Cycle of the Infancy of Christ
and of Christ's Ministry
The cycle begins in the domical vault of the first bay of the
outer narthex and concludes in the south bay of the inner narthex.
The story is taken up directly from the previous narrative. As
in the inner narthex, the narratives are sometimes contorted
to fit the domical vaults. Normally two different episodes appear
in each vault.
The cycle of the Infancy of Christ is represented in the lunettes,
while the domical vaults are decorated with scenes of the ministry
of Christ. Both are based on the Gospels and begin in the north
Joseph Dreaming is in the lunette on the north wall. While asleep,
he is informed by an angel of the truth concerning the Virgin's
pregnancy, thus providing a resolution to the final scene in
the inner narthex. Behind Joseph is the Virgin and Two Companions,
engaged in conversation outside Nazareth. To the right, the holy
couple begins the Journey to Bethlehem to be enrolled in the
Roman census .
The Enrollment for Taxation is in the first lunette of the east
wall . In this unique scene, the Virgin and Joseph appear
before an enthroned tax collector, who wears the regalia of a
Byzantine court official.
The narrative within this bay shifts to Christ Taken to Jerusalem
for Passover, in the first lunette  opposite the Enrollment
for Taxation. The walled city of Jerusalem fills one side of
the space; in the center, Joseph leads the family. Christ appears
as an adolescent in a gold robe.
The domical vault contains scenes from both the Infancy and
the Ministry cycles. Christ among the Doctors is largely
destroyed . On the north side are the steps of the synthronon,
the seat for the priests in the Temple. The lower portion of
Christ's gold robe is preserved to one side.
The story of John the Baptist begins in the south half of the vault
in the first bay with John the Baptist Bearing Witness of Christ
. The emaciated legs and camelhair garment of the Baptist
can be discerned on the riverbank in the southwest corner. In a
vignette, children wrestle on the riverbank.
This discussion of the Kariye Camii iconography
is adapted from Robert G. Ousterhout, The Architecture of the Kariye
Camii in Istanbul, Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library
and Collection, 1987. We would like to thank Professor Ousterhout
for generously allowing us to adapt his text for this Web site.
The outer and inner narthexes are decorated with mosaic cycles of the lives of
the Virgin and Christ. Both begin at the northern end, with thematic and visual
references linking the two cycles.
The cycle of the infancy of Christ
and of Christ's ministry begins in the domical vault of the first bay of the
outer narthex and concludes in the south bay of the inner narthex. The story
is taken up directly from the previous narrative. As in the inner narthex, the
narratives are sometimes contorted to fit the domical vaults. Normally two different
episodes appear in each vault.