Cycle of the Infancy of Christ and of Christ's
The Return of the Magi to the East is in the east lunette of the seventh bay of the outer narthex above the arch leading to the parekklesion . This is only partially preserved, showing a rider on a rearing horse.
The Flight into Egypt, in the south lunette of the seventh bay, is partially damaged . According to tradition, while fleeing from the wrath of Herod the Holy Family passed the city of Sotinen in Egypt, whereupon the city's 365 pagan idols were destroyed leading to the conversion of the population. Statues are shown taking flying leaps from their pedestals. The Byzantines believed that pagan statues were animated by demons, which may explain their vivacity.
Only small fragments remain of the mosaics in the large domical vault in the seventh bay at the entrance to the parekklesion. At the south side the scene may be identified as Christ Calling Zacchaeus . As Christ passed through Jericho, the publican Zacchaeus climbed a tree in order to see him.
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.