Didem Doğan

Chora Museum and The Tekfur Palace

It means ‘in the country’ the word ‘Chora’ and it is both literally and symbolically ‘in the country’. Because it was situated outside the city walls during the time of the Constantinopolis it was called ‘in the country’; the word also refers to Jesus Christ as he is the ‘country’ or the ‘land of the living’. The Byzantine church dating back to 13th century was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman era and the mosaics inside were covered with wooden panels; after the fall of the Empire during the Republican period they were opened, restores and the church-mosque gained a museum status. Then, it was converted to a mosque again.

The restoration works were realised by the Byzantine Institute of America.The building itself is quite simple from the outside, the real treasure are founded inside it, on the interior walls that depict several stories from the history of Christianity. At the entrance we see Jesus Christ with Bible in his left hand, the right hand making the gesture of blessing; the words next to this mosaic says ‘Jesus, the land of the living’ and ‘Chora’. The dome on the right hand side at the entrance is covered with Jesus Pantocrator and his twenty four ancestors starting with Adam, then Seth, Noah, Cainan, Maleleel, Jared, Lamech, Sem, Heber, Saruch, Nachor, Thara, Abraham, İsaac, Jacop, Phalec, Ragau, Mathusala, Enoch, Enos and Abel, below them the twelve sons of Jacob, the two sons of Judah and the son of Pharez.

As you pass to the next hall at the upper side of the door you will see the mosaic of Virgin Mary’s funeral, Virgin Mary lying, next to it the women of Jerusalem and Jesus holding a baby on his hand which is symbolically Virgin Mary’s soul…. An other mosaic shows the Byzantine Empire Theodoros Metokhites holding the model of the church towards Jesus.

The Museum of Chora has been under renovation for a long time and that’s why not all the mosaics are open to public; so we go out to walk to the Tekfur Palace which was the Byzantine Palace used since the 12th century as an annex to the main Palace of Blachernai. It was recently renovated in the last years and opened to public as the Museum of Tiles where it is shown the production process of the tiles during the Ottoman era. The Tekfur Museum is closed on Mondays.

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