Essential Architecture-  Turkey

S. Saviour in The Chora Kahrié Jamissi




Istanbul, Turkey






Brick, originally tile roof, later lead roof.


Present-day Mosque, former Church

The Church of S. Saviour in The Chora Kahrié Jamissi  - Byzantine Churches in Constantinople


According to the historian Nicephorus Gregoras, who was long and closely connected with the church, the Chora was founded by Justinian the Great, and then presented the form of a basilica. But there is reason to believe that the edifice erected by that emperor was the reconstruction of an older shrine. The fame of a restorer often eclipsed the memory of the founder of a sanctuary, especially when the restorer was the superior in rank and reared a larger and more beautiful building.

According to Symeon Metaphrastes, 502 the site of the Chora was first consecrated by the interment of S. Babylas and his eighty-four disciples, who were martyred in 298 during the reign of Maximianus. The scene of their execution, indeed, was Nicomedia; but friendly hands obtained possession of the bodies of the champions of the faith, and taking them to Constantinople, buried them outside the walls of the city, towards the north, in the place subsequently occupied by the monastery of the Chora. As will appear, the relics of S. Babylas and his disciples formed part of the treasures of the Chora in the ninth century.


S. Saviour in the Chora, from the west.

S. Saviour in the Chora, from the west.

S. Saviour in the Chora, from the south-east.

S. Saviour in the Chora, from the south-east.


The settlement of the approximate date of the foundation of the church depends, ultimately, upon the meaning to be attached to the term Chora (Χώρα). There are some writers who incline to the idea that in this connection that term was employed from the first in a mystical sense, to denote the attribute of Christ as the sphere of man's highest life; and there can be no doubt that the word was used in that sense in the fourteenth century. That is unquestionably its meaning in the legends inscribed on mosaics which adorn the walls of the building.




And it is in that sense that the term is employed by Cantacuzene 504 and Phrantzes. 505 On this view the description of the church as 'in the Chora' throws no light on the date of the church's foundation. Other authorities, 506 however, maintain that the term Chora was originally associated with the church in the obvious topographical signification of the word, to denote territory outside the city limits, and that its religious reference came into vogue only when changes in the boundaries of Constantinople made the literal meaning of Chora no longer applicable. According to this opinion the church was, therefore, founded while its site lay beyond the city walls, and consequently before the year 413, after which the site was included within the capital by the erection of the Theodosian wall. Hence, the phrase 'in the Chora' had the same signification as the style 'in the fields' which is attached to the church of S. Martin in London, or the style fuore le mura which belongs to the basilica of S. Paul and other churches beyond the walls of Rome to this day. It is certainly in this topographical sense that the term Chora is understood by the Byzantine writers in whose works it first appears. That is how the term is used by Simeon Metaphrastes 507 in his description of the site of the monastery in his day, and that is how the Anonymus 508 of the eleventh century and his follower Codinus 509 understand the term; for they take special care to explain how a building which lay within the city in their day could be styled 'Chora'; because, say they, it once stood without the walls, on territory, therefore, called by the Byzantines, χωρίον, the country. The literal meaning of a word is earlier than its artificial and poetical signification. And one can easily conceive how, when the style Chora was no longer literally correct, men abandoned the sober ground of common-sense and history to invent recondite meanings inspired by imagination and sentiment. This conclusion is confirmed by the history of the Chora given in the Life of S. Theodore, 510 an abbot of the monastery, which Mr. Gedeon discovered in the library of the Pantokrator on Mount Athos. According to that biography, S. Theodore was a relative of Theodora, the wife of Justinian the Great, and after serving with distinction in the Persian wars, and winning greater renown as a monk near Antioch, came to Constantinople about the year 530, at the invitation of his imperial relatives, to assist in the settlement of the theological controversies of the day. Once there he was induced to make the capital his permanent abode by permission to build a monastery, where he could follow his high calling as fully as in his Syrian retreat. For that purpose he selected a site on the property of a certain Charisius, situated, as the Chora is, on the slope of a hill, descending on the one hand steeply to the sea, and rising, on the other, to the highest point in the line of the Theodosian walls, the point marked by the gate named after Charisius (now Edirné Kapoussi). The site was already hallowed, says the biographer of S. Theodore, by the presence of a humble monastic retreat and a small chapel. The edifice erected by S. Theodore was, however, soon overthrown by the severe earthquake which shook the city in 558, and all the hopes of the good man would also have been dashed to the ground had the disaster not called forth the sympathy and aid of Justinian. In the room of the ruined buildings the emperor erected a magnificent establishment, with chapels dedicated to the Theotokos, the Archangel Michael, S. Anthimus of Nicomedia, and the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. There also stood a hostel for the special accommodation of Syrian monks on a visit to Constantinople, and a hospital for diseases of the eye. 511 In this account of the early history of the Chora, there may be, as Schmitt 512 thinks, many inaccuracies. It was easy, even for a member of the House who aspired to authorship, to confuse persons, to err in the matter of dates, and to overlook the changes which the buildings with which he was familiar had undergone before his day. But surely the biographer of S. Theodore can be trusted where his statements are supported by more reliable authorities, and we may therefore accept his testimony on the following points: that the original church of the Chora was earlier than the reign of Justinian; that under Justinian the old sanctuary was replaced by a new and statelier building; that the Chora maintained intimate relations with monasteries in Syria; and that with it was associated a church dedicated to the Archangel Michael.



The association of a church dedicated to S. Michael with the Chora, and the fact that the Chora stood on the property of Charisius, raise an interesting question. For among the subscriptions to the letter of the monks to Pope Hormisdas in 518, and the subscriptions to the Acts of the Synod held in Constantinople in 536, stands the name of the abbot of the monastery of the Archangel Michael of Charisius. 513 Was that monastery identical with the Chora? If it was, that fact would be additional evidence that the Chora was earlier than Justinian's time. On the other hand, it is always dangerous to identify buildings because they were situated in the same quarter of the city and dedicated to the same saint. The absence of all reference to the monastery of S. Michael of Charisius after the reign of Justinian, and yet the association of a church of S. Michael with the Chora after his reign, may be due either to the ruin of that monastery in the earthquake of 558, or to the subsequent union of the two establishments on account of their proximity. The next important event in the history of the House was the confinement there of the celebrated general Priscus, Count of the Excubiti, at the command of the Emperor Heraclius (610-641). 514 Priscus had taken a leading part in the revolution which overthrew his father-in-law, the infamous Phocas, and placed Heraclius upon the throne. But notwithstanding that service, the attitude of the general towards the new régime was not considered satisfactory, and with the cruel taunt, 'Wretch, thou didst not make a good son-in-law; how canst thou be a true friend?' Heraclius relegated him to political nonentity by forcing him to become a monk at the Chora. The new brother did not live long, but his wealth furnished the fraternity with the means for the erection of a large and beautiful church. Schmitt, indeed, thinks that the biographer of S. Theodore, already cited, failed to recognise the identity of the person concerning whom he wrote, and assigned events which occurred in the time of Heraclius to the reign of Justinian. According to Schmitt, S. Theodore is really Priscus under his name in religion, and to him, and not to Justinian, was the Chora indebted for its first great era of prosperity. One thing is certain, the splendid church with which the biographer of S. Theodore was acquainted, and the wealth and beauty of which he extols in extravagant terms, was not the church erected by Justinian at the Chora. The latter was a basilica; 515 while the church alluded to in the biography of S. Theodore was a domical building. 516 Probably the fame of Justinian veiled not only what others had done for the Chora before him, but also the services performed by others after his day.

S. Saviour in the Chora, from the north-east.

S. Saviour in the Chora, from the north-east.

S. Saviour in the Chora. The North Side.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
The North Side.


In 712 the Patriarch Kyros was confined in the Chora by the Emperor Philippicus for adherence to the tenets of the Sixth General Council (680), 517 which condemned the attribution of a single will to the person of Christ. The fidelity of the patriarch to orthodox opinion was commemorated annually in the services held at the Chora, as well as in S. Sophia, on the 8th of January. The monastery was also honoured by the burial there, in 740, of the Patriarch Germanus (714-730), famous for his piety, his learning, and above all for his opposition to Leo the Isaurian, when that emperor commenced the crusade against eikons. The tomb of the patriarch was reputed to perform wonderful cures. 518 Another notable personage buried at the Chora was the patrician Bactagius, an associate of Artavasdos in the effort, made in 743, to drive Constantine Copronymus from the throne. Upon the failure of that attempt Bactagius was captured, beheaded in the Kynegion, and while his head was displayed to public view in the Milion for three days, his mutilated body was taken to the Chora. This might have seemed sufficient revenge. But the rebel's offence so rankled in the emperor's memory, that even after the lapse of some thirty years his resentment was not allayed. The widow of Bactagius was then forced to proceed to the Chora to disinter the bones of her husband from their resting-place in holy earth, and carry them in her cloak to the dreary burial-ground of Pelagion, where the corpses of persons who committed suicide were thrown. 519 Like similar institutions the Chora suffered severely during the iconoclastic period. Because of its connection with the Patriarch Germanus it became the special object of the hatred of Constantine Copronymus for monks and was almost ruined. What he left of it was turned into a secular residence, and devoted to the confinement of Artavasdos and his family. There also that rebel, and his nine children and his wife, Constantine's sister, were eventually buried. 520 With the triumph of the iconodules, in 842, under Michael III. and his mother the Empress Theodora, happier days dawned upon the Chora. It was then fortunate in the appointment of Michael Syncellus as its abbot, and under his rule it rapidly recovered from poverty and desolation. The new abbot was a Syrian monk distinguished for his ability, his sanctity, and his devotion to eikons. He came to Constantinople in 814, to remonstrate against the religious policy of Leo the Armenian, and, according to the custom of monks from Palestine on a visit to the capital, lodged at the Chora. But so far from succeeding in the object of his visit, Michael was imprisoned and then banished to one of the monasteries on Mount Olympus in Bithynia. Accordingly, when the cause for which he suffered proved victorious, no honour seemed too great to bestow upon the martyr. It was even proposed to create him patriarch, but he declined the office, and supported the appointment of his friend Methodius to that position. Methodius, in return, made Michael his syncellus and abbot of the Chora. 521 Under these circumstances it is not surprising that funds were secured for the restoration of the monastery, and that the brotherhood soon gained great influence in the religious circles of the capital. There is, however, no mention now of the church of the Archangel Michael or of the church dedicated to the Theotokos. Possibly the death of the abbot in 846 and lack of money prevented the reconstruction of those sanctuaries. The only churches attached to the Chora noticed in the biography of Michael Syncellus are the church of S. Anthimus, containing the relics of S. Babylas and his eighty-four disciples, the dependent chapel of S. Ignatius, and the church of the Forty Martyrs. 522 Let it also be noted that there is yet no mention of a church specially consecrated to the Saviour. After its restoration in the 9th century the Chora does not appear again in history until the reign of Alexius I. Comnenus (1081-1118), when, owing to its great age, it was found in a state of almost complete ruin. 523 If for no other reason, the proximity of the church to the palace or Blachernae, which had become the favourite residence of the court, brought the dilapidated pile into notice, and its restoration was undertaken by the emperor's mother-in-law, Maria, the beautiful and talented granddaughter of Samuel, the famous king of Bulgaria, and niece of Aecatherina, the consort of Isaac I. Comnenus. Maria had married Andronicus Ducas, a son of Michael VII., and the marriage of her daughter Irene Ducaena to Alexius was designed to unite the rival pretensions of the families of the Comneni and the Ducas to the throne. It had been strenuously opposed by Anna Dalassena, the mother of Alexius, and its accomplishment in 1077, notwithstanding such formidable opposition, is no slight proof of the diplomatic skill and determination of the mother of the bride. Nor can it be doubted that Irene's mother acted a considerable part in persuading Alexius, when he mounted the throne, not to repudiate his young wife, as he was tempted to do in favour of a fairer face. Perhaps the restoration of the Chora was a token of gratitude for the triumph of her maternal devotion. The church was rebuilt on the plan which it presents to-day, for in the account of the repairs made in the fourteenth century it is distinctly stated that they concerned chiefly the outer portion of the edifice. 524 To Alexius' mother-in-law, therefore, may be assigned the central part of the structure, a cruciform hall; the dome, so far as it is not Turkish, the beautiful marble incrustation upon the walls, the mosaic eikons of the Saviour and of the Theotokos on the piers of the eastern dome-arch, and the exquisite marble carving above the latter eikon—all eloquent in praise of the taste and munificence that characterised the eleventh century in Constantinople. Probably the church was then dedicated to the Saviour, like the three other Comnenian churches in the city, the Pantepoptes, the Pantokrator, and S. Thekla. The mother-in-law of Alexius I. was, however, not alone in her interest in the Chora. Her devotion to the monastery was shared also by her grandson the sebastocrator Isaac. Tall, handsome, brave, but ambitious and wayward, Isaac was gifted with the artistic temperament, as his splendid manuscript of the first eight books of the Old Testament, embellished with miniatures by his own hand, makes clear. 525 If the inscription on the mosaic representing the Deesis found in the inner narthex really refers to him, it proves that his influence was felt in the decoration of the building. 526 He certainly erected a magnificent mausoleum for himself in the church. Later in his life, indeed, he became interested in the restoration of the monastery of Theotokos Kosmosoteira at Viros, and ordered that mausoleum to be dismantled, and the marbles, bronze railing, and portraits of his parents which adorned it to be transported to Viros; but he still allowed his own portrait 'made in the days of his youthful vanity' to remain in the Chora.




Uspenski has identified Viros with Ferejik, a village situated 30 kilometres from Dedeagatch, and 20-25 kilometres from Enos, 'aux embouchures désertées et marécageuses de la Maritza.'

The church is now the mosque of the village. It has five domes and three apses. The central apse is pierced by a modern door. The exonarthex has disappeared and the old principal entrance is walled up. The plan of the church is almost identical with the plan of the Chora. While the architectural details are poor and indicate haste, the dimensions of the building imply considerable expense and the wealth of the restorer. There are traces of painting on the walls of the interior, especially in the domes (the Virgin) and in the two lateral apses. An epitaph of seven lines in the middle of the mosque contains the title 'despotes.' According to Uspenski, the  sebastocrator died soon after 1182, the year during which he was engaged on the Typicon of the monastery at Viros. The monastery was visited by the Emperor Andronicus Comnenus in 1185, by Isaac Angelus in 1195, and by Villehardouin in 1205. Early in the fourteenth century it was converted into a fortress, and the country round it was ravaged in 1322 by the Bulgarians. It was attacked in vain by John Cantucuzene, but was captured in 1355 by John VI. Palaeologus.


S. Saviour in the Chora. The Inner Narthex, looking south.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
The Inner Narthex, looking south.

S. Saviour in the Chora. The Inner Narthex, looking south.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
The Inner Narthex, looking south.

Another name associated with the Chora at this period is that of the Patriarch Cosmas, who was commemorated annually in the church on the 2nd of January. He had occupied the patriarchal seat in days troubled by the intrigues and conflicts which drove first Michael VII. Ducas, and then Nicephorus Botoniates from the throne, and invested Alexius Comnenus with the purple. They were not days most suitable to a man who, though highly esteemed for his virtues, was without education or experience in public affairs, and nearly ninety years old. Still, to his honour be it said, it was at his earnest request that Botoniates finally agreed to forego a bloody contest with the Comneni, and to withdraw quietly to the monastery of the Peribleptos. Moreover, when it seemed uncertain whether the victorious Alexius would remain faithful to Irene Ducaena and raise her to the throne, Cosmas, notwithstanding all the efforts of Anna Dalassena (who was ill-disposed towards Irene) to persuade him to lay down his office, firmly refused to resign until he had placed the imperial crown upon the emperor's lawful wife. Soon after that event, on the 7th of May 1081, the festival of S. John the Evangelist, Cosmas, having celebrated service in the church dedicated to that apostle at the Hebdomon (Makrikeui), turned to his deacon, saying, 'Take my Psalter and come with me; we have nothing more to do here,' and retired to the monastery of Kallou. His strength for battle was spent. After its restoration under the Comneni, the Chora again disappears from view until the reign of Michael Palaeologus (1261-1282). In the interval the fortunes of the Empire had suffered serious reverses, what with domestic strifes and foreign wars. Bulgaria had reasserted her independence and established the capital of a new kingdom at Tirnovo, while Constantinople itself had been captured by the forces of the Fourth Crusade and made the seat of a Latin kingdom. Consequently, it is not surprising to find that the Chora, like other churches of the ravaged city, was in a deplorable condition at the close of those calamitous days. Nothing seemed to have been done for the repair of the church immediately upon the recovery of the capital in 1261. The ruin which the Latin occupants of Constantinople left behind them was too great to be removed at once. The first reference to the Chora at this period occurs some fourteen years after the restoration of the Byzantine Empire, when the monastery, owing to its proximity to the palace of Blachernae, was assigned to the Patriarch Veccus as the house in which to lodge on the occasion of his audiences with Michael Palaeologus, on Tuesdays, to present petitions for the exercise of imperial generosity or justice. But the decay into which the establishment had fallen could not be long ignored, and a wealthy, talented, and influential citizen who resided in the neighbourhood, Theodore Metochites, 528 decided to restore the edifice as a monument of the artistic revival of his own day. Theodore Metochites was one of the most remarkable men of his day. His tall, large, well-proportioned figure, his bright countenance, commanded attention wherever he appeared. He was, moreover, a great student of ancient Greek literature and of the literature of later times, and although never a master of style, became an author and attempted verse. He was much interested in astronomy, and one of his pupils, the historian Nicephorus Gregoras, recognised the true length of the year and proposed the reform of the calendar centuries before Pope Gregory. Theodore's memory was so retentive that he could converse on any topic with which he was familiar, as if reading from a book, and there was scarcely a subject on which he was not able to speak with the authority of an expert. He seemed a living library, 'walking encyclopaedia.' In fact, he belonged to the class of brilliant Greek scholars who might have regenerated the East had not the unfortunate political situation of their country driven them to Italy to herald and promote the Renaissance in Western Europe. Theodore Metochites was, moreover, a politician. He took an active part in the administration of affairs during the reign of Andronicus II., holding the office of Grand Logothetes of the Treasury; and such was his devotion to politics, that when acting as a statesman it might be forgotten that he was a scholar. The unhappy strife between Andronicus II. and Andronicus III. caused Theodore Metochites the profoundest anxiety, and it was not his fault if the feud between the grandfather and the grandson refused to be healed. His efforts to bring that disgraceful and disastrous quarrel to an end involved great self-sacrifice and wrecked his career. For the counsels he addressed to Andronicus III. gave mortal offence, and when the young emperor entered the capital and took up his quarters in the palace of the Porphyrogenitus (Tekfour Serai), his troops sacked and demolished Theodore's mansion in that vicinity. The beautiful marbles which adorned the residence were sent as an imperial present to a Scythian prince, while the fallen statesman was banished to Didymotica for two years. Upon his return from exile Theodore found a shelter in the monastery which he had restored in his prosperous days. But there also, for some two years longer, the cup of sorrow was pressed to his lips. A malady from which he suffered caused him excruciating pain; his sons were implicated in a political plot and thrown into prison; Andronicus II., between whom and himself all communication had been forbidden, died; and so the worn-out man assumed the habit of a monk, and lay down to die on the 13th of March 1331, a month after his imperial friend. His one consolation was the beautiful church he bequeathed to succeeding generations for the worship of God. To the renovation of the church Theodore Metochites devoted himself heart and soul, and spent money for that object on a lavish scale. As the central portion of the building was comparatively well preserved, 529 it was to the outer part of the edifice that he directed his chief attention—the two narthexes and the parecclesion. These were to a large extent rebuilt and decorated with the marbles and mosaics, which after six centuries, and notwithstanding the neglect and injuries they have suffered during the greater part of that period, still excite the admiration they awakened when fresh from the artist's hand. The connection of Theodore Metochites with this splendid work is immortalised not only by historians of his day and by himself, 530 but also by the mosaic which surmounts the main entrance to the church from the inner narthex. There the restorer of the building, arrayed in his official robes, and on bended knees, holds a model of the church in his hands and offers it to the Saviour seated on a throne. Beside the kneeling figure is the legend, 'The builder, Logothetes of the Treasury, Theodore the Metochites' (Plate XCI.). The restoration of the church must have been completed before the year 1321, for in that year Nicephorus Gregoras 531 describes it as then recently (ἄρτι) renovated, and in use for the celebration of divine service. How long before 1321 the work of repair precisely commenced cannot be determined, but it was in process as early as 1303, for that date is inscribed in Arabic numerals on the mosaic depicting the miracle at Cana, which stands to the right of the figure of Christ over the door leading from the outer to the inner narthex. But to have reached the stage at which mosaics could be applied the work of restoration must have been commenced sometime before 1303.



S. Saviour in the Chora. Capital in the Outer Narthex.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
Capital in the Outer Narthex.

S. Saviour in the Chora. Capital in the Outer Narthex.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
Capital in the Outer Narthex.

One of the most distinguished members of the Chora was the historian Nicephorus Gregoras, who learned to know the monastery through his friendship with Theodore Metochites. The two men met first when Nicephorus came from his native town Heraclea on the Black Sea to Constantinople, a youth eager to acquire the knowledge that flourished in the capital. Being specially interested in the science of astronomy, the student placed himself under the instruction of Theodore, then the greatest authority on the subject, and won the esteem and confidence of his master to a degree that ripened into the warmest friendship and the most unreserved intellectual intercourse. In his turn, Nicephorus Gregoras became the instructor of the children of the grand logothetes, and was treated as a member of the family. He was also associated with the restoration of the Chora, attending particularly to the collection of the costly materials required for the embellishment of the church. Thus the monastery became his home from youth to old age, and after Theodore's death was entrusted to his care. 532 During the fierce controversy which raged around the question whether the light beheld at the Transfiguration formed part of the divine essence, and could be seen again after prolonged fasting and gazing upon one's navel, as the monks of Mount Athos and their supporters maintained, Nicephorus Gregoras, who rejected that idea, retired from public life to defend what he deemed the cause of truth more effectively. But to contend with a master of legions is ever an unequal struggle. The Emperor John Cantacuzene, taking the side of the monks, condemned their opponent to silence in the Chora, and there for some three years Nicephorus Gregoras discovered how scenes of happiness can be turned into a veritable hell by imperial disfavour and theological odium. Notwithstanding his age, his physical infirmities, his services to the monastery, his intellectual eminence, he was treated by the fraternity in a manner so inhuman that he would have preferred to be exposed on the mountains to wild beasts. He was obliged to fetch water for himself from the monastery well, and when, on one occasion, he was laid up for several days by an injury to his foot, none of the brothers ever thought of bringing him water. In winter he was allowed no fire, and he had often to wait till the frozen water in his cell was melted by the sun before he could wash or drink. The vision of the light of the Transfiguration did not transfigure the character of its beholders.


During this trying period of his life one ray of comfort wandered into the cell of the persecuted man. On the 13th December 1351, in the dead of night, while the precincts of the monastery were crowded with worshippers attending the vigil of the festival of the Conception of the Theotokos, a strange figure climbed into the prisoner's room through an open window. It proved to be an old friend and former pupil named Agathangelus, who had not been seen for ten years owing to his absence from the city. Taking advantage of the darkness and of the absorption of the monks in the services of the festival, he had made this attempt to visit his revered master. Eagerly and hurriedly, for the time at their command was short, the two friends recounted the story of their lives while separated. Rapidly Agathangelus sketched the course of affairs in State and Church since the seclusion of Nicephorus Gregoras; and the brief visit ended and seemed a dream. But the devoted disciple was not satisfied with a single interview. Six months later he contrived to see his master again, and, encouraged by success, saw him again three times, though at long intervals, during the three years that Nicephorus Gregoras was detained in the Chora. One great object of these visits was to keep the prisoner informed of events in the world beyond the walls of his cell, and on the basis of the information thus supplied Nicephorus Gregoras wrote part of his important history. When at length, in 1354, John Cantucuzene was driven from the throne, and John Palaeologus reigned in his stead, Nicephorus was liberated, 533 and to the last defended the opinions for which he had suffered. Another name associated with the Chora at this time is that of Michael Tornikes, Grand Constable in the reign of Andronicus II. He was related, on his mother's side, to the emperor, and stood in high favour at court not only on account of that kinship, but because of the talents, character, and administrative ability which he displayed. He was, moreover, a friend of Theodore Metochites, and his political supporter in the efforts made to end the strife between Andronicus II. and Andronicus III. 534 Upon his death, Tornikes was buried in the parecclesion of the Chora, and the epitaph composed in his honour has kept its place there to this day (Plate XCII.). In 1342, Sabbas, a monk of the monastery of Vatopedi, who came to Constantinople as a member of a deputation from Mount Athos to reconcile the Regent Anna of Savoy with Cantacuzene, was confined in the Chora on the failure of that mission.535 In view of its proximity to the landward walls, the Chora acquired great importance during the fatal siege of 1453. For the inhabitants of the beleagured capital placed their hope for deliverance more upon the saints they worshipped than upon their own prowess; the spiritual host enshrined in their churches was deemed mightier than the warriors who manned the towers of the fortifications. The sanctuaries beside the walls constituted the strongest bulwarks from which the 'God protected city' was to be defended, not with earthly, but with heavenly weapons. The eikon of the Theotokos Hodegetria was, therefore, taken to the Chora to guard the post of danger.


It represented the Theotokos as the Leader of God's people in war, and around it gathered memories of wonderful deliverances and glorious triumphs, making it seem the banner of wingless victory. When the Saracens besieged the city the eikon was carried round the fortifications, and the enemy had fled. It led Zimisces in his victorious campaign against the Russians; it was borne round the fortifications when Branas assailed the capital in the reign of Isaac Angelus, and the foe disappeared; and when Constantinople was recovered from the Latins, Michael Palaeologus only expressed the general sentiment in placing the eikon on a triumphal car, and causing it to enter the city before him, while he humbly followed on foot as far as the Studion. But the glory of the days of old had departed, and no sooner did the troops of Sultan Mehemed force the Gate of Charisius (Edirné Kapoussi) than they made for the Chora, and cut the image to pieces. The church of S. Saviour in the Chora was the first Christian sanctuary to fall into the hands of the Moslem masters of Constantinople.The building was converted into a mosque by Ali Atik Pasha, Grand Vizier, between 1495 and 1511, in the reign of Bajazet II. Gyllius visited the church in 1580, and expatiates upon the beauty of its marble revetment, but makes no reference to its mosaics and frescoes. 536 This, some authorities think, proves that these decorations were then concealed from view, because objectionable in a place consecrated to Moslem worship. But the silence of the traveller may be due to the brevity of his description of the church. There is evidence that the building has suffered much since the Turkish conquest from earthquake and from fire, but the precise dates of these disasters cannot be accurately determined. The mosque disappeared from general view until 1860, when it was discovered by a Greek architect, the late Pelopidas D. Kouppas. Mr. Carlton Cumberbatch, then the British Consul at Constantinople, was informed of the fact and spread the news of the fortunate find. The building was in a pitiful condition. The principal dome and the dome of the diaconicon had fallen in; the walls and vaults were cracked in many places and black with smoke; wind, and rain, and snow had long had free course to do what mischief they pleased. Happily there still remained too much beauty to be ignored, and the Government was persuaded to take the work of restoration in hand. The building now takes rank with the most interesting sights of the capital, presenting one of the finest embodiments of the ideal which inspired Byzantine art.



S. Saviour in the Chora. The Interior, looking north-west.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
The Interior, looking north-west.

S. Saviour in the Chora. The Outer Narthex, looking south.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
The Outer Narthex, looking south.


Architectural Features

As the history of the church prepares us to expect, the building presents a very irregular plan. The central area is a short-armed Greek cross surmounted by a dome, and terminating to the east in a large apse flanked by side chapels now disconnected from it. To the west are two narthexes, on the south a parecclesion, and on the north a gallery in two stories.


Details from the Church.

Fig. 99.


As the central part of the church is the oldest and of the greatest interest, the description will begin with the interior, and deal afterwards with the later exterior accretions. Only two doors lead from the inner narthex to the church, one of them in the centre of the axis and the other to the north. The absence of the corresponding and customary third door, for which there is space on the south side, should be noticed, as it throws light on the original plan of the building. The doors are beautifully treated with marble mouldings and panelled ingoes; the door to the north recalls the sculptured door in the south gallery of S. Sophia, but, unfortunately, the carved work of the panels has been destroyed. Above the central door, on the interior, is a porphyry cornice carved with peacocks drinking at fountains (Plate LXXXVII.). Large portions of the beautiful marble revetment on the walls of the church happily remain intact, and nowhere else in Constantinople, except in S. Sophia, can this splendid method of colour decoration be studied to greater advantage. Slabs of various marbles have been split and placed on the walls so as to form patterns in the veining. The lower part is designed as a dado in Proconessian striped marble, with upright posts of dark red at the angles and at intervals on the longer stretches of wall, and rests on a moulded marble base. Above the dado are two bands, red and green, separated from the dado and from each other by white fillets. The upper part is filled in with large panels, especially fine slabs of brown, green, or purple having been selected to form the centre panels. The plainer slabs of the side panels are framed in red or green borders, and outlined with fillets of white marble either plain or carved with the 'bead and reel.' The arches have radiating voussoirs, and the arch spandrils and the frieze under the cornice are inlaid with scroll and geometrical designs in black, white, and coloured marbles. The cornice is of grey marble with a 'cyma recta' section, and is carved with an upright leaf. 537 On the eastern walls of the north and south cross arms, and flanking the apse, eikon frames similar to those in the Diaconissa (p. 186) are inserted. The northern frame encloses a mosaic figure of Christ holding in His hands an open book, on which are the words, 'Come unto Me all ye who labour and are heavy laden.' 538 In the corresponding frame to the south is the figure of the Virgin, and, above it, an arch of overhanging acanthus leaves enclosed within a square frame with half figures of angels in the spandrils. The arch encloses a medallion bust, the head of which is defaced, but which represented the Saviour, as is proved by the indication of a cross on the aureola. The spaces at the sides of the medallion are filled in with a pierced scroll showing a dark slab of porphyry behind it, making a very beautiful arrangement. These frames are distant from the eikonostasis, which stretched across the front of the bema arch, nearer to the apse. On the south side are two doors leading to the parecclesion, and on the north side above the cornice is a small window from the north gallery. The dome rests on a ribbed drum of sixteen concave segments, and is pierced by eight windows corresponding to the octagonal form of the exterior. The original crown has fallen and been replaced by the present plain Turkish dome. The prothesis and the diaconicon are represented by chapels to north and south of the apse. As already stated, they do not now communicate with the bema, although the position of the old passages between them and the bema is marked by niches in the marble revetment. From the fact that the Byzantine marble work is continued across these passages it is evident that the chapels were cut off from the apse in Byzantine days. The north chapel is covered by a drum dome of eight concave sections, and is entered from the lower story of the gallery on the north side of the church. It should be noticed that the chapel is not placed axially to this gallery. The south chapel is covered by a plain drum dome, and is now entered from the parecclesion, evidently as the result of the alterations made when the parecclesion was added. The exterior is very simply treated. The side apses show three sides of an octagon. The central apse has five sides of a very flat polygon, and is decorated with hollow niches on each side of a large triple window. It was at one time supported by a large double flying buttress, but the lower arch has fallen in. As the buttress does not bond with the wall it was evidently a later addition. The inner narthex is entered from the outer narthex by a door to the west. It is with its resplendent marble revetment and brilliant mosaics a singularly perfect and beautiful piece of work, one of the finest gems of Byzantine Art. It is divided into four bays, and is not symmetrically placed to the church. The door stands opposite to the large door of the church and is in the central axis of the building. The bay which it occupies and that immediately to the north are covered by dome vaults resting on strong transverse arches and shallow segmental wall arches. 539 The northern end bay is covered with a drum dome of sixteen hollow segments pierced by eight windows. The bay to the south of the door is considerably larger than the other bays, and is covered by a dome similar in character to that over the northern end bay but of greater diameter. At the south end of the narthex a small door leads to the return bay of the outer narthex in front of the parecclesion. The double-storied annex or gallery on the north of the building is entered by a door in the north bay of the inner narthex. The lower story is covered by a barrel vault with strong transverse arches at intervals. Its door to the outside at the west end is now built up. At the east end a door, unsymmetrically placed, leads to the small chapel which was originally the prothesis. This story of the gallery seems never to have had windows. The upper story, reached by a stone stair at the west end in the thickness of the external wall, is paved in red tiles, covered with a barrel vault, and lighted by two small windows in the north wall and one at the east end. These windows still show grooves and bolt holes for casement windows or shutters opening inwards in two leaves (Figs. 19, 100). In the south wall is the little window overlooking the church.

S. Saviour in the Chora. Eikon Frame on the south-eastern pier.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
Eikon Frame on the south-eastern pier.

S. Saviour in the Chora. The Interior, looking east.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
The Interior, looking east.


The outer narthex has a single door to the exterior, placed on the central axial line, and is planned symmetrically. The central bay is larger than the others, and is covered by a dome vault resting on shallow wall arches. On each side are two bays covered by similar dome vaults, but as the bays are oblong, the wall arches are brought forward strongly so as to give a form more approaching the square as a base for the dome. The transverse arches are strongly pronounced and have wooden tie beams. At the south end two bays are returned to form an entrance to the parecclesion. In these the transverse arches are even more strongly marked and rest on marble columns set against shallow pilasters. The cubical capitals are of white marble and very beautifully carved with figures of angels and acanthus wreaths. Any marble revetment which may once have covered the walls has disappeared, but mosaics depicting scenes in the Saviour's life still decorate the vaulting and the lunettes of the arches, whilst figures of saints appear upon the soffits. The mosaics are damaged and have lost some of their brilliancy; the background is of gold, and the mosaic cubes are small, averaging about 18 to 316 of an inch.


Details of a Window in the Gallery.

Fig. 100.


The parecclesion is entered from the return bays of the outer narthex through a triple arcade, now partly built up. The capitals of the columns are Byzantine Corinthian, and retain sufficient traces of their former decoration in dark blue, gold, and red to give some idea of the effect of colour on marble in Byzantine churches. The parecclesion is in two bays. The western bay is covered by a high twelve-sided drum dome, with windows in each side separated by flat ribs. In the compartments are figures of the archangels in tempera, with the legend, 'Holy Holy, Holy, is the Lord God.' The eastern bay is covered by a dome vault, and terminates in an apse semicircular within and lighted by a triple window. It has neither prothesis nor diaconicon of its own, but communicates with the original diaconicon of the main church. The three transverse arches in the bay are tied with wooden tie beams carved with arabesques and retaining traces of gilding. On the north and south walls of the western bay are large arches enclosed in square frames and with finely carved archivolts. Above the south arch is a slab inscribed with the epitaph to the memory of the celebrated general Tornikes. There are no indications of an entrance under the arch. It may have covered a niche, now built up, intended to receive a tomb, possibly the tomb of the sebastocrator Isaac. The archivolt of the arch in the north wall is formed of acanthus leaves turned over at the points; the spandrils are filled with the figures of the archangels Michael and Gabriel, bearing appropriate emblems, and above the crown of the arch is a small bust of Christ. In both arches the carved work is exactly like that of the eikon frame in the south-eastern pier of the church, and closely resembles the work on the lintel of the eikon frames in the church of the Diaconissa. Both archivolts were originally coloured, the background blue, the carved ornament gilt. The use of figures in the decoration of the church is remarkable. They are in bold relief and executed freely, but shown only from the waist up. The windows, like those in the outer narthex, have a central arch between two semi-circles (Fig. 63).



S. Saviour in the Chora. Interior Cornice over Main Door of the Church.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
Interior Cornice over Main Door of the Church.

S. Saviour in the Chora. Archivolt on the north side of the Parecclesion.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
Archivolt on the north side of the Parecclesion.

S. Saviour in the Chora. Window Heads in the Central Apse.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
Window Heads in the Central Apse.

To face page 310.

Two passages, which cut through the north wall, lead from the parecclesion to the church. Off the passage to the west is a small chamber whose use is not apparent. It may be simply a space left over when the chapel was added. Higher up, in the thickness of the wall, about ten feet from the floor, and a little above the springing level of the vaulting in the parecclesion, is a long, narrow passage, lighted by a window at the east end, and covered by a small barrel vault, corbelled at the springing, on two courses of stone and three courses of brick laid horizontally, thus narrowing the space to a considerable degree. From this corbelling spring the vaulting courses, which are steeply inclined and run from both ends to the centre, where the resultant diamond-shaped opening is filled in with horizontal courses (Fig. 48). On the north side of the passage is a broad opening roughly built up, but which seems originally to have communicated with the south cross arm. The opening is almost central to the cross-arm, and is directly above the doors leading from the church to the parecclesion. The exterior of the parecclesion and the outer narthex are treated with arcades in two orders of the usual type. On the piers of the arcades are semicircular shafts which in the parecclesion rise to the cornice, but on the west front stop at the springing course. Here they may have supported the wooden roof of a cloister or porch. The apse of the parecclesion has five sides with angle shafts and niches, alternately flat and concave in three stories. The north wall is a fine example of simple masonry in stripes of brick and stone, and with small archings and zigzag patterns in the spandrils of the arches. Below the parecclesion are two long narrow cisterns having their entrance on the outside of the apse. 540 The original plan of the church (Fig. 102). The greater part of the alterations made in the church date from Byzantine times, and the marble coverings then placed upon the walls have effectually covered up any traces which might have given a clue to the original form of the building. In consequence any attempt at restoration must be of a very tentative character. It is evident that there has been a serious movement in the structure due to the weight of the dome and the thrust of the dome arches, for the walls below the dome are bent outwards in a very pronounced manner. It was in order to check this movement that the flying buttress was applied to the apse, and in all probability the enormous thickness of the walls surrounding the central cross is due to the same cause. Had the walls originally been as thick as at present it is hard to imagine that movement could have taken place. The axial line from east to west, passing through the doors of both narthexes, divides the present building into two dissimilar parts. We know that the parecclesion is a later addition, and if it be removed and the plan of the north side repeated to the south the resulting plan bears a striking resemblance to S. Sophia at Salonica (Fig. 101). The position of the prothesis and diaconicon in particular is identical in the two churches. Some proof that this was the original form of the building is given by the small chamber in the wall thickness between the church and the parecclesion. For it corresponds to the angle of the south 'aisle,' and on its west wall is a vertical break in the masonry which may be the jamb of the old door to the narthex. This plan gives a narthex in five bays—the three centre ones low, the two outer covered by domes and leading to the 'aisles.' When the parecclesion was added, the south gallery and two bays of the inner narthex were swept away. The third door leading into the church was built up, and the present large domed bay added to the shortened narthex.


Plan of S. Sophia, Salonica.

Fig. 101.—S. Sophia, Salonica.



Traces of the older structure remain in the wall between the church and the parecclesion. The space already described, which originally opened from the passage at the higher level to the south cross-arm, corresponds in width both to the window above and to the space occupied by the doors below. At S. Sophia, Salonica, the side-arms are filled in with arcades in two stories forming an aisle and gallery. This is the normal domed basilica construction. Here, if we regard the floor of the upper passage (B on plan, p. 318) as the remains of the old gallery floor,—and no other view seems to account for its existence,—the internal elevation was in three stories, an aisle at the ground level, above it a gallery, and above that, in the arch tympanum, a triple window. Such an arrangement is, so far as we know, unique in a small church, but it is the arrangement used in S. Sophia, Constantinople, and may well have been derived from that church. The opening is only about one-half of the space, leaving a broad pier at each side. In this it differs from S. Sophia, Salonica, but such side piers are present in S. Sophia, Constantinople. The diagrams show a restoration of the plan and internal bay based on these conclusions (Figs. 102, 103).


Plan of the Chora (restored).

Fig. 102.—S. Saviour in the Chora (restored plan).



The gallery on the north side is an addition. The character of the brickwork and of the windows is later than the central church, but the lack of windows on the ground floor suggests that the 'aisle' was originally lighted from the body of the church. The vaulting gives no clue, nor are there traces of an opening in the wall between the 'aisle' and the church. The floor level is much higher than that of the passage 'B' (p. 318) on the opposite side, and seems to be a new level introduced when the addition was made and the wall thickened.


S. Saviour in the Chora. East End of the Parecclesion.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
East End of the Parecclesion.

S. Saviour in the Chora. Capital at the Entrance To the Parecclesion.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
Capital at the Entrance To the Parecclesion.



If these conclusions are correct the church was originally a domed basilica resembling S. Sophia, Salonica, in plan and S. Sophia, Constantinople, in elevation. The side dome arches had double arcades in two stories, and above them windows in the dome arches. There are at present no traces of a western gallery, but such may have existed below the present west windows. Later in the history of the church came alterations, which included the ribbed domes and the gallery on the north side. The side aisles still communicated with the church and the lateral chapels with the bema.


Bay in the Chora (restored).

Fig. 103.—S. Saviour in the Chora (restored bay).


The filling up of the arcades, the thickening of the walls, the isolation of the lateral chapels, the removal of the southern aisle, the alteration of the narthex, the building of the parecclesion and outer narthex, and most of the decoration which forms the glory of the church, belong to the great work of restoration by Theodore Metochites early in the fourteenth century. The representation of the church in the mosaic panel above the large door to the church shows a building with a central dome, a narthex terminating in domed bays, and a window in the west dome arch. It seems to represent the church as the artist was accustomed to see it previous to the additions (Fig. 115). Plain cross plans, or cross plans with only one lateral gallery, are not unknown. The church of the Archangels, Sygé, 541 shows such a plan and is here reproduced for purposes of comparison.


S. Saviour in the Chora. The Parecclesion, looking south-east.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
The Parecclesion, looking south-east.

S. Saviour in the Chora. The Parecclesion, looking west.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
The Parecclesion, looking west.

To face page 316.

Plan of Church of the Archangels, Sygé.

Fig. 104.—Church of the Archangels at Sygé.

Plan of the Chora and the Parecclesion.

Fig. 105.

Cross Section, looking west-Plan of Upper Gallery.

Figs. 106 and 107.

Section through Church-Section through Chapel.

Figs. 108 and 109.

Plan of Dome-Section through Inner Narthex-Plan of Gallery-Section of North Gallery.

Figs. 110, 111, 112 and 113.




As stated already, the mosaics on the vaults and lunettes of the arches in the outer narthex of the church portray scenes from the life of Christ, as recorded in the canonical and the apocryphal Gospels, while on the faces and soffits of the arches are depicted the figures of saints 'who desired to look into these things.' Scenes from the Saviour's life are also portrayed in the two bays to the west of the parecclesion, and in the domes and southern bay of the inner narthex. Inscriptions on the mosaics explain the subjects depicted. The scenes will be described according to the groups they form in the compartments of the narthex.

Plan of the Narthexes.

Fig. 114.—Plan of the Narthexes of the Church, indicating Position of their mosaics.

S. Saviour in the Chora.

Sebah and Joaillier.

S. Saviour in the Chora.

S. Saviour in the Chora.

Sebah and Joaillier.

S. Saviour in the Chora.

Mosaic Representing the Miracle of Water turned into Wine. The Date 6811 (a.D. 1303), in Arabic Numerals, is above the last figure on the right.

Mosaic Representing the Caressing of Mary by her Parents, and the Blessing of Mary by Priests at a Banquet.

To face page 322.

Outer Narthex

First Bay (at the north end).


In the northern lunette.—The angel announcing to Joseph, in a dream, the birth of Jesus. To the right, journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Simon the son of Joseph walks ahead, carrying a bundle. In the background, meeting of Mary and Elizabeth.


In the eastern lunette.—The registration of Joseph and Mary at Bethlehem before Cyrenius. (Said to be unique in the East.


On the arch over the eastern lunette.—Busts (in medallions) of SS. Mardarius, Auxentius (only one letter of the name remains), SS. Eustratius, Orestes.


On the western lunette.—The Holy Family on the way to the first passover of Jesus at Jerusalem.


On the arch over the western lunette.—The busts (in medallions) of SS. Anempodistus, Elpidephorus, Akindynus, Aphthonius, Pegasius.


In the vault.—The scene has disappeared. Possibly it represented Jesus among the doctors in the temple.


On the soffit of the transverse arch, between the first and second bays.—To the east, S. Andronicus; to the west, S. Tarachus.

Second Bay


In the eastern lunette.—The birth of Jesus. In the background, to left, the angel appearing to the shepherds; to right, the magi beholding the star shining over the manger in which lies the Holy Child, while an ox and an ass feed in it. In the centre, Mary on a couch. In the foreground, to left, two women bathing the Holy Child; to the right, Joseph seated on the ground and gazing at the Holy Child.


On the arch above the eastern lunette.—The busts (in medallions) of SS. Philemon, Leukius, Kallinikus, Thyrsus, Apollonius.


In the western lunette.—Return of the Holy Family from Egypt to Nazareth.


In the arch above the western lunette.—The busts (in medallions) of SS. Engraphus (?), Menas, Hermogenes, Laurus, Florus, Menas, Victor, Vikentius.


In the vault.—The baptism of Jesus; the scenes in the temptation of Jesus.


On the second transverse arch.—To the east, S. George; to the west, S. Demetrius.

The Third or Central Bay


In the eastern lunette, over the door leading to the inner narthex.—Christ in the act of benediction.


In the western lunette.—The Theotokos, in the attitude of prayer, with the Holy Child, in a nimbus, on her breast; the legend
legend2 (the country of the Infinite); on the right and left, an angel.


In the vault.—In the north-eastern corner, the miracle of water turned into wine. The date 1303, in Arabic numerals, is on this mosaic. In the south-eastern corner, the miracle of the loaves.
    These mosaics, placed on either side of the figure of Christ, are emblems of His character as the Giver of Life.


In the north-western corner.—The sacrifice of a white bullock.


In the south-eastern corner.—The second miracle of the loaves.


On the third transverse arch.—Two saints, not named.

The Fourth Bay


In the eastern lunette.—To the left, the magi, on horseback, guided by a star, on their way to Jerusalem; to the right, the magi before Herod.


On the arch above.—The busts (in medallions) of SS. Abibus, Ghourias, Samonas.


In the western lunette.—Elizabeth fleeing with her child John from a soldier who pursues her with a drawn sword in his hand.
    The scenes in the vault have disappeared.


On the fourth transverse arch.—Two saints, not named.

The Fifth Bay


In the eastern lunette.—Herod inquiring of the priests where the Christ should be born.
    The busts of three saints on the arch above have disappeared.


In the western lunette.—Mothers at Bethlehem seated on the ground, and mourning the death of their infant children.
    The mosaics in other parts of this bay have disappeared.

The Outer Bay fronting the parecclesion


In the eastern pendentive.—To the left (19) the healing of a paralytic; to the right (20) the healing of the man sick of the dropsy.



In the western pendentive.—To the left, the healing of another paralytic; to the right, Christ with the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar; in the lunette, the massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem.


In the southern lunette.—To the left, Herod orders the massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem; to the right, the massacre of the Innocents.
    The other mosaics in this bay have disappeared.

The Inner Bay fronting the parecclesion


In the vault.—In the south-western corner. Uncertain. Possibly, the fall of the idols in Egypt at the presence of the Holy Child; to the south of that scene, Zacchaeus on the sycamore tree.

Inner Narthex

First Bay (at the south end of the narthex)


On the soffit of the first transverse arch.—To the east, the healing of the man with a withered arm; to the west, the healing of a leper.

South Dome


In the crown.—Christ the Pantokrator.


In the flutings, thirty-nine figures, arranged in two tiers, representing the ancestors of Christ from Adam to Esrom, Japhet, and the eleven sons of Jacob not in the line of ancestry.


On the south-eastern pendentive.—The healing of the woman with a bloody issue.


On the north-eastern pendentive.—The healing of Peter's mother-in-law.


On the south-western pendentive.—The healing of a deaf and dumb man.


On the north-western pendentive.—The healing of two blind men at Jericho.


On the eastern wall below the dome, colossal figures of Mary and Christ, technically named the Deësis.


On the opposite wall.—Christ healing divers diseases.
    The mosaics in the three other bays of this narthex depict scenes in the life of Mary as described in the apocryphal Protoevangelium of S. James and other apocryphal Gospels.

First Bay (at northern end).—The North Dome



In the centre.—The Theodokos; in the flutings, twenty-seven figures arranged in two tiers representing sixten royal ancestors of Christ, from David to Salathiel, and Melchisedec, Ananias, Azarias, Misael, Daniel, Joshua, Moses, Aaron, Ur, Samuel, Job.


In the north-eastern pendentive.—The scene has disappeared.


In the south-eastern pendentive.—S. Joachim (Mary's father) with his sheep in the desert, praying and mourning that his offerings have been rejected because he was childless.


In the north-western pendentive.—The High Priest judging Mary.


In the south-western pendentive.—The Annunciation to Mary.


In the eastern lunette below the dome.—The Annunciation to S. Anna, the mother of Mary.


On the soffit of the transverse arch between the first and second bays.—To the east, the meeting of S. Anna and S. Joachim; to the west, Joseph taking leave of Mary before his home, and proceeding to his work in another part of the country, accompanied by a servant.

Second Bay


In the eastern lunette.—The birth of Mary.


In the western lunette.—Joseph receiving the rod which marks him the successful suitor for Mary's hand, and taking her as his bride-elect.


In the vault.—To the east, Mary held in the arms of S. Joachim, receiving the blessing of three priests seated at a banquet; to the west, the child Mary caressed by her parents. This scene shows much feeling.


On the soffit of the transverse arch.—To the east, Mary taking her first seven steps ἡ ἑπταβηματίζουσα; to the west, the high priest praying before the rods, one of which, by blossoming, will designate the future husband of Mary.


On the eastern wall, to the north of the main entrance into the church.—The Apostle Peter with the keys in his hand.

The Third Bay


In the lunette over the main entrance to the church.—Theodore Metochites on his knees offering the church to Christ seated on a throne. The legend ὁ κτήτωρ λογοθέτης τοῦ γεννικοῦ Θεόδωρος ὁ Μετοχίτης,

S. Saviour in the Chora. Mosaic Representing the Registration of Joseph and Mary at Bethlehem.

Sebah and Joaillier.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
Mosaic Representing the Registration of Joseph and Mary at Bethlehem.

S. Saviour in the Chora. Mosaic Representing Theodore Metochites Offering the Church To Christ.

Sebah and Joaillier.

S. Saviour in the Chora.
Mosaic Representing Theodore Metochites Offering the Church To Christ.

To face page 326.



In the western lunette.—Mary receiving purple and scarlet wool to weave in the veil of the temple.


In the vault.—On the east, Mary admitted to the Holy of Holies when three years of age, lest she should go back to the world; on the west, the procession of maidens escorting Mary to the temple.


The third transverse arch.—To the east, Mary in the temple receiving bread from the archangel Gabriel; to the west, Mary in the temple receiving instruction.


On the eastern wall, to the south side of the main entrance to the church.—The Apostle Paul.

Model of the Church in the Mosaic.

Fig. 115.—Model of The Church of S. Saviour in the Chora.

The scenes represented on these mosaics are not peculiar to this church, but are a selection from cycles of subjects which from the eleventh century became favourite themes for pictorial treatment on the walls of important churches in the Byzantine world. Several of these scenes are found portrayed also at Daphni, Mistra, S. Sophia at Kiev, in the churches of Mt. Athos, on diptychs and manuscripts, as well as in the chapel of the arena at Padua. The cycle of subjects taken from the life of Mary was developed mainly in Syria, and Schmitt goes so far as to maintain that the mosaics of the Chora are copies of Syrian mosaics executed by a Syrian artist, when the church was restored in the ninth century by Michael Syncellus, who, it will be remembered, came from Syria.

Kondakoff assigns most of the mosaics to the Comnenian restoration of the church by Maria Ducaena in the eleventh or twelfth century. One of them at least, the Deësis, has survived; and there may be others of that period, for, as that mosaic proves, the narthex of the church was decorated when the church was restored by that benefactress of the Chora. But the testimony of Nicephorus Gregoras, of Theodore Metochites, and the date marked on the scene representing the miracle of the wine at Cana, on the right of the figure of Christ over the door leading from the outer to the inner narthex, prove these mosaics to be as a whole the production of the fourteenth century. And this conclusion is confirmed by their unlikeness to mosaic work in the twelfth century, and by their affinity to other work of the same character done in the fourteenth century.

In fact, the mosaics in the Chora represent a remarkable revival in the history of Byzantine art. They are characterised by a comparative freedom from tradition, by closer approximation to reality and nature, by a charm and a sympathetic quality, and by a scheme of colour that indicate the coming of a new age and spirit. Curiously enough, they are contemporary with the frescoes of Giotto at Padua (1303-1306). But whatever points of similarity may be detected between them and the work of the Italian artist, or between them and the Italian school before Giotto, should be explained as due to a common stock of traditions and to the simultaneous awakening of a new intellectual and artistic life in the East and the West, rather than to any direct influence of one school of art upon another. The mosaics of the Chora are thoroughly Byzantine.

The Frescoes in the Parecclesion:—


Round the apse: Six Fathers of the Church (only one figure remains, and that badly damaged. No names are inscribed).


In the vault of the apse: a full-length figure of Christ in a vesica dotted with stars. On either side are groups of figures.



In the crown of the apse-arch: an angel in a medallion.


In the northern wall, next the apse: Christ with two attendants; in the background a walled city.
    The Eastern bay.

On the northern wall:


Above the arched recess: two medallion heads of SS. Sergius and Bacchus.


Portions of the figure of a warrior.


In the arch above Nos. 5 and 6: the Gate of Paradise.


In the centre, one of the cherubims on a pillar. On the left hand, a multitude, painted on black background outside Paradise; on the right, Paradise, a garden full of trees on a white background. Here also are John the Baptist and a figure, probably the Virgin and Child, on a throne, attended by two angels.

Plan of the Parecclesion.

Fig. 116.—Plan of the Parecclesion, indicating positions of its Frescoes.

On the southern wall:


A portion of the figure of an armed angel. Above No. 8 and at the side of the window:


Two men carrying a bier or platform. In front of them a third person giving directions.


In the arched recess: full-length figures of Andronicus II. and his family. In the soffit of the arch, the head of Christ in a medallion, with rays issuing from behind the aureola.


and 12. In the spandrils above the recess: two heads in medallions.


In the dome vault: the Last Judgment. Christ in judgment fills the centre; behind Him are the twenty-four elders seated on a long throne; farther back is gathered the heavenly host.

Archivolt on the South Wall of the Parecclesion, with the Epitaph in honour of Tornikes.

Archivolt on the South Wall of the Parecclesion, with the Epitaph in honour of Tornikes

To face page 330.

On the southern wall:



On the north-eastern pendentive: the Virgin and Child in a Paradise, with trees on a white background.


On the south-eastern pendentive: the Mouth of Hell.


On the south pilaster of the dome: an armed angel.


Above that angel, on the arch: a man bearing the Seven-Branched Candlestick, and beside him another man bearing with both hands some object above his head, perhaps the Table of Shew Bread.


On the northern pilaster: a warrior.


In the centre of the arch: the Head of Christ in a medallion.
    The Western Bay.


At the south-western corner where the wall is much damaged, a saint.


Above No. 20, to the west of the window: Christ appearing to His disciples.


To the east of the window, an indistinct scene, perhaps the Entombment.


At the north-western corner: S. Samona.


A saint, not named.


Over the door two saints, one of whom holds a cross.


The northern archway: In the centre is the door to the narrow passage between the parecclesion and the church. To the left, Jacob's Ladder; to the right, Moses at the Burning Bush. In the bush is a medallion of the Virgin and Child, and from the bush an angel addresses Moses, who holds his veil in his hand.


 28, 29, 30. In the pendentives of the dome: the Four Evangelists sitting at desks.


The dome is divided into twelve segments by ribs, and is pierced by twelve windows. Above each window is an angel holding a spear, and below him is the legend 'Holy.' In the crown are the Virgin and Child in a medallion.


A saint holding a small cross; below, in the south wall, the archivolt with the epitaph to Tornikes above it.


A warrior saint with his sword and shield.


Above Nos. 32 and 33 on the arch, a figure, clad in a white mantle and blue robe with a scroll in his hand, points to an angel, who holds his drawn sword in the right hand and the scabbard in the left hand, and seems to be attacking several persons in the right-hand corner. Behind him is a walled and fortified city, probably Jericho.


On the north wall: S. Eutadius.


The Adoration by the magi.


 38. On the west wall: the figures of two saints, not named.

Text quoted from-
Byzantine Churches in Constantinople, Their History and Architecture.
MACMILLAN AND CO., Limited, London, 1912.
by Alexander Van Millingen and Ramsay Traquair and W. S. George and A. E. Henderson.