Church of Christ in the Chora
Truly jewel-like, the modestly-sized Church of Christ in the Chora is a visual delight, adorned with what are possibly the finest remaining examples of Byzantine art in the world. The church’s name is explained by a mosaic above the entrance that depicts the Virgin Mary shown with Christ in the womb. Inscribed are the words, ‘container [chora] of the uncontainable’. The theme of the containers is taken up with gusto in mosaic scenes of miracles such as the turning of water into wine and the Feeding of the Five Thousand in which jugs of wine and baskets of bread take pride of place, all of which cast Tupperware in a new light. There is a mosaic depicting the Enrolment for Taxation, which one historian describes as possibly ‘the greatest glorification of tax collection in the history of art’. The 14th-century art inadvertently owes its preservation to the Muslims who converted the place to a mosque, covering and thus protecting the frescoes and mosaics with plaster. Next door to this spellbinding museum is the Kariye Hotel, with its famed Ottoman restaurant Asitane. A few minutes away are Istanbul’s ancient city walls.