on the shores of the Golden Horn, in the district of Fener, the historic home of a large Greek and Jewish population, just by the original city walls that date back to Istanbul’s origins as Byzantium and Constantinople. This charming two-room self-catering holiday home – you can rent one room or both – spreads over a three-storey traditional Greek house, newly renovated with a colourful bow-windowed facade and cool designer interiors, where guests have the run of the whole place, including a fully equipped kitchen, comfortable lounge and a sunny terrace on the top floor. The French owners, Pascal and Béatrice, are rarely around, and the place is efficiently overseen by a local Turk, Rahmi, and his friendly wife, Gulumser. But relaxing in this comfortable house is just half the story, as to stay in Fener is to immerse yourself in an Istanbul that bears little resemblance to guidebook descriptions.

The Verystanbul adventure begins just getting there by taxi. Even though I’d meticulously printed off both the map and Turkish instructions from the website, the driver still got utterly lost, and we found ourselves driving up and down a maze of steep, narrow backstreets, asking shopkeepers and stallholders for directions, until we finally pulled up outside. This is now a fiercely conservative Muslim neighbourhood, and first impressions produce a serious dose of culture shock: while several buildings have been carefully renovated – Fener was recently declared a Unesco world heritage site – the rest resemble crumbling ruins. The street is teeming with people, kids playing football, veiled housewives collecting scrapwood for heating, men sitting round a brazier brewing a pot of tea, while one family that owns a TV sets it up on the pavement so neighbours can watch a soccer match. There is a queue of people snaking out of the house next door to Verystanbul, and it turns out to be a medieval-like bakery, producing the traditional simit, sesame-covered Turkish bagels, perfect for breakfast as they come straight out of the oven.

Although initially we get a lot of curious looks, the locals are already used to strangely dressed foreigners trooping in and out of Pascal and Béatrice’s house, and could not be friendlier. So what at first seems intimidating turns out to be welcoming, from the Kurdish lady in the food store, who only frowns when we make the mistake of asking if she sells beer, to the helpful grocer where we stock up for a picnic of pomegranates, fresh goat’s cheese and honey, walnuts and delicious dried apricots. In the streets around Verystanbul, we discover Mekteb-i (Akcin Sok 3/A, Fener), a bohemian cafe where locals sip tiny glasses of boiling cay – Turkish tea – and an Armenian painter sets up his easel outside; Merkez Sekercisi (Leblebiciler Sok 33, Balat, +90 212 523 9334), an irresistible Aladdin’s cave selling homemade ice cream and luscious Turkish delight; and Tarihi Halic (Abdulezel Pasa Caddesi 117, Fener, +90 212 534 9414), a lively restaurant, open 24 hours a day, with a huge rooftop terrace overlooking the waters of the Golden Horn, specialising in traditional dishes like garlic soup, kokorec – tasty grilled lamb’s intestines – and the best kebabs I have ever eaten.

Although all the classic tourist sights of Topkapi and the Grand Bazaar are a quick bus ride away, we decide to continue the Verystanbul experience, escape the crowds and spend the weekend exploring Fener itself, coming across little-known churches like St Mary of the Mongols, the cast-iron Bulgarian church of St Stephen, the towering red-brick Orthodox College and sumptuous Vatican-like residence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and a hidden jewel, the Kariye Museum (Chora Church). Decorated with delicate frescoes and mosaics, this unique building mirrors Istanbul’s complex history, originally a church, then transformed into a mosque and now a secular museum.

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