Prior to our arrival at the Kariye Church Museum I had seen photos and bits of video footage from the internet and shows from the History Channel describing its beauty. Upon entering the building I realized that every photo and television documentary that I had seen did not do the Kariye Church justice in terms of its beauty and mysticism. Even the photos I took of the church do not fully illuminate how breathtaking the frescoes and mosaics were in person.
The frescoes were very interesting in their colors and design when compared to the simplicity of older Christian, and even new Catholic, churches. The elaborate workmanship portrays Christ and his life as a celebration other than a symbol for mourning when depicted on the cross. There were many images of Mary with the baby Jesus in the narthex, and my favorite was the dome fresco with angels flanking the pair while the arched window below illuminated the bright blue and gold colors.
The mosaics were lit up with only the littlest bit of light coming in from the entrance hall. The gold-leafed tiles gave the entire church a romantic appeal as though it was created in a Walt Disney film. My favorite mosaic was the depiction of Jesus as the “Land of the Living” above the entrance to the narthex.
The main area for worship was fairly plain in comparison to its entrance halls, but it was still beautiful nonetheless. All of the marble flooring was the original used by its patrons about one thousand years ago and was in fantastic condition. This observation has made me wonder as to how the preservation process is conducted in such a large and elaborate place. The one area of the church that I had a difficult time placing was the transept off from the frescoed narthex. It was not just plain in comparison to the rest of the church; it resembled a prisoner’s cell. I am curious as to why the designers decided to neglect this.
By experiencing the magnificence of such a building and priceless piece of history I am beginning to realize that I am in a place that will continue to surprise me.