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Kariye Camii
Professor Ousterhout
The discussion of the Late Byzantine monastic church of the Kariye Camii focuses on the period of rebuilding and expansion during the years from ca. 1316 to 1321. Theodore Metochites, minister and subsequently prime minister of the Byzantine Empire, during a short period of cultural revival, undertook the rebuilding and renovation of the Kariye Camii The greatest intellectual of his age, and thus knowledgeable and involved, he was wealthy and powerful and therefore in a position to assume the patronage of this church.

Metochites early fourteenth-century rebuilding included the reconstruction of the naos dome; the pastophoria; the addition of a two-storied annex to the north, an inner and outer narthex to the west; and the parecclesion to the south. The appearance of incongruity in the structure resulted from several factors including the use of the Middle Byzantine core of the building, the sloping site, as well as the varying functions of the ancillary chambers.

The monastery was dedicated to the Virgin, as Theodore Metochites indicated in a long poem he wrote to the Virgin: "To thee I have dedicated this noble monastery, which is called by thy precious name of Chora." The naos of the church, however, was dedicated to Christ, as is suggested by the mosaic of Metochites presenting the church to Christ.

Located at the edge of Constantinople near the Land Wall of Emperor Theodosius, the Kariye Camii gained in importance due to its proximity to the main imperial residence at the Blachernae Palace (mostly ruined).

In addition to its architectural significance, the Kariye Camii also preserves one of the finest and most extensive cycles of Later Byzantine mosaic and fresco decoration recounting the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ.

Click here to explore the pictorial decoration of the Kariye Camii in greater depth.


Istanbul, Kariye Camii, Plan, Identification of components

Istanbul, Kariye Camii, Exterior view from the Southwest

Istanbul, Kariye Camii, Anastasis, early 14th century

Istanbul, Kariye Camii, Nativity
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