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Chora Church (Kariye Museum)

Visit the stunningly beautiful museum and admire the magnificent mosaics and intricate frescoes adorning the walls of this ancient church.

Sitting in the heart of the Edirnekapı district, just west of the city centre, lies one of Istanbul’s greatest treasures. Widely considered one of the most beautiful churches surviving from the Byzantine era, the serene Chora Church and Kariye Museum is a fitting custodian of the magnificent 14th-century mosaics and frescoes that adorn its interior.

Having survived centuries of invasion, natural disaster, reparation and reconstruction, this ancient site has been home to some form of religious building since the 4th century, when Emperor Constantine decreed a church be built just west of the city walls. This original church was known as “The Church of the Holy Saviour Outside the Walls”, sometimes shortened to "Chora" which literally means "outside of the city". The Turkish word “Kariye”, used in the church's later incarnation as a mosque, has the very same meaning.

Sometime later in the 5th century, the city walls were expanded by Emperor Theodosius II and the church officially came within the municipal boundary of Constantinople. Maria Dukaina, the mother-in-law of Alexius I Comnenus, further renovated the church in the 11th century and, although it has undergone many improvements, repairs and changes in the intervening years, including its conversion into a mosque in the 16th century, it is this 11th-century church that is home to the present-day Kariye Museum.

While the exterior of the church is arresting enough in its glory, the exquisite interior will truly take your breath away. As you wander through the sacred space, take in the extraordinary mosaics and pristine frescoes that depict the life of Christ and stories from the Old Testament. All around, decorated arched ceilings feed into intricately detailed walls. Each delicate mosaic and fresco is a stunning masterpiece in its own right, but do keep a special eye out for the Deesis (Christ in Majesty), the Mosaic of the Koimesis in the main body of the church and the Virgin Mother with child in the north dome of the inner narthex.

Before you leave this impressive structure, make your way up onto the enormous Theodosian city walls for a breathtaking view of Istanbul. The city’s turbulent history is quite literally written into this centuries-old bulwark, with intricate Greek and Ottoman writings carved into the crumbling cannon-marked stonework.

The Chora Church and Kariye Museum is easily one of Turkey’s most impressive museums and, while it may not be on the traditional tourist trail, it is most certainly worth the little effort it takes to seek it out.

Want to make your visit to Chora Church even more special? Don't forget to try out a few of these things to do:

Examine our Istanbul things to do page to discover even more activities while you're here.


Guide to Exploring Chora Church


Map

Top Chora Church Hotel Deals

See all 3,157 properties near Chora Church
DoubleTree by Hilton Istanbul Topkapi RM260
DoubleTree by Hilton Istanbul Topkapi

DoubleTree by Hilton Istanbul Topkapi

Orta Mahalle, Anit Sokak: No: 1, Bayrampasa, Istanbul, Istanbul
     
    5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

    Located in Istanbul City Center, this luxury hotel is 1 mi (1.7 km) from Axis Istanbul and 2.7 mi (4.4 km) from Historia Fatih Shopping Centre. Grand Bazaar and Suleymaniye Mosque are also within 6 mi (10 km). Bayrampasa - Maltepe Station is 11 minutes by foot and Topkapi Station is 16 minutes.

    Titanic Business Golden Horn RM255
    Titanic Business Golden Horn

    Titanic Business Golden Horn

    Yenidoğan mah. Erciyes Sokak No:7, Bayrampasa, Istanbul
       
      5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      Located in the historical district, this family-friendly hotel is within 6 mi (10 km) of Suleymaniye Mosque, Grand Bazaar and Hippodrome of Constantinople. Hagia Sophia and Basilica Cistern are also within 6 mi (10 km). Topcular Station is 7 minutes by foot and Sagmalcilar Station is 10 minutes.

      Kariye Oteli - Special Class
      Kariye Oteli - Special Class

      Kariye Oteli - Special Class

      Kariye Camii Sok No 6 Edirnekapi, Istanbul, Istanbul
         
        0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

        Located in Istanbul City Center, this hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Constantinople Walls and Chora Church. Suleymaniye Mosque and Spice Bazaar are also within 3 miles (5 km). Edirnekapi Station is 8 minutes by foot and Sehitlik Station is 12 minutes.

        Movenpick Hotel Istanbul Golden Horn RM309
        Movenpick Hotel Istanbul Golden Horn

        Movenpick Hotel Istanbul Golden Horn

        Silahtaraga Caddesi, No. 87, Eyup, Istanbul
           
          5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

          This family-friendly Eyup hotel is located on the waterfront, 2.7 mi (4.3 km) from Halic Congress Center, and within 6 mi (10 km) of Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia. Vodafone Arena and Dolmabahce Palace are also within 6 mi (10 km). Piyerloti Cable Car Station is 18 minutes by foot and Eyüp Cable Car Station is 18 minutes.

          Ottoman's Life Hotel Deluxe RM294
          Ottoman's Life Hotel Deluxe

          Ottoman's Life Hotel Deluxe

          Molla Gürani Cd., Istanbul, Istanbul
             
            5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

            Located in Istanbul City Center, this luxury hotel is within 3 mi (5 km) of Grand Bazaar, Sultanahmet Square and Basilica Cistern. Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are also within 3 mi (5 km). Findikzade Station is only a 5-minute walk and Yusufpasa Station is 9 minutes.

            Grand Konak Hotel RM119
            Grand Konak Hotel

            Grand Konak Hotel

            Tavanli Çesme Sk. 4, Istanbul, Istanbul
               
              0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

              Located in Istanbul City Center, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Suleymaniye Mosque and Grand Bazaar. Galata Tower and Basilica Cistern are also within 2 mi (3 km). Eminonu Station is 14 minutes by foot and Laleli-University Station is 16 minutes.

              Hilton Istanbul Bomonti Hotel & Conference Center RM443
              Hilton Istanbul Bomonti Hotel & Conference Center

              Hilton Istanbul Bomonti Hotel & Conference Center

              Silahsor Cad. No: 42 Bomonti Sisli, Istanbul, Istanbul
                 
                5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                Located in Sisli, this luxury hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Bomontiada, City's Nişantaşı Shopping Center and Istanbul Cevahir Shopping and Entertainment Centre. Taksim Square and Dolmabahce Palace are also within 3 mi (5 km). Osmanbey Station is 11 minutes by foot and Sisli Station is 20 minutes.

                Holiday Inn Istanbul City RM230
                Holiday Inn Istanbul City

                Holiday Inn Istanbul City

                Turgut Ozal Cad.(Millet Cad.) No: 189, Istanbul, Istanbul
                   
                  5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                  Located in Istanbul City Center, this luxury hotel is 0.3 mi (0.5 km) from Constantinople Walls and within 3 miles (5 km) of Chora Church and Grand Bazaar. Suleymaniye Mosque and Cemberlitas Bath are also within 3 miles (5 km). Pazartekke Station is only a 2-minute walk and Capa-Sehremini Station is 7 minutes.