Thursday, October 14, 2010

St Savior church in Chora, Istanbul

Cupola depicting the Virgen Mary and baby Jesus surrounded by angels.

The last judgement

 Byzantine saints
 Fast fading frescoes

I'm tired of mosques already. I came to Turkey expecting to see more of its Byzantine heritage only to find they are few and far between. Whatever we could see was enthralling, take this church for example. The structure is 11th C but the frescoes and mosaics are 14thC with financing from a rich patron. It is often the case in Anatolia, the Christian faith was alive and well. We will see more of this in Cappadocia in the months ahead. I'm just giving you a preview of what is to come. The state of Byzantine art in the Haghia Sophia was disappointing. To see truly beautiful and well preserved Byzantine treasures one need only to go Ravenna, Italy. Here the Justinian mosaics are so beautiful and well preserved. But to see frescoes, especially Byzantine frescoes, Turkey is still the place to see them, though a lot are in a very sad state of decay and neglect. I think its a crime to allow this to happen.
St Savior church in Chora, known in Istanbul as Kariye muzesi, don't use the Byzantine name, no one will know what you're talking about. Except for a few churches, most of the old Byzantine churches have been converted to mosques, some are locked tight (Haghia Eirene) and a few are opened as museums. I made it a point to see this church. There are books about the Byzantine churches in Istanbul and in Turkey but they refer to the ones that have been converted to mosques. So it is misleading. To find this church was such a joy, it is in a far off area, 'Chora' means in the country, almost to the edge of Istanbul proper. To make an effort to see it is rewarding. The frescoes are so beautiful albeit not being as old as the ones in Cappadocia which we shall see in later posts.
You can google the church and see more images and write up.

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