Outside In, Inside Out

Yesterday, we took a long walk across town to the Chora Church.

When it was originally built in the early 5th century, this church stood outside the city walls that had been built about 100 years earlier by the Roman Emperor Constantine. However, the later Emperor Theodosius II extended the walls of the city in 413, resulting in the church being incorporated within the outer defenses.

The original Greek name for the Chora Church was: hē Ekklēsia tou Hagiou Sōtēros en tēi Chōrai, which means “Church of the Holy Saviour in the Country.” Apparently, the “Chōrai” part means something equating to “outside” and that part of the original Greek name stuck after the church was incorporated inside the Theodosian wall.

The Theodosian wall looks like much of the other Roman construction we have seen in Germany and England:

Anyway, the Chora Church that exists today was rebuilt on the site of the original church around 1080 A.D., not long after the Christian Church split into the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church in 1054 (and, for reference, around the time of the Norman invasion of England in 1066).

It’s pretty obvious that the Chora Church continued in the Greek or Orthodox tradition. All of the calligraphy that I could find in the artwork adorning the interior of the church was in Greek, like this:

The domes, upper walls and ceilings of the Chora Church were decorated with numerous mosaics and frescos around 1320. In one fortunate side effect of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Chora Church was converted to a mosque and, given the muslim prohibition against iconic imagery, the mosaics and frescos were plastered over. And they remained covered and protected for centuries, until 1948 when restoration work began, the artwork was uncovered, and the building became a museum.

Every picture tells a story, but I won’t tell every picture’s story here. Suffice to say they were all magnificent. Here’s another fresco:

But we preferred the mosaics, Dale’s medium:

But I don’t want to leave out the building itself. The lower walls were all covered in various types and colors of marble, providing a beautiful foundation for the artwork above:

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