The Kariye Church has a past dating back to the 6th century. Its present state is the result of restoration done in the Ottoman period and in the second half of the 20th c. The church is the only remaining part of a monastery complex, dedicated to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. It was constructed first as a monastery in 534 by St. Theodius in the time of Justinanus. In the 11th c. it was reconstructed by Maria Doukaina, mother-in-law of Aleksios I. Left in ruins after the Latin invasion in the years 1204-1261, the monastery was restored by Theodoros Metokhites in the 14th. c. The narthex and parecclesion (side church) were added during this period.
The upper part is partly domed, partly arched. There is a single abscissa. The outer narthex stretching along the whole western —facades- makes up today’s front. The dome covering the central area of the building has high sectors made of wood, having been repaired in Ottoman times. The circular arches, half- buttresses, and rows of bonded brick give the outside appearance a fluid and lively appearance. The eastern facade ends with abscissas leaning outward. The middle abscissa is supported from outside by an arched buttress. Buttresses were frequently used as support in Gothic architecture, to keep the cross, the vaults, the columns and other supporting elements from falling inward from the weight they carry. In the shape of a half-arch, they support from outward. The true place of worship is the naos (inner shrine) in the center of the church covered by a dome. In the eastern part of the naos is the bema, or sanctuary, where the altar is located. On both sides of the bema are “pastoforium.” Used to prepare for prayers of thanksgiving, the north chapel is called the “prothesis,” Used as a dressing room, the south chapel was called the “diakonikon.”
From the 14th century on the diakonikon chapel served as a private chapel. A two-storied additional section connects with the naos. The bottom floor was used as a passageway and could also be used as a dressing room. The top floor held the monastery library and has a window which opens into the naos. It was most probably used as an office by the founder. To the west there are two wide narthex decorated with mosaics. In the southwest corner where originally a bell tower stood, there is an outer narthex with an arched doorway opening to the outside. There are mosaics, marble overlay and decorations in the narthex. The parecclesion at the site of the additional chapel functioned as a tomb chapel. Where practically all the frescoes have been preserved. Between the parecclesion and the naos is a passageway that leads to an unfinished storage room and a room used most probably by monks. This special section has a window which opens into the naos.
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