The Chora Museum of Istanbul

by Tatiana Córdoba (MFA 2016)

Last Saturday, while my friends stayed at Büyükada, one of the beautiful princess Islands (named because the princess and royalty from the Ottoman Empire were exiled there), I decided to come back to Istanbul to see the Chora museum and the archeological museum.

Daniel Austin López (MFA, 2016), Simón Ramírez Restrespo (MFA, 2016), Jaclyn Dooner (MFA, 2015)

Some days before, we met with sculptor and Academy professor Leonid Lerman and he gave me some directions on how to get to the Chora museum through a bus trip. He wrote on paper the information I needed and put in capitals the word “EDINERKAPI” at the place I had to go. When I arrived at the bus station, I showed this word to several locals who managed to show me which bus to take and where to get off (which was difficult since they don’t speak English and I don’t speak Turkish).

Bus in Istanbul
Like all the monuments, mosques and churches in Istanbul, the Chora museums took my breath away. The museum, also known as Kariye Müzesi, was a church built in the early 5th century and turned into a mosque around the 16th century under the command of the Grand Vizier of Sultan Bayezid II. Today, as I mentioned in my last post, the mix of cultures in Turkey live in harmony: Christian mosaics inside the Mosque have been restored after being covered for several years. When I stood there, I couldn’t believe I was in front of images that were created so many years ago! This impacts me even more considering how young my home country Colombia is in comparison to Turkey. After this visit, I decided to come back to the Sultanahmet district where all the most important mosques, museums, and historic places are located. While I was in the bus, I watched the city through the window: the men with their beards, the woman with their scarfs, the architecture, the chaotic traffic... and I couldn’t stop thinking, despite all the difference between this country and mine, that this city in its own way reminds me Colombia.

Mosaic In Chora Musuem
Mosaic In Chora Musuem
When I got to the archaeological museum - it was a wonderful surprise because at the beginning I didn’t know what to expected or what kind of pieces I was going to find there. From my point of view, the museum displays their sculptures and pieces as a condensed narrative history of Turkey. You can go from some Babylonian sculptures to Egyptian tombs and then cross to the next building and see examples of Hellenistic, Roman and Syrian art. Also you can appreciate and have a small taste of the evolution of art, from the early beginnings of people using the figure, reaching a high point in art; to the simplification of form in the early Christian period until the arrival of the Ottoman empire and the establishment of Islam, and how the introduction of a new religion changed the Aesthetics and art in general.

Istanbul Archaeology Museums

Medusa’s head

After this overwhelming visit to the city, I came back to Büyükada to meet with Austin, Jaclyn and Simon again. Jaclyn and Simon welcomed me with a BBQ night: indeed the both of them have been the chefs of our trip. Thanks to this, we have had the opportunity to eat some wonderful meals, while we share wine, beer and had conversations about work and life!

And now that our trip is getting close to its conclusion, I have to say I love every corner of the city and even though I don’t want to, I know a little piece of me is going to stay here wandering in Istanbul.


  1. What sites! thanks for sharing with us ( =

  2. Tatiana—great post and terrific photos. Istanbul is an amazing place!