Richard & Stacy's Round the World Trip 2001

Up
The Church of St. Saviour
The Palace of the Porphyrogenitus
Along the City Walls
Yedikule Castle
The Paradise Restaurant

The name "in Chora" means "in the country", suggesting that the Church of St. Saviour in Chora originally stood in a rural setting - likely predating even the Walls of Theodosius. The present structure of the church dates from the 11th century. Between 1315 and 1321 the church went through a major remodelling, adding the mosaics and frescoes. It was Theodore Metochites, a theologian, philosopher and an elite member of the Byzantine hierarchy who directed the restoration of St. Saviour. Theodore Metochites' vision was to show in images, the entire life of Christ, including the life of the Virgin Mary.

As is typical of the early century churches, the church is made up of a series of domes, assembled into four areas: the outer narthex, the inner narthex, the parecclesion and the nave. The mosaics and frescoes in each area focus on particular themes around the life of Christ. The outer narthex is the entrance to the church, and the mosaics in the outer narthex are primarily about Christ's ministries, although there are a number of other mosaics. 

Click to see a larger version...   Click to see a larger version...
Over the entrance to the Inner Narthex, right across from the entrance way to the church is this mosaic of Christ.   Mosaics at the end of the outer narthex, notice that the mosaic in the center of the dome has been lost.
Click to see a larger version...   Click to see a larger version...
One of the more famous mosaics in the church, called "The Enrolment for Taxation."   The window side of the end of the outer narthex, the dome itself is gone, the rest of the mosaics intact.
Click to see a larger version...   Click to see a larger version...
A mosaic on the upper wall in the outer narthex, the full figures on either side are actually on the arches that support a dome.   The dome itself - a mosaic of the temptations of Christ.
Click to see a larger version...   Click to see a larger version...
The opposite wall of the same dome, showing the mosaics around the window and arch.   The third dome of the outer narthex, both arches and dome itself are all but lost.
Click to see a larger version...   Click to see a larger version...
The window side of the third bay of the outer narthex.   The dome and end wall of the other end of the outer narthex (looking south). 

Around the corner from the outer narthex is the parecclesion, which is where the frescoes are. It is believed that the frescoes were painted after the mosaics were completed, probably around 1320.  

Click to see a larger version...   Click to see a larger version...
In the center of the parecclesion is a high dome, with a mosaic that has Mary and the infant Jesus in the centre.   Below the high dome is a mantle, also covered in mosaics. The writing across the top of the mantle is in Latin.
Click to see a larger version...   Click to see a larger version...
Looking down to the end of the parecclesion, all the art in here is frescoes. The most famous fresco in the parecclesion is the fresco in the upper dome at the end, called the Anastasis, showing Christ dragging Adam and Eve from their tombs.   The ceiling fresco at the end of the parecclesion is another major piece, called The Last Judgement, it depicts Christ  in the center with all the saved souls around him. Above him is a angel blowing the horn of judgement, and above that are all the damned.

Most of the inner narthex of the church focuses on the life of the Virgin Mary. Most of the mosaics are representations of the apocryphal Gospel of St. James, written in the 2nd century. During the middle ages, the story of Mary played a large role in people's lives and were a rich source of material for the ecclesiastical artists of the time.

Click to see a larger version...   Click to see a larger version...
Looking south down the length of the inner narthex, the door at the end of the narthex is the entrance to the parecclesion.    At the north bay of the inner narthex, the dome shows Mary and all her relatives.
Click to see a larger version...   Click to see a larger version...
In the southern dome of the inner narthex (visible in the picture above) shows Christ in the center and his relatives radiating outward.    The ceiling of the one other dome of the inner narthex, showing another scene of the life of the Mary. 
Click to see a larger version...   Click to see a larger version...
One of the saints that was crucial to the Virgin Mary's life. This mosaic is in a panel of marble adjacent to the entrance to the Nave.    Beside the entrance to the Nave on the upper wall of the bay is a mosaic of Theodore Metochites, presenting the Church of St. Saviour in Chora to Christ.

The last area of the church is the Nave, which is the largest dome in the structure. Unfortunately, there are virtually no mosaics left in here, although what is left is remarkable...

Click to see a larger version...   Click to see a larger version...
In the ceiling of the dome of the Nave, no art remains... a bit of mosaic work around the windows is it.   The dome of the Aspe in the Nave too is bare, some decoration remains around the wall and windows.
Click to see a larger version...   Click to see a larger version...
The windows in the south of the dome in the Nave show a small amount of mosaic-based designs.   At floor level in the Aspe is a mihrab, indicating that this church has been converted to a mosque, albeit not a practicing mosque. 
Click to see a larger version...   Click to see a larger version...
One the wall to the right of the Aspe is a mosaic of the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus.   The other mosaic in the Nave on the left wall of the Aspe.
Click to see a larger version...   Probably the most significant mosaic in the entire church, this mosaic on the back wall of the Nave depicts the death of Mary. In the center of the mosaic above Mary is Christ, surrounded by a grey arch, signifying his view from beyond death. Inside the grey arch are other people who died before Mary, yet were important to her life. Christ is shown holding a baby, apparently representing Mary's soul.

After exploring the Nave, we wandered out of the Church of St. Saviour in Chora and took a look back at it.

Click to see a larger version...   Click to see a larger version...
Looking at the front of the church, due east, the outer narthex in front. The two smaller domes visible are the domes of the inner narthex, behind that the larger dome of the Nave.   Looking right, beyond the tree in the courtyard we can see the minaret, confirming that this church has indeed been converted to a mosque.

All in all the Church of St. Saviour in Chora was a small church, but the 14th century mosaics make it a unique church, really frozen in time.

Back to the main page...