Biography of a Landmark: The Chora Monastery and Kariye Camii in Constantinople/Istanbul from Late Antiquity to the 21st Century



The conference will take place over two days, April 27 and 28, 2021. The first day will cover a wide range of examples presented by the graduate students. The subject of “Conversions” will be introduced by two keynote presentations in order to give an methodological input for discussion.


The second day will center on the different “biographies” of the byzantine monastery Chora/Kariye in Constantinople/Istanbul between late antiquity and the 21st century. A number of international specialists will present key moments in the monument’s history. 


In the capital of the Ottoman state Istanbul, nearly four dozen Byzantine churches converted into mosques underwent architectural adjustments to serve new functional purposes as well as new social groups. Their survival throughout the Ottoman period is largely due to their conversion into mosques.

In the early years of the Turkish Republic, several of these buildings which were largely abandoned and little used were progressively turned into museums, with their Byzantine artistic decoration becoming the center of conservation and research interests.


Following the return of the Byzantine court to Constantinople in 1261 and the end of the Latin presence, the city’s artistic patronage was enriched by dynamic aristocratic families connected with the imperial house. By 1321, the old monastery of the Holy Saviour in the Country (Ἱερά Μονὴ τοῦ Ἁγίου Σωτῆρος ἐν τῇ Χώρᾳ), also known as Saint Savior in Chora, was architecturally transformed and refurbished by Grand Logothete Theodore Methochites. By the early 16th century and some decades after the Ottoman conquest of the city, Saint Savior in Chora was converted into a mosque by Grand Vizir Hadım Atik Ali Paşa. The Chora was part of a large group of Byzantine-period churches in Istanbul whose function was modified to serve a new religious community. In 1958, the Chora opened to the public as the Kariye Museum. Subsequent to an order in 2019 by the Turkish Council of State that paved the way for its usage as a mosque, the year 2020 marked the reversal of the status of the Kariye Museum.