Yesterday we visited the Chora Church which was one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen (and we’ve seen a lot of churches on this trip). Getting to the church was a bit of a process. Many of us were running on very little sleep as we had been up late working on our charette where we came up with our first design ideas for our final projects in Karakoy. We also kept a close tab on the elections Sunday night. The incumbent AKP candidate Kadir Topbas won the mayoral race in Istanbul. With all of that behind us we groggily made our way with Professor Saygin to the bus stop and many of us made our first bus trip in Istanbul. At the other end of the line we found ourselves near the Theodosian Walls and a short walk from the Chora Church.
Just inside the narthex I was immediately struck by an image of Christ Pantocrator. If you look at just one half of Jesus’ face one side is supposed to depict Christ’s loving side while the other shows His condemning side. Besides that nifty detail, all the mosaics in the church are among the most beautifully preserved in the world. The gold in the mosaics shimmers and brings so much light into the interior of the church. It’s a shame many other Byzantine churches aren’t so well preserved. What’s also remarkable about the preservation of the art is that the church was converted into a mosque before it finally became a museum as it is today. As we toured the church we had to dig back through our Bible school knowledge to pick out scenes like the nativity, the turning of bread into wine, and the story of the loaves and the fishes among others.
Along the side of the building was the funerary chapel. At the end of it were two paintings depicting Jesus’ second coming. One image showed Christ judging the living and the dead, while the other showed Him pulling Adam and Eve from their tombs to be taken to heaven. It was great to see much of the art history we have been learning come together in one place at the Chora Church. We have seen many fantastic churches and mosques on this trip and each one never ceases to amaze me. I greatly anticipate the opportunity to see more stunning art and architecture like that at the Chora Church.