Totally Worth the Sore Neck: The Chora Church and Istanbul City Walls

From the Architectural Bucket List Series

posted by Allison Stoos

After years of architecture and landscape architecture history classes, I’ve developed quite a must-see architectural bucket list. This past spring I was fortunate to travel to Turkey and Greece to cross off several sites, including my Number 1. In a series of blog posts, I will highlight my experiences at some of these top sites as well as a few that hadn’t been on my list before but should be on yours.

Also from this series: 

» Topkapi Palace, Istanbul – A Paper Come to Life
» My No. 1 - Hagia Sophia
» A Peaceful Oasis in a City of Chaos – The Mosque of Süleyman the Magnificent

BYZANTINE MOSAICS ARE AWESOME, PEOPLE!

Ok so by now you’ve probably seen a few in the Hagia Sophia and think “why would I want to take a long tram ride to the edge of city to see more?” Well if you have any interest in religion, history or art (which let’s face it you bought a ticket to Istanbul so you probably do) you need to plan in the time to go out to this little Byzantine Church (and take some preemptive pain killers on the way).

You’ll find this church in the heart of a modern Istanbul neighborhood (looking more like Beyoglu across the Galata Bridge than the historic district that you’ve been doing all your sightseeing). When we went, they were restoring portions of the museum so the exterior was completely covered by framing and the Naos (the main body of the church) was closed to the public. However, the Exonathex, Esonarthex, and the Parecclesion were all open for us to gape at – and gape we did. The spaces are small enough for every work to feel personal, you are literally at the level to pick the kernel size tiles of the walls – but you would never do that to Jesus or a museum – so you just wonder how someone worked so long putting each of those in to perfect position so that Paul’s forehead could have wrinkles.

Inside the Chora Church:

Once we reached the point where the exhaustion in our necks outweighed the desire to stare up at the many layers of storied symbolism that the mosaics and frescos hold – we grabbed some Turkish coffee and headed back towards the city walls.

On the City Walls:

Our guide book suggested and directed us to the stairs to climb to the top – and well ignoring the warnings of the guide book we hurried up and … I froze… apparently I am scared of heights. Of course on a ten foot wide platform with no railings 30 feet above a highway, who wouldn’t be? Ok so my husband wasn’t and thankfully he coached me through the whole experience. IT WAS SO WORTH IT. The views of the city are incredible …. Now for climbing down.