Monday, August 21, 2017


Sultanahmet, Fatih - İstanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°00'28.0"N 28°58'44.6"E / 41.007789, 28.979059


Hagia Sophia's Dome

The most important difference in Hagia Sophia’s architectural design is that its size and measurements are much larger than other churches, and the central dome is much bigger and higher. The dome that is over the central space is 55.60 m. from ground level, 31.87 m. from North to South and 30.87 m. from East to West. When constructing Hagia Sophia, architects have used marble, stone and special bricks that were light yet durable, specially made of Rhodes soil.

The dome that appeared compressed and spread out when it was first constructed, has been damaged in August 553 and December 557 due to earthquakes and in May 7, 558 the Eastern part of the dome has completely fallen apart. The renovation of the dome has been carried out by İsidoros’ nephew, young İsidoros. İsidoros has solved the problem by installing support systems through external braces and assisted the structure by adding forty windows and increasing the lenght of the dome by seven meters to make it smaller and lighter.

Hagia Sophia has survived a big fire in 859 and an earthquake in 869. The dome has collapsed after an earthquake in 989 and has been repaired. Due to the earthquakes in 1344 and 1346 a part of the dome and parts of the arch have collapsed and have been repaired.

The renovation process that has started by Fatih Sultan Mehmed during the Ottoman period has been continued by the following Sultans as well. The most important repair conducted in Hagia Sophia was by Sultan Abdulmecid’s (1839-1861) orders in 1847-1849 by the Swiss Fossati brothers. This repair included the filling of large cracks on the dome as well as securing the dome’s rim by implementing steel circles. During the renovations, one of the most important calligraphist’s of his time, Kazasker Mustafa İzzet Efendi has written the 35th verse of the quran on the main dome.

Calligraphic Panes of Hagia Sophia

Great Calligraphic Panes
The great rounded calligraphic panes on the walls of the main place had been written by Kazasker Mustafa İzzet Efendi who was one of the famous calligraphers during the repairs between 1847 and 1849 of Sultan Abdülmecid period (1839-1861). Rounded calligraphic panes with 7.5 meters of diameter are written by gilt on green background made of hemp. There are 8 of these panes containing the names of Allah, Muhammad, and the four caliphs, namely Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali as well as the grandsons of Muhammad, namely Hasan and Husayn. The wooden hangers of the panes are made of lime since it is light and durable. The calligraphic panes are the largest ones in the Islamic world.

Calligraphic Panes in Altar Section
There are calligraphic panes belonging to Ottoman Sultans on the right wall of the altar in Hagia Sophia.  The writers of these panes in top down order:

1st calligraphic pane, Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839)
2nd calligraphic pane, Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839)
3rd calligraphic pane, Sultan Ahmed III (1703-1730)
4th calligraphic pane, Sultan Mustafa II (1695-1703)
5th calligraphic pane, Sultan Mustafa II (1695-1703)

As for the left wall of the altar, there are panes written by the famous calligraphers of the day. The left one is written by Calligrapher Mehmed Esad Yesari (1797), while the right one is written by Calligrapher Veliyyüddin Efendi who was the chief religious official as well.

Ceramics of Hagia Sophia

Ceramics around the Altar
“Ayetü'l Kürsi “ the 255th verse of Bakara Sura is written by polished thuluth (celi sülüs) on the cobalt blue ceramic belt surrounding all along the wall behind the altar. A script of "Ketebehu El Fakir Muhammed 1016" is written in a red rosette with white contour at the end of ceramic belt.

There are ceramic panes in the narthexes at the left and right of the altar. There is ceramic panel on the left narthex with plant patterns belonging to Old Sultan’s Loge contains İznik ceramics dated to 16th century. There are two portrayals on the pane in the right narthex. One of them is the portrayal of Kaabe in eight pieces; the other one is demonstrating the Tomb of Muhammad. It has been understood that, Turkish ceramics art had been reached its peak point in 16th and 17th centuries.

Ceramic in the Library of Sultan Mahmud I
The ceramic used in the Library of Sultan Mahmud I are the best examples of İznik, Kütahya and Tekfur Workshops within 16th - 18th centuries. There is ceramic pane containing flower, rose, carnation, tulip and cypress in the corridor combining the reading room of the library to the place of which the books are stored (Hazine-i Kütüb). The sultan signature of Sultan Mahmud I figured on porphyry is located on the east wall of the library’s reading room. The scripture of “Kelime-Tevhid” (faith declaration) is written on the ceramic frieze of the signature, while the scriptures of “Besmele, Haşr Sura 22nd verse and the beginning of 23rd verse” and “The Beautiful Names of Allah Esma-Ül Hüsna” are written in white polished thuluth (celi sülüs) on indigo-blue background.

Ceramic in the Sultan Tombs
The inner part of the Tomb of Sultan Selim II is decorated with the most beautiful ceramics of the 16th century. “Bakara Sura” and "Ayetü'l Kürsi" is written in white polished thuluth (celi sülüs) on dark blue background on the ceramic belt entirely surrounding the tomb through the upper part of the lower window.

There are ceramic panes at both sides of the entrance door with purple, red, green, blue flower patterns on white background. The alcoves of the white background panes in rectangular frames are filled with red, green, and blue peonies, leafs, and flowers; the elliptic medallion with dark blue background in the middle is decorated with sprays. There are ceramic with cloud patterns on red background on the articles designed on the corners.

These panels are the most beautiful examples of 16th century ceramics, while the left one is the imitation of the original. It is known that, it had been taken away for restoration to France in 1895 by an ancient collector Albert Sorlin Dorigny, a dentist in Istanbul who was the dentist of Sultan Abdülhamit II as well, however an imitation was mounted in the place of the original which is now exhibited in “Arts of Islam” section of Louvre Museum with the inventory number of 3919/2-265.

The inner part of the Tomb of Sultan Murad III is decorated with 16th century İznik ceramics. The coral red ceramics here are significant with respect to being produced by only a single generation of İznik Ceramics Workshop in Ottoman era. The production secret had not been found afterwards. There is a scripture of “Mülk Sura 1-22nd Ayat” in polished thuluth (celi sülüs) calligraphy on blue background in the tomb. The surface beneath the ceramic belt is decorated with roses, tulips, hyacinths, gillyflowers, lily leafs and clouds in various colors.

There is an interesting ceramic pane in terms of color and composition outside the tomb which is creation of Architect Davud Agha. There is a rosette attracting attention mainly blue over a white background. Garnets, poniard leaves, and peony portrayals are completing this structure.

The inner part of the Tomb of Sultan Mehmet III is decorated with İznik ceramics dared to the beginning of the 17th century. There is scripture of “Besmele and Cum’a Sura” polished thuluth (celi sülüs) calligraphy on a blue background.

As one of the major elements of the traditional mosque architecture, altar is a recessed segment in mosques, prayer rooms, and outdoor prayer areas which is higher than surroundings and faced to the direction of Mecca that imam having community behind him stands in front of it during prayer. Ottoman Sultans made some repairs and additions to the altar in the southeast of the main place of the traditional Hagia Sophia Museum.

The altar of the Hagia Sophia renovated in the 19th century is a marble example having a polygonal alcove decorated with a decorative figure of the sun and stars covered by a half-domed mesh. Plenty of gilts are used in the altar encircled by a wide border decorated with acanthus leafs with convoluted branches and it has an imposing cap stone.

The candelabras are places at both sides of the altar brought from the court church of the Hungarian King Matthias I by the Grand Vizier İbrahim Pasha during the conquest of Buda by the Hungary run in the era of Suleiman the Magnificent.

Minbar is a pulpit in the mosque where the imam (leader of prayer) stands to deliver sermons on Fridays. Minbar is at right hand side of the altar in Hagia Sophia and build in the period of Sultan Murad III. It is one of the best marble workmanship of 16th century Ottoman era.

Sultan’s Loge
Sultans’s Loge, also called as Imperial Loge, are special locations for Sultan’s prayers in mosques, since sultans perform Friday and Festival prayers as well as night payers in Holy nights in the Major mosque of the city.

There is no information regarding the location and creator of the first Sultan’s Loge in Hagia Sophia. Today’s Sultan’s Loge is at the left side of the altar and annexed to the structure by Fossati Brothers during the renovations performed between 1847 and 1849. Sultan’s Loge consists of a hexagonal section on a number of five columns and a corridor again on columns. Its lower part has a marble hemstitched banister panel, while the upper part is a gilded wooden cage. The ceiling of the loge is decorated with hand-drawn plant patterns.

Muezzin’s Loge
Muezzin’s Loge is the section in the same direction of Mecca which the Muezzin go up on it and prays during prayers and other worships. A large Muezzin’s Loge had been built at the east of the main place in Murat III period, however since the place is so large and the community is too crowded, four more Muezzin’s Loges had been appended in the structure. The Muezzin Loges are in harmony with the main structure and reflecting the best examples of the marble workmanship of 16th century Ottoman era.

Omphalion is the location where the coronation of every Emperor took place in East-Roman Era and a special section with a group of circular marble slabs with various colors and dimensions and decorations in opus sectile styles in junctures.

The Library of Mahmud I
One of the most significant annexes to the structure is the library built by Sultan Mahmud I between the two buttresses on the south of the structure. This section consists of the reading hall, the main place, Hazine-i Kütüb (place where the books are preserved) and the corridor and the stony ground combining these sections. It is separated from the main place by a bronze grid carries by 6 columns. The bronze grid is decorated with flowers and branch convolutions. There is scripture of “Ya Fettah” on the two-leafed door of the library and there are two door handles.

“Ya Fettah” is one of the 99 names of Allah and means “the one who opens the doors of goodness and livelihood and makes things easier”. It is frequently used on the handles of the doors in Ottoman Era. There is a porphyry signature of Sultan Mahmud I inlayed to marble on the east wall of the reading room.

The corridor combining the reading room and Hazine-i Kütüb (place where the books are preserved) is decorated with ceramics belonging to 18th century İznik, Kütahya and Tekfur workshops with flower, rose, gillyflower and cypress patterns. The wooden book cabinets in the library section are made of rose wood. The library where Sultan Mahmud I and the leading persons of the day donated books have approximately 5000 books which have been transferred to Süleymaniye Library and is preserved here under the name of “Hagia Sophia Special Collection”.

There are low, small, narrow and wooden tables decorated by mother-of-pearl inlay work technique which are used for reading and writing and a number of two Koran casings coated with mother-of-pearl and tusk.

Private Sections (Maksure)
Hagia Sophia had been utilized for not only religious purposes but also as an educational center. The community was lectured here for religious and scientific topics by the prominent ecclesiastics and scientists of the day out of prayer hours. There are private wooden sections in the structure for these purposes called as maksure. There are a total of 11 private sections (maksure) in Hagia Sophia.

Marble Cubes
Two pieces of cubes made of monolithic marbles at the lateral naves in the building belong to Hellenistic Period (BC 330-30) and had been brought from Bergama antique city. These cubes have been brought to Hagia Sophia in the period of Sultan Murad III (1574-1595) and can contain 1250 liters of liquid in average. They had been used for distributing juice to the public for holy nights and celebration prayers in the mosque period. The cubes have taps at their lower parts for consuming water in other days.

Wishing Column
There is a column with a hole in the middle covered by bronze plates at the northwest of the building which was also named as the perspiring column or the wishing column. In some references, it is indicated that this column had become blessed in due course among community. Rumors appeared in East-Roman period that it had a healing effect on humans. The legend has it that, Emperor Justinian wandering in the building with a severe headache leaned his head to this column and after a while he realized that the headache was gone.

This story had been heard among the public and the rumor regarding the healing effect of the column got around. Hence, people believed that they would get better if they put their fingers into that hole on the column and then rub them to the place where disease is felt. According to another legend, this wetness is described as the tear of Virgin Mary.

As for the Ottoman period, when the Hagia Sophia was transformed into a mosque, Fatih Sultan Mehmed and his retinue prostrated themselves for the first friday prayer by the imamate of Master Akşemseddin, however, they had no matter be able to start the prayer, since the direction of the building was not faced to Kaaba. There is a rumor that, Deus Ex Machina appeared just at that moment and tried to turn the building to face Kaaba, but he was witnessed by a citizen, so he had to disappear without being able to turn the mosque. As for today, people make their wishes by rotating their thumb a complete clockwise tour inside the hole.

Gravestone of Commandant Enrico Dandolo
In face of Mosaic of the Deesis, there is the gravestone of Commandant Enrico Dandolo the Doge of Venice who commanded the 4th crusade and died in Istanbul in 1205 when he was 70 years old. No foundlings regarding to grave have been encountered in researches.

Viking scripture in Hagia Sophia.
There is a scripture come down to Vikings on the marble banisters in the middle section of the south galleria. The scripture determined to belong to the 9th century contains a sentence meaning "Halvdan was here". The scripture is supposed to be made by a Viking mercenary in East-Roman period. A group of Vikings who was famous with their warrior nature had been participated to the imperial guard regiment in İstanbul which was mainly constituted by them which was called as "Varangian". This regiment built a reputation by fighting on behalf of the court in every region of the empire for approximately 200 years.

The Emperor Door
It is the largest door of Hagia Sophia dated to 6th century, which provides passing to the main structure from the inner narthex section. The Emperor door is 7 meters in length and made of oak and has a bronze frame. The leaves of the door are coated by bronze plates. The door had been used only by the Emperor and his retinue. East-Roman references says the door could be made of the woods of Noah's ark or the wood of the chest of which the Jewish holy plates kept in.


WEB SITE : Hagia Sophia Museum Administration

E-Mail :
Phone : +90 212 522 1750 / Tel: +90 212 522 0989
Fax : +90 212 512 5474

These scripts and photographs are registered under © Copyright 2017, respected writers and photographers from the internet. All Rights Reserved.


Sultanahmet, Fatih - İstanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°00'28.0"N 28°58'44.6"E / 41.007789, 28.979059


Hagia Sophia is the one of the most visited museums and most prominent monuments in the world in terms of art and the history of architecture. It has also been called "the eighth wonder of the world" by East Roman Philon as far back as the 6th century.

The current Hagia Sophia is the third construction, done in a different architectural style, even though it occupies the same location as the previous two. The original building was constructed by the most important architects of the period (527-565), Anthemios (Tralles) and Isidoros (Miletus), under the order of Emperor Justinianos. It is mentioned in the resources that during its construction period, the two prominent architects each had 100 architects working under them, who in turn had 100 workers each working under them.

The construction of the Hagia Sophia began on February 23, 532. It was completed before long, approximately within 5 years and 10 months. It was then opened to divine service with a great ceremony on December 27, 537. It was used as a church for 916 years but, following the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmed, the Hagia Sophia was converted into mosque. Afterwards, it was used as a mosque for 482 years. Under the order of Atatürk and the decision of the Council of Ministers, Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum in 1935.

Hagia Sophia is open for visit every day except Mondays. The winter visiting hours for the Hagia Sophia are from 09.00 to 17.00, with the final entry being at 16.00. During the summer, the visiting hours are between 09.00 and 19.00, with the final entry being at 18.00. Passes are available at the box office in the museum. The Hagia Sophia, one of the historical architectural wonders that still remains standing today, has an important place in the art world with its architecture, grandness, size and functionality.

The Hagia Sophia, the biggest church constructed by the East Roman Empire in Istanbul, has been constructed three times in the same location. When it was first built, it was named Megale Ekklesia (Big Church); however, after the fifth century, it was referred to as the Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom). The church was the place in which rulers were crowned, and it was also the biggest operational cathedral in the city throughout the Byzantine period.

The first church was constructed by Emperor Konstantios (337-361) in 360. The first church was covered with a wooden roof and expanded vertically (basilica) yet was burned down after the public riot that took place in 404 as a result of the disagreements between Emperor Arkadios’ (395-408) wife empress Eudoksia and Istanbul’s patriarch Ioannes Chrysostomos, who was exiled.

The patriarch’s mosaic portrait can still be viewed at the tymphanon wall located in the northern part of the church. No remains have been recovered from the first church; however, the bricks found in the museum storage branded ‘Megale Ekklesia’ are predicted to belong to the first construction. The second church was reconstructed by Emperor Theodosios II (408-450) in 415. This basilical structure is known to contain five naves and a monumental entrance; it is also covered by a wooden roof.

The church was demolished in January 13, 532, after the public riot (Nika revolts) that took place during the fifth year of Emperor Justinianos’ reign (527-565), when the ‘blues’ who represented the aristocrats, and the ‘greens’ who represented the tradesman and merchants in the society, collaborated against the Empire.

Remains found during the excavations led by A. M Scheinder of the Istanbul German Archeology Institute, 2 meters below ground level, include steps belonging to the Propylon (monumental door), column bases and pieces with lamb embossings that represent the 12 apostles. In addition, other architectural pieces that belong to the monumental entrance can be seen in the west garden.

The current structure was constructed by Milet and Tralles, who were renowned architects of their time, by Emperor Justinianos’s (527-565) orders. Information from historian Prokopios states that the construction that began on February 23, 532, was completed in a short period of five years and the church was opened to worship with a ceremony on December 27, 537. Resources show that on the opening day of the Hagia Sophia, Emperor Justinianus entered the temple and said, “My Lord, thank you for giving me chance to create such a worshipping place,” and followed with the words “Süleyman, I beat you,” referring to Süleyman’s temple in Jerusalem.

The third Hagia Sophia construction combined the three traditional basilical plans with the central dome plan in design. The structure has three nefi, one apsi, and two narthex, internal and external. The length from the apsis to the outer narthex is 100 m, and the width is 69.5 m. The height of the dome from the ground level is 55.60 m and the radius is 31.87 m in the North to South direction and 30.86 in the East to West direction.

Emperor Justinianos ordered all provinces under his reign to send the best architectural pieces to be used in the construction so that the Hagia Sophia could be bigger and grander. The columns and marbles used in the structure have been taken from ancient cities in and around Anatolia and Syria, such as, Aspendus Ephessus, Baalbeek and Tarsa.

The white marbles used in the structure came from the Marmara Island, the green porphyry from Eğriboz Island, the pink marbles from Afyon and the yellow from North Africa. The decorative interior wall coatings were established by dividing single marble blocks into two and combining them in order to create symmetrical shapes. In addition, the structure includes columns brought in from the Temple of Artemis in Ephessus to be used in the naves, as well as 8 columns brought from Egypt that support the domes. The structure has a total of 104 columns, 40 in the lower and 64 in the upper gallery.

All the walls of the Hagia Sophia except the ones covered by marble have been decorated with exceptionally beautiful mosaics. Gold, silver, glass, terra cotta and colorful stones have been used to make the mosaics. The plant-based and geometric mosaics are from the 6th century, whereas the figured mosaics date back to the Iconoclast period.

During the East Roman period, the Hagia Sophia was the Empire Church and, as a result, was the place in which the emperors were crowned. The area that is on the right of the naos, where the flooring is covered with colorful stones creating an intertwining circular design (omphalion), is the section in which the Eastern Roman Emperors were crowned.

Istanbul was occupied by Latins between 1204 and 1261, during the Holy Crusades, when both the city and the church were damaged. The Hagia Sophia was known to be in bad condition in 1261, when Eastern Rome took over the city again.
Following Fatih Sultan Mehmet’s (1451-1481) conquer in 1453, Hagia Sophia was renovated into a mosque. The structure was fortified and was well protected after this period, and remained as a mosque. Additional supporting pillars were installed during the East Roman and Ottoman periods as a result of the damage that the structure experienced due to earthquakes in the region. The minarets designed and implemented by Mimar Sinan have also served to this purpose.

A madrasah was built towards the North or Hagia Sophia during Fatih Sultan Mehmed’s reign. This construction was abolished in the 17. Century. During Sultan Abdülmecid’s (1839-1861) reign, renovations were conducted by Fossati and a madrasah was rebuilt in the same place. The remains have been discovered during the excavations in 1934.

During the 16th and 17th century Ottoman period, mihrabs, minbar, maksoorahs, a preachment stand and a muezzin mahfili (a special raised platform in a mosque, opposite the minbar where a müuezzin kneels and chants in response to the imam’s prayers) were added to the structure.

The bronze lamps on two sides of the mihrab have been given as gifts to the mosque by Kanuni Sultan Süleyman (1520-1566) after his return from Budin.

The two marble cubes dating back to the Hellenistic period (30-330 B.C.) on both sides of the main entrance have been specially brought from Bergama and were given by Sultan Murad III (1574-1595) as gifts.

During the Sultan Abdülmecid period between 1847 and 1849, an extensive renovation in the Hagia Sophia was conducted by the Swiss Fossati twins, where the Hünkâr Mahfili (a separate compartment where the emperors pray) located in a niche in the Northern section was removed and another one towards the left of the mihrab was built.

The 8- 7.5 m diameter calligraphy panels that were written by Hattat Kazasker were placed in the main walls of the structure. The panels that read “Allah, Hz. Muhammed, Hz. Ebubekir, Hz. Ömer, Hz. Osman, Hz. Ali, Hz. Hasan ve Hz. Hüseyin” are known to be the biggest calligraphy panels in the Islamic world.

The Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum by goverment's orders and has been functioning as one since February 1, 1935, welcoming both local and foreign visitors. According to a deed dated 1936, the Hagia Sophia is registered as “Ayasofya-i Kebir Camii Şerifi on behalf of the Fatih Sultan Mehmed Foundation for maoseleum, akaret, muvakkithane and madrasah on 57 pafta, 57 island and 7th parcel.”


WEB SITE : Hagia Sophia Museum Administration

E-Mail :
Phone : +90 212 522 1750 / Tel: +90 212 522 0989
Fax : +90 212 512 5474

These scripts and photographs are registered under © Copyright 2017, respected writers and photographers from the internet. All Rights Reserved.


Edirnekapı, Fatih - Istanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°01'51.7"N 28°56'20.5"E / 41.031026, 28.939025


The apse determining the eastern ends of churches are the most important places of religious buildings in terms of liturgy and church symbolism. The rectangular parecclesion of Chora has been a structure the longitudinal effect of which is dominant visually as well, thanks to the rhythmic sequence of its dome, domical vault and the semi-dome of the apse from west to the east reinforced by the sequence of martyrs on the lower walls.

Except those in the tomb arcosolia, all frescoes of the chapel were got made immediately after the completion of the mosaics in the nave and in the narthexes by Theodore Metochites in 1320 and 1321.

On the other hand, the frescoes and portraits decorating the walls of tomb arcosolia were made when their owners had been buried in these tombs.

Bishop figures on the apse wall
The bishop figures are of human size and they are ordered according to their importance. The names of those saints in bishop dresses are inscribed next to their heads and they are holding closed books in their hands. Two bishop-saints who are the founders of the Byzantine liturgy are in the middle. Saint Basil is in the middle-right and on the right side of him are Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Athanasios and probably Saint Nicholas, whose name disappeared, respectively. On the left side of Saint Basil is Saint Gregory the Theologian, and Saint Cyril of Alexandria next to him.

The scene of Anastasis
It is painted on the semi-dome of the apse, which is the most important and the most remarkable place of the building. The Greek word “anastasis” means “resurrection”.

In the Byzantine art, during the ‘Anastasis’, Jesus Christ goes to the underworld (Hades) after his death, he liberates the prophets of the Old Testament who lived before him and who were held captive by the Devil, he ends the kingdom of Devil here, and pulls the people to the heaven after resurrecting them. This event is not mentioned in the gospels.

In the parecclesion of the Chora, this scene is depicted in such a manner that it covers the whole semi-dome of the apse. Jesus Christ is standing at the center of the triangular composition, inside a mandorla radiating white light and bearing yellow stars.    Inside the dark section under the feet of Jesus Christ, broken door wings and chain and lock pieces are seen. Additionally, a dark-skinned figure whose hands and feet are chained is lying. There is a sarcophagus in both sides of the dark section. Jesus Christ is pulling Adam from the sarcophagus on the right side of him and Eva from the sarcophagus on the left side of him out of their tombs by holding their hands. There is a group including the prophets of the Old Testament, namely John, David and Solomon, behind Adam, and Abel and seven persons in clergy tunics behind Eva.  Here, Adam and Eva are representing the whole humanity. The inscription on the upper part of this scene reads “Anastasis”.

The scene of anastasis on the semi-dome of the apse in the parecclesion unites with the scene of last judgment covering the upper walls of the domical vault. Exactly at the center of the wide bema arch forming the border of these two scenes is a portrait of Archangel Michael inside a medallion. This medallion, 1.21 m in diameter, is the largest portrait medallion in the parecclesion. The sphere in Michael’s left hand is inscribed with the initial letters of the words Christos Dikaios Krites, that is Christ the Equitable Judge, XΔK. He is holding a staff in his right hand. The portrait here is connected with the scene of last judgment, since one of the duties of Archangel Michael is to convey the judged souls to the heaven.

Scenes of raising
On the northern side of the bema arch is the scene where Jesus Christ raises the dead son of a widow from Nain. Together with his apostles, Jesus went to Nain and as he approached the city, he saw a dead person who was carried. The coffin belonged to the son of a widow from Nain and the woman was crying for her son. Jesus said, do not cry, before touching the coffin and saying “young man, I say to you, get up”. The young man sat up and began to talk. (Luke 7:11-15.)

In this scene, there are apostles behind Jesus Christ, who is standing and extending his arm towards the son of the widow. On the other hand, the son of the widow is in sitting position inside the coffin carried by four men. The inscription on the upper part of this composition reads, “Jesus is raising the son of the widow”.

On the southern side of the bema arch is the scene where Jesus is raising the daughter of Jairus. Jesus Christ held the wrist of the girl who was lying dead in her bed in the house of Jairus, and revived her. Thanks to this miracle, the girl sat up in her bed. The people around are watching this miracle in astonishment. (Mark 5:22-24, 35-43.)

There are six apostles behind Jesus and three women behind the bed. The old man standing at the center is Jairus.

The Last Judgment
The judgment scene on the domical vault in the east side of the parecclesion is forming the center of the Last Judgment composition that is covering the whole upper walls and the vault covering. There are literary sources stating that all human beings will be judged on the day of Last Judgment for their actions during their lives, and that they will either have an eternal and happy life in the heaven or writhe in the hell, according to the outcome of this judgment. The main literary source of scenes related to the day of Last Judgment is the Book of Revelation. Here, the rolling up of the skies, the throne set up for judgment and the judging of the souls before it, the delivery of the the dead by the seas and the lands, the lake of fire and the second life without death are described.

Scene of Deesis
Instead of reaching their gods directly, Byzantines preferred to reach them via holy persons supposedly closer to gods and able to reach them more easily. Those sacred persons who were considered as intermediaries between the god and human beings could be monks and bishops as well as saints who died for their religious beliefs especially in the first centuries of Christianity (martyrs), prophets of the Old Testament, archangels, angels and Mary (Theotokos), Mother of God. Above all, Virgin Mary, Mother of God, is thought to be the closest person to God. Virgin Mary appears in chapels, movable icons, illuminated manuscripts and special works, for she is seen as the mediator whose prayers are accepted.

The parecclesion of Chora was dedicated to Virgin Mary, the superior mediator. For the Byzantines, the second important mediator following Virgin Mary was John the Baptist, who had announced the coming of Jesus, who had baptized him and who had been his friend at the same time. Those two holy persons who had a great influence on Jesus as a mother and as a friend respectively are brought together by the Byzantine art in the scene known as the “Deesis”, and on the Day of Judgment, they pray to Jesus on behalf of all mortals.

At the center of the Last Judgment composition, Jesus is sitting on the throne of judgment, and Virgin Mary and John the Baptist are on either sides of Jesus, they are slightly turned towards him, and they are in praying position. Virgin Mary and John the Baptist are interceding on behalf of humanity. In the Last Judgment scene, the two figures behind Mary and John in emperor clothes are the archangels Michael and Gabriel. They are also participating in the scene of Deesis and interceding with Christ on behalf of humanity.

The word “Deesis” has been used since the 19th century. The scenes of Deesis that show the holiest persons interceding on behalf of people with God on the Day of Judgment are very important.

Scene of Last Judgment
The composition of the Last Judgment fresco covering the whole domical vault in the east section is circular. The impressive scene of “rolling up of the heaven” at the center of the circle, i.e. in the middle of the vault, is surrounded by the “choirs of the elect” (the choir of prophets, the choir of apostles, the choir of martyrs, the choir of holy women, the choir of saints, the choir of bishops). The scroll of the rolled up heaven in the middle of the vault is 86 cm in diameter and it is carried by an angel. It is very impressive thanks to the eye catching white color and the gold gilding.

The scroll of the heaven indicates that the heaven will be rolled up at the end of the time. The angel is rolling up and carrying the heaven over his head with two hands, and gold gilt stars, the moon and the sun are seen on the heaven that is being rolled up.

In the scene of judgment, Jesus is sitting on the throne at the center, Mary and John are standing on the right and left sides of him respectively, apostles are sitting in on both sides, and a group of angels is seen just behind Jesus. Around these two scenes, there are four clouds containing the choirs of the elect. Below the throne of Jesus, the inscription on the left side reads, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”, and the one on the right side reads, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels”.

In the scene just below the Jesus the throne is prepared. Here, there is a closed Bible on a simple throne, and there are Cherubim on both sides. Before the throne are Adam and Eve in kneeling position. The scale just below the throne is weighing the souls. There is a small figure under the scale and two angels who are holding books.

On the other side of the scale, a lake of fire beginning at Christ’s feet is reflecting the hell seen on the pendentive. Small figures (devil) are bringing some souls into the hell.

On the southwest pendendive of the vault, lands are depicted above, and seas are depicted below. The angels at the sides have turned their trumpets towards the ground and the sea. In the land, the dead are coming out of their graves, and in the sea, fishes are expelling human organs from their mouths. This scene is largely deformed.

It is claimed that the fresco of “angel and a soul” on the northwest pendentive is the soul of Metochites presented by the Archangel Michael. An angel, whose wings are open, is standing behind a small and naked figure (soul), and he has placed one of his hands upon the head of the soul.

On the two east pendentives is the fresco of “Lazarus the beggar and the rich man”. After his death, the soul of Lazarus the beggar is placed on the lap of Abraham by an Angel. There is an old man (Prophet Abraham) sitting among depictions of trees, the soul of poor Lazarus is depicted as a little child sitting on his lap, and many souls are standing in the background.

On the southeast pendentive, a naked figure is sitting in flames, and in the lower part, pieces of gold are spilling out of two bags with open mouths. Here, the story of Lazarus the beggar and the rich man who ill-treated him during his life in this world is depicted. Whereas the rich man is writhing in pain in the hell after his death, Lazarus is seen on the lap of Prophet Abraham in a garden full of flowers. In those two scenes on the southeast and northeast pendentives of the domical vault, the good are awarded and the evil punished.

The scene on the left side of the south wall of the eastern section is divided into four parts. Each of them depicts one kind of torture in the hell with a different color. “The gnashing of teeth” is depicted at the upper left, “the outer darkness” at the upper right, “the worm that sleepeth not” at the lower left, and “the unquenchable fire” at the lower right.

Virgin Eleousa
In the depiction on the south column of the bema arch, the full-length Virgin Mary is standing on a rectangular platform, holding the child Christ in her arms, and kindly pressing her cheek to his one. Here, the emotional relationship between mothers and their sons is depicted. The monograms of Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ are next to their heads.

Only very small fragments of the fresco above the entrance on the west wall and on the west arch have survived.

The entry of the elect into paradise
At the center of the composition on the north wall of the eastern section is a gate guarded by a cherub who is holding a sword. On the right side, Saint Peter, who is holding a key, is moving towards the gate with the group of elect behind him. On the right side of the gate, the “good thief”, who is holding a cross inside the paradise decorated with trees and plants, invites them into the interior. And Virgin Mary can be seen on the left side between two angels.

Transport of the Ark of the Covenant
In the scene on the right side of the south wall of the eastern section, the transport of the Ark of the Covenant is depicted. Four priests are carrying the Ark of the Covenant, a triangular prism decorated with yellow, purple and marble-like strips, on their shoulders. The inscription at the upper left reads, “and, when Solomon built the house of the Lord, he summoned the elders of Israel in Zion.

He said that the ark of the Lord’s covenant could be brought from Zion, the city of David. And the priests took the ark of the Lord’s covenant and the tent of meeting (tabernacle)”. This ark made of shittim-wood, the interior and exterior of which was plated with gold, contains the two stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed by Moses upon the orders of God.


Virgin Mary
The Virgin Mary portrait inside the rainbow-bordered medallion at the center of the dome, which covers the western section of the parecclesion and is 4.70 cm in diameter, is dominating the whole room.

According to the Byzantines, Virgin Mary was both the most important mediator between the humans and God, and a kind mother. Inside the rainbow-bordered medallion at the center of the large dome, which covers the whole western section and represents the heaven, are Virgin Mary and child Jesus in his arms depicted. The dome is divided into 12 segments by 12 windows providing light to the Virgin Mary figure. Those segments contain the full-length frescoes of 12 angels.

The angels, which are standing and depicted similar to one another, are holding long staffs in their right hands. Four angels (Gabriel, Michael, Uriel and Raphael) are holding a crystal ball bearing the cross and “X” signs, whereas the other angels hold their clothes with their left hands. The angels wear an imperial shawl. Each angel figure bears an inscription that reads, “Angel of the Lord”.

On the other hand, at the end of a staff held by one of the angels, the word “Hagios” (saint) is inscribed three times. The wide strips dividing the dome into segments and located between the angel figures are richly decorated with plant motifs.

The Four Hymnographers
Four hymn writers (hymnographers) are depicted on the four pendentives of the dome covering the western section. The hymns of these poets are sung especially during death rituals.

On the northeast pendentive, Saint John of Damascus, who wrote hymns for funerals, is depicted. The Arab Christian monk-priest who lived between 676 and 749 died in the monastery in Jerusalem founded by him. Here, the hymnographer saint who is depicted sitting on the armchair next to a table and writing on a scroll of paper on an elevated writing desk upon the table. Although it is not possible to read the full text, it is understood that this part contains a verse of one of his hymns: “What joy of life abideth, without the smart of woe?” The saint is barefoot and he wears a tunic, a coat and a turban. There are architectural units in the background. The inscription above his head reads, “Hagios Ioannes Damaskenos”.

On the southeast pendentive, Saint Cosmas, hymn writer, poet and bishop, is seen. Cosmas is sitting on a bench, the table of which is low, and there is a low stool under his feet. There are a penholder, an inkpot and a penknife on the table. The portrait of the saint is well-preserved. There is an open book in one of his arms, and a pen in his other hand. Architectural units are seen in the background and the inscription above his head reads, “Hagios Cosmas, poet”.

On the southwest pendentive,Joseph, 9th-century hymn writer, is depicted holding the scroll containing the Akathist Hymn, one of the most important Byzantine hymns dedicated to Virgin Mary. There are a pen, a penholder and an inkpot on the table. Again, there is a book on the elevated writing desk upon the table, and there are architectural structures in the background. The inscription above the head of Joseph reads, “Hagios Joseph, poet”, and the one on the paper scroll in his hand reads, “The forgiver of the world, o the spotless Virgin”.

On the northwest pendentive,Saint Theophanes, 9th-century poet and hymn writer who was a monk at the Chora monastery and buried here, is depicted. In the period of iconoclasm in the 9th century, he had an inscription carved on his face, and therefore he received the name of Graptus, meaning written upon.

Here, the saint is sitting at the table on a chair with a deep back and his feet are on a platform. There are writing instruments on his table, and the saint is writing in a book in his lap. The inscription above his head reads, “Hagios Theophanes”, and the one on the open book reads, “after violating the holy commandments of God, we returned to the earth again”. This verse is taken from a hymn of Theophanes sung during funerals. The furnishings seen in these scenes reflect the characteristic 14th-century medieval features.

In the Parecclesion, Old Testament stories are depicted in the frescoes on the walls between the dome and above the cornice level.

Jacob’s ladder and Jacob wrestling with an angel
On the right side of the tympanum on the north wall in the western section, Jacob’s ladder and Jacob’s wrestling with an angel are depicted. Here, while traveling to Haran, Jacob puts a stone under his head to sleep, and he dreams a ladder between the earth and the heaven, on which the angels are descending and ascending.

The inscription below left, above the head of Jacob, reads, “Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep”, the one on the right side, between the scenes of the ladder and the wrestling, reads, “and he dreamed there...”, and the one above right reads, “he saw a ladder resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord”. Virgin Mary and Child Christ in her arms are seen at the upper right corner.

Under the ladder, Jacob is depicted wrestling with an angel. This event occurred during his return from Haran. Although Jacob’s seeing a ladder in his dream and wrestling with an angel are two different events, they are depicted together in the Byzantine painting.

Moses and the burning bush
On the right side of the north wall of the western section is the scene of Moses and the burning bush. While God was speaking to Moses from within a bush, the bush was on fire, but was not consumed by the flames. An old man with a beard (Moses) is standing on the left side, and a bush is burning in flames opposite to him. There are the portraits of Virgin Mary and Child Christ inside a medallion in the bush. An angel appearing on the upper part of the bush is calling to Moses. There are hills and the Mount Sinai in the background. Below, Moses is sitting on the ground and taking off his sandals.

The inscription at the upper left corner reads, “and he came to Horeb, the mountain of God, and there the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush”, and the ones at the lower left corner read, “take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” and “Prophet Moses”.

Moses hiding his face
On the north side of the arch between the eastern and western sections is the scene of Moses’ hiding his face. A standing bearded old man (Moses) holding a staff is on the left side, and his face is turned away in order to avoid the light of the burning bush opposite to him. There are the portraits of Virgin Mary and Child Christ inside the medallion in the middle of the bush. Just before the medallion, an outstretched angel is speaking to Moses. The inscription on the upper part of the scene reads, “Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God”.

Transport of the sacred furnishings
On the south side of the arch between the eastern and western sections is the scene of the transport of sacred furnishings. Here, the transport of the sacred pot (stamnos) and the seven-branched candelabrum (menorah) taken from the sacred tent of meeting (tabernacle) of Jews is depicted. One of the two priests is carrying the seven-branched candelabrum with his two raised hands, and the other is carrying a pot resembling an amphora on his shoulders. A paper scroll is seen inside the pot. Assumedly, the candelabrum’s “carrying the light” is the forerunner of Virgin Mary, and the sacred “manna” inside the sacred pot is the forerunner of Jesus Christ. Manna is the food provided by God to the Jews when they were in exile in the desert.

Gathering of Solomon and the assembly of Israel
On the left side of the south wall of the western section, the gathering of Solomon and the assembly of Israel is depicted. Solomon is leading the whole tribe for the ceremonies related to the placing of the sacred furnishings in the sanctuary of the new temple. On the right side, Solomon in imperial clothes is leading the crowd before him with a censer in his hand. The inscription on the scene reads, “and the king and Israelites gathered before the Ark of the Covenant”.

Placing of the Ark of the Covenant in the sanctuary of the temple
On the right side of the south wall of the western section, the placing of the Ark of the Covenant in the sanctuary of the temple is depicted. The covenant is placed in the most holy place of the temple. The two priests on the right side are placing the ark on the covered altar table in the sanctuary.

Two cherubim are standing behind the altar table. Israelite elders are depicted before the structure at upper left, and the heaven is depicted with nested circles in the uppermost part. From here, a beam of light is shining towards the altar and Israelites. The inscription at the upper left reads, “and the priests then brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim”.

Prophecy of Isaiah and Archangel Michael Destroying the Assyrian Army Before Jerusalem
On the south side of the western arch, the Prophecy of Isaiah and Archangel Michael’s destroying the Assyrian army before Jerusalem is depicted. Isaiah predicted that the Assyrian army that besieged Jerusalem would fail and the angel of God destroyed the Assyrian army before Jerusalem with his sword. An old man on the left side (Prophet Isaiah) is holding an open paper scroll in his left hand and pointing forward with his right hand.

The wings and clothes of Michael, who is pointed to, are flying, he is preparing to use the sword raised by his right hand, and holding the scabbard of the sword in his left hand. Assyrian soldiers are lying on the ground. A city surrounded by walls is seen in the background. There is a portrait of Virgin Mary on the spectacular gate of the city. Some words on the paper scroll held by Isaiah can be read. The complete version of this inscription should read, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, he will not be able to enter into this city”.

Aaron and his sons before the Altar
On the north side of the western arch, the story of Aaron and his sons before the Altar is depicted. Here, the first priests of the tent-temple established by Moses, namely Aaron and his sons are giving their offerings. Both Aaron, who is depicted as the old person in the front, and each of his two sons, who are depicted as young persons behind him, is holding a box containing the offerings. On the right side is a covered altar table inside a marble niche. Sections of buildings are depicted in the background, and the pointed beams originating from the nested circles depicting the heaven extend toward Aaron and his sons. Only two words of the inscription on the upper part of the scene can be read: “Altar” and “burnt offering”.

Virgin Mary is the central figure in the iconography of the western section of the parecclesion. The stories from the Old Testament have been interpreted as an expression, a forerunner of the arrival of Virgin Mary and thus the arrival of Jesus Christ. Those stories are on some Marian feast days. The Akathist Hymn, which has an important place among the hymns, is about death. The content of this hymn is compared with the Old Testament stories in the parecclesion.

On the walls of the parecclesion below cornices are full-length figures of martyrs (saints killed for following Christianity - military saints). Martyrs, military saints are holy persons recognized by Byzantines as mediators to reach God. Especially in the last periods of the Byzantine Empire, the portraits of the military saints were painted on the lower walls of churches and chapels.

From the south to the west, until the northeast, the wall sections below the cornices are decorated with depictions of martyrs. First, on the southeastern wall are Saint George of Cappadocia and Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki. In the medallions on the two sides of the arcosolium arch between these saints are the portraits of Saint Florus and Saint Laurus. The full-length depictions of saints are in hierarchical order: Saint Theodore of Tyre, Saint Theodore Stratelates, Saint Mercurius and Saint Procopius are depicted in armored clothes.

There is an unidentified saint next to Saint Sabbas Stratelates. Saint David of Thessalonika is sitting in a bird’s nest on top of a tree. Saint Eustathius Placidus is in military uniform. Saints Samonas and Gruias of Edessa are in martyr clothes. Saint Artemius or Saint Nicetas, whose full name cannot be read, is in military uniform. The portraits of Saint Bacchus and Saint Sergius are in medallions. On the other hand, the depiction of a saint in military uniform, a portrait of a saint inside a medallion, and the depiction of a saint on a column are unfinished.

Saints in military uniform have short tunics under their armors, and some of them carry lances and shields. Some of them are depicted with raised swords, in a raid. The saint depictions on the entrance arches of the two tomb arcosolia and diaconicon in the western section are portraits inside medallions. Saints that are not in military uniform are in martyr clothes.


Frescoes inside the niche wall and arch of the southeast arcosolium (A)
The sarcophagi of the four tomb arcosolia in the parecclesion have not survived. On the niche wall of the southeast arcosolium, there are frontal paintings of four figures standing side by side above the sarcophagus level. The two men with court and religious clothes in the middle and the two women on either sides with both court and religious clothes represent the same two persons and they are the portraits of the husband and wife buried here. However, the identities of the owners of this tomb could not be determined.

On the upper part of this niche arch, just above the portraits, inside a cornered mandorla, a half-length Jesus whose hands are open is shining. A seraph is seen on the left side, whereas the depiction on the right side is not visible due to the deterioration here. On either side of the inner wall of the arch is a half-length angel figure praying with upraised hands.

Frescoes inside the niche wall and arch of the southwest arcosolium (B)
On the niche wall, above the sarcophagus level, only the shoulders of Virgin Mary and the hand of Child Christ raised in benediction is seen, because most of the tiles of the mosaic depiction have fallen down. On the right side, Michael Tornikes, who is resting in this tomb, is depicted standing and wearing court clothes. The lower part of the figure is destroyed and only the part over the shoulders is visible. The inscription on the upper section reads, “same person, monk Makarios”.

On the right side is the figure of Tornikes’ wife, turned towards Virgin Mary and praying with upraised hands. The inscription on the upper section reads, “same person, nun Eugenia”. The feet of this figure as well are destroyed. Both figures are frescoes. The upper part of the arcosolium arch is decorated with a mosaic cross motif inside nested circles. On the left side of the inner wall of the arch is the mosaic portrait of Tornikes wearing monk clothes, and on the right side is the mosaic portrait of his wife. Since the lower parts of both mosaics are destroyed, only the parts above the waists are seen.

On the monumental marble frame of the tomb, there are archangels on both sides of Jesus, and a long inscription (epitaphios) above this composition. This tomb belongs to Michael Tornikes, the close friend of Metochites who was the “Great Constable” at the court of Andronikos II. The original decoration was made of mosaic, but it was complemented with frescoes after having been destroyed in the Byzantine period. The Virgin Mary figure at the center of the niche and the figures inside arches are made of mosaic and the two figures on the sides of niches are frescoes.

The large arcosolium in the northwest wall of the chapel (C), assumedly belonging to Theodore Metochites
In order to highlight the importance of the tomb, an arched marble frame was formed. There is a relief of Jesus at the center of the arch, and reliefs of angels with faces looking toward Jesus on either sides of the arch. The monograms of the figures on the marble indicate that they are the archangels Michael and Gabriel. The faces of the figures are quite destroyed. On the marble frames of the tomb niches in the parecclesion, the background is painted blue and the reliefs are painted yellow. There is no inscription on this marble frame stating the owner of the tomb.

The arcosolium in the northeast wall (D)
The tomb in the northeast wall has no frame. Since there are neither frescoes or mosaic decorations inside the arch, nor an inscription, the owners of this tomb are not known.


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