Istanbul | Chora Church | Grand Bazaar

Architecture, Churches, City Life, GREECE & TURKEY, Istanbul


Our first day in Istanbul started with a visit to the famed Chora monastery, one of the most important buildings in Byzantine Constantinople.  We stopped for lunch at the Grand Bazaar, home to a vast array of spices, textiles, and of course, Turkish Delight!  After an afternoon visit to the Pammkaristos, first home of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we explored Istanbul on our own that evening.




Orginally the main church of the Chora monastery, the building now known as the Kariye Museum, or traditionally as the Kariye Camii (Mosque), represents one of the oldest and most important religious foundations of Byzantine Constantinople. The present church dates from the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries. The present broad apse belongs to the early twelfth‐century phase. The Chora monastery was either damaged or allowed to deteriorate during the Latin Occupation of Constantinople (1204‐1261), and by the end of the thirteenth century, it was in poor condition. Some minor repairs may have occurred in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century. The statesman and scholar Theodore Metochites undertook the restoration and renovation of the Chora around 1316. His portrait survives above the entrance to the naos, where he is shown offering the church to Christ, and his monograms appear throughout the building. His work was completed by 1321.

When the Ottoman Turks conquered the city in 1453, the monastery was one of the first Christian sanctuaries to fall. The church was converted to a mosque sometime between 1495 and 1511 by Hadim Ali Pasa. A mihrab was added in the main apse, and the belfry was removed and replaced by a minaret. The new name “Kariye” is, in fact, the Arabic translation of the name Chora, meaning “village” or “countryside.”

In 1945, the building was secularized; it became a museum and was placed under the jurisdiction of the Ayasofya Museum. In 1947, the Byzantine Institute of America, and subsequently the Dumbarton Oaks Field Committee, undertook the cleaning and consolidation of the mosaics and frescoes, as well as limited excavations and the restoration of the building. The work lasted for twelve years, extending throughout the 1950s. The project resulted in a magnificent three‐volume study by Professor Paul A. Underwood, published in 1966. A separate volume of studies, edited by Underwood, was published in 1975. This was followed by a study of the sculptural decoration by the Danish scholar Øystein Hjort, which appeared in the Dumbarton Oaks Papers in 1979. A monograph on the architecture by Robert Ousterhout was published by Dumbarton Oaks in 1987, completing the documentation of this important building and its art work.

[text by Robert Ousterhout from‐ history‐of‐chora/ abbreviated by Alexopoulos]


The Pammakaristos was either built or renovated to a large extent by Michael Tarchaniotes Glabas, protostrator of Andronicus II Palaeologus (1282‐1328). Many historians and archaeologists, however, believe that the original structure was older and some attribute it to Michael VII Ducas (1071‐1078).

Historical evidence reveals the importance of this religious centre, which housed the Ecumenical Patriarchate from 1456 to 1587.The Pammakaristos remained in the hands of the Orthodox Greeks even after the Conquest. It is believed that the famous meeting between the Patriarch Gennadius Scholarius and Mehmet 11 the Conqueror and their discussion on questions of religion, took place here. When, three years after the Fall of Constantinople, the Patriarchate was shifted from the Holy Apostles to the Pammakaristos (1456), the holy relics and other valuable possessions were transferred to the new see. In 1587, Sultan Murad III (1574‐1592), converted the church of St. Mary Pammakaristos into a mosque and called it Fethiye (= Victory) Camii, to commemorate the conquest of Georgia and Azerbaijan. Though severely damaged, the surviving mosaics reflect the brilliance and high quality the remarkable style and technique, the classicizing trends, and in general the culture and spirit of the Palaeologan Revival.



The Grand Bazaar (Turkish: Kapalıçarşı, meaning ʺCovered Bazaarʺ; Büyük Çarşı, meaning ʺGrand Bazaarʺ) in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. The construction of the future Grand Bazaarʹs core started during the winter of 1455/56, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Sultan Mehmet II had an edifice erected devoted to the trading of textiles.