After Hagia Sophia, another historic Byzantine church in Istanbul, which has been used as a museum for the last 79 years, will once again house Islamic prayers and rites and be used as a mosque. This is the ancient Chora Church, known worldwide for its incomparable frescoes and mosaics.
According to Turkish media reports, starting with the daily newspaper “Yeni Safak”, the date has already been set, namely on February 23, the Chora church (KariyeCami) will open its doors for Friday prayers. The plan to convert the museum into an Islamic place of worship dates back to 2020 and was supposed to be implemented in October of the same year. The project was then frozen to allow restoration work to be carried out. Now the Turkish media is reporting that "the long restoration" of the so-called "Kariye Mosque" has come to an end.
Chora Church is located in the northwestern part of Istanbul's Old Town, not far from the Byzantine Gate of Adrianople. It is considered one of the most important surviving examples of Byzantine sacred architecture. The ancient monastery complex was founded in the 6th century. The church was built in the 12th century and completely renovated in the early 14th century. After the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, the building continued to serve as a church and was not converted into a mosque until 1511. After being converted into a mosque, the mosaics and frescoes were covered with lime but were not destroyed.
At the end of the Second World War, the building was restored by archaeologists and experts from the Byzantine Institute of America and the Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies and converted into a state museum in 1945 by order of the then Council of Ministers. The mosaics and frescoes that decorate the interior of the church are among the most important works of Byzantine art. The focus of the frescoes and mosaics is the incarnation of God as a saving event. The basilica's Greek name is "Church of the Holy Savior Outside the City".
"En te Chōra", an expression always used for the building at the time, literally means "in the countryside". In August 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the decision of the State Council, which on November 19, 2019, revoked the decision converting the church into a museum in 1958. While the building is in use for Islamic worship, the frescoes are covered with specially designed red carpets.