Kariye Museum, also known as Chora Church, contains some of Istanbul's finest Byzantine frescos and mosaics. The 11th-century building in Edirnekapi has remarkable scenes depicting 14th-century Christian iconography, which was later covered over when the church became a mosque.
No building can survive for 2000 years without undergoing modifications. Some of the most calamitous came with the Crusaders, who seriously damaged the church with their plundering. Then in 1511, the Grand Vizier of Sultan Beyazit II transformed the church into a mosque, adding a minaret and whitewashing a few of the frescos. It is perhaps testament to the beauty of the mosaics that they were barely touched by the Muslim conquerors. In 1945, the mosque became a museum.
The interior's richness is hidden by the Chora's plain brick facade. But once inside the impression created by the glittering walls, domes and vault arches is stupendous. The life of Mary the Virgin, the birth and childhood of Jesus, his miracles, his Crucifixion and a rendition of the Last Judgement are depicted in mosaic and frescos. Look out for The Revival, a masterpiece of the medieval age, as well as the portraits of Saints Andronicus, Trachus, Peter and Paul.
Also of note is the depiction of the Healing of the Leper in the western part of the inner narthex. The similarity between this portrayal and the identical scene at the Romanesque Monreale Cathedral in Sicily is very striking and suggests the artistic tradition which gave rise to these mosaics was also adhered to there.