The Kariye Museum, in which we regard the mosaics with a deep sense of admiration, is situated in the Edirnekapi quarter of Istanbul. The name of Kariye is derived from the Greek word “Chora “, which means land, country , a suburb or suburban area, as well as countryside. The Monastery of Chora was thus named, as it lied outside of the city walls built by the Emperor Constantine. Although the monastery lied within the walls built by the Emperor Theodosius in 413 A.D., its name still remained unchanged and it was referred to as the Chora. During the reign of Emperor Justinian. The monastery was devastated by an earthquake on October 6, 557. The Emperor had then rebuilt the monastery as a basilica. The monastery was again in ruins in the VIII. Century and it was restored again in 843 A.D. After that, the history of the Chora Monastery lies in profound darkness until the 11th Century.
During the Kommenos dynasty, the monastery was again in a heap of ruins. We know that it was restored and rebuilt by Maria Dukaena, themother-1n-law of the Emperor Alexios I. Komnenos (1081-1118), the third son of AJexios Komnenos, who was the grandson of Maria Dukaena, has taken part in the restoration activities, and hence he was depicted just beside the Virgin in the panel of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary .
During the 57 years long duration of the occupation of Istanbul by the Latins from 1204 up to 1261,although all the churches in Istanbul were in ruins, this church was not even occupied. The Monastery, which later was in the possession of Orthodox priests, was again in ruins, because of the negligence in maintenance. At that time, the Byzantine Emperor Mikhail Palaiologos VIII. (1259) had formed a government in Nicea. Upon returning to Istanbul, he has tried with other prominent state authorities, to repair and restore churches that were in ruins.
Theodore Metochites, who was a poet and a man of letters, as well as being an auditor of the treasury during the reign of Andronikos II (1282-1328), was living in the same neighbourhood. Metochites restored the monastery in an excellent manner. Theodore was born in Nicea into a poor family. As he was very intelligent ang industrious, he studied political science and literature in Byzantium. He succeeded to provide his children with a very good education. Metochites, being a scholar and a humanitarian, dedicated his intelligence and fortune to the restoration of this monastery and church. Without I touching the dome, he had a narthex built in front of the building and added a chapel in the east, He had the entire structure adorneq with mosaics and frescoes in 1312. The building structure that survived to our era is from that epoch.
Andronikos III, who succeeded Andronikos II, sent Metochites into exile to Didymoteichos in Western Thrace, for the simple reason of his being loyal to the former emperor. Metochites livedthere in exile, for a long time until being pardoned, and he returned to Byzantium a sick and poor man. He then took shelter as a priest in the church he had restored, and died there in 1332. In accordance with his last will and testament, he was buried in front of the inner door of the church and a marble slab was placed over his grave.
After the conquest of Istanbul by the Turks in 1453, the Chora Monastery was converted into a mosque in 1511 by Atik Ali Pasa, the Grand Vizier of Sultan Bayazit II. No interference was made to the architecture, except the addition of a minaret, and the name of the Chora monastery became Kariye since then, and it became known as the Kariye Mosque.
After the conversion of the mosque into a museum, it was repaired by the American Byzantine Institute from 1948 to 1958.
The plasters and white-wash covering the mosaics and frescoes were removed and cleaned, and its present day outlook was restored through the fulfillment of the necessary restoration work.