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HISTORY OF CHORA CHURCH

The Chora Church is located in the Edirnekapı neighborhood of Istanbul and called the “Chora Museum” (Kariye Muzesi)

Chora is a church building that constitutes the center of the Chora Monastery.

Kariye was a great building complex in the Eastern Roman Empire period.

It was dedicated to Jesus Christ.

Since it stood outside of the city walls built by Constantine,

The building was called “Chora” which means “in the country” or “outside of the city” in Greek.

Although the exact construction date of the building is unknown.

According to the description of Symeon the Metaphrast an author and saint who lived in the late 10th century.

The region where the Chora monastery was located began to gain importance as a holy cemetery (necropolis)

When the relics of Saint Babylas who had been martyred in the early periods of Christianity, in 298.

Together with his 84 disciples, in Nicomedia (İznik), were buried here in the early 4th century.

The Chora monastery was rebuilt in the 6th century, in 536, by the Emperor Justinian (527-565).
On the cemetery that was considered holy, on a chapel that had been ruined.

On the other hand, according to the unproven claim on the page 229 of the calendar of Byzantine feasts written by Manuel Gedeon.

The construction of the monastery had been initiated by Theodoros, the uncle of Justinian’s wife Theodora.
In the 6th century but it had been devastated by an earthquake that occurred on October 6, 557.
Following the emperor had built a larger monastery on the site of the former one.

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Afterwards, the monastery was used as a burial area for prominent persons.
When the Patriarch Germanus who died in 740 was buried here.

The monastery appeared for the first time in written sources and its degree of holiness increased.
when Theophanes, Metropolitan of Nicaea, who died in the 9th century, also was buried here.

The building was destructed in the Iconoclastic period (711-843) and it was reconstructed in different periods.
According to archaeological studies carried out between 1947 and 1958, there were five different construction periods here.
Those periods witnessed in the 11th, 12th and 14th centuries should have been the periods of large-scale constructions or restorations.

The only surviving element originating from the earliest period of the building that lasted until the 9th century is the substructure on the east side.

This substructure, which originates from the 5th or 6th centuries as indicated by its masonry, had not been built as a crypt but it was used later as a burial place as indicated by the tombs uncovered.

At the end of the Iconoclastic period, after the Council of Nicaea in 843, Michael of Synkellos who was appointed the high priest of the monastery, rebuilt the monastery completely by organizing a large construction campaign.

The remains of this structure built in the 9th century can only be seen today at the eastern end of the church.
The tomb covered by a barrel vault beneath the naos covering dates from this period.

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During the Comneni period (1081-1185), since the Great Palace was abandoned and the religious ceremonies were held in the Chora Monastery Church that was close to the new imperial residence at the Palace of Blachernae.

In the last quarter of the 11th century, Maria Doukaina, the mother-in-law of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos built a new church upon the ruins of the Chora Monastery.

The remains of this building can be seen at the lover parts of the naos walls, under the marble coverings.
Since almost no part of its superstructure has survived, the exact form of the building is unknown.

Isaac Komnenos, the younger son of Alexios I, rebuilt a large part of the monastery in 1120.
The former three apses were replaced by a single and large apse
The relatively small dome supported by four columns was enlarged and supported by four corner pillars, the arches were narrowed, and thus, a more monumental interior space was created.

There is almost no information about the Chora Monastery during the Latin occupation between 1204 and 1261.

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The monastery seems to have been devastated during the Latin occupation.

It is known that the huge earthquake of 1296 devastated the monastery.
Patriarch Athanasius I, who resided in the Chora Monastery in the early 14th century, mentions the very bad condition of the monastery.

During the reign of Andronikos II (1282-1328), although the empire experienced economic difficulties in general.
There was also a community of wealthy aristocrats, which supported artistic and scientific activities.

In this period, Theodore Metochites almost reconstructed the Chora Monastery and established a very large and rich library inside the monastery.
For the Byzantine aristocracy,

Building or repairing a religious institution was considered as a source of prestige in this world and as a very important investment for the afterlife, before God.

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Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror (1451-1481) conquered Istanbul.

It was converted into a mosque during the reign of Sultan Bayezid II, by the Grand Vizier Atik Ali Pasha and a madrasah was added next to it.

In the Turkish period, the monasteries except this church were ruined and disappeared in the course of time.

Besides the reconstruction of the demolished dome and the repair of some damages caused by earthquakes, the windows of the outer narthex were covered largely and a mihrab was added to the naos.

The sarcophagi in the tomb arcosolia were removed.

According to the descriptions of travelers who visited this building, while it was serving as a mosque, the mosaics of the building were covered with removable wooden shutters.

In the first half of the 18th century, a school and a soup kitchen were added to the building by Kızlarağası (“Chief of the Girls”) Hacı Beşir Pasha.

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The Chora Mosque was converted into a mosque upon the decision of the Council of Ministers dated 29/08/1945.
Chora (Kariye) Museum today, is a quite attractive Eastern Roman building with both its architecture and its mosaics and frescoes.

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