CHORA MUSEUM

MOSAICS DEPICTING THE LIFE OF VIRGIN MARY

Rejection of Joachim’s Offerings:In the northwest pendentive of the northern dome, Zechariah, who is sitting on a four-columned throne, is rejecting the offerings of Joachim, who has no children, by raising his two hands. This family, which wants to have a child, is continuously praying, and they have pledged themselves to give their child, if they are given one, to the temple to be raised as a religious person.

Withdrawal of Joachim to the Mountains Because of Childlessness:In the northeast pendentive of the northern dome is the scene of Joachim’s withdrawal to the mountains. The rejection of his offerings to the temple has broken the heart of Joachim, and he prayed forty days and forty nights in the mountains. Gabriel the Archangel appeared to him and declared that his prayers were answered. Although they were old, God was to give them a daughter.

Here, Joachim is depicted as a thoughtful and sad person in the bushes. There are two shepherd figures above right. The inscription on the upper part of the scene reads, “Joachim is praying with the shepherds on the mountain”.

The Annunciation of Mary’s Birth to Anne (Annunciation Scene):In the first arch on the eastern wall of the northern section, an angel (Gabriel) is announcing to Anne that she will bear a child. Anne is looking at the angel before here while praying with two open hands in front of a spectacular house, and the servant sitting in the niche of the house behind Anne is looking at Anne, and witnessing the event. On the right side is a pool in front of trees depicted. The inscription on the upper section of the scene reads, “Saint Anne is praying in the garden”.

Meeting of Joachim and Anne:Below the arch in the northern section, Anne and Joachim’s embracing each other and happiness upon Anne’s informing Joachim about the annunciation of her going to bear a child is depicted. The inscription on the upper section of the depiction reads, “Becoming pregnant to Theotokos (Mother of God)”.

Birth of the Virgin Mary:In the scene located east of the second arch in the northern section, Anna, who has given birth, is on a bed and she is surrounded by many servants. While preparations for the first bath of Mary are made, the newborn Mary is depicted in the arms of a woman. A little servant below left is preparing the cradle of Mary, another is cooling Anna using a fan, and persons close to her are putting their gifts on the table. Joachim is watching these happenings at the door. The inscription on the upper section of the depiction reads, “Birth of Theotokos (Mother of God)”.

First Seven Steps of the Virgin:On the eastern section of the arch separating the second and third sections of the inner narthex child Mary is shown taking her first steps towards Anne. Anne is sitting on a terrace and her hands are open towards Mary. The babysitter behind the standing child Mary adds movement to the scene with her flying scarf. The inscription on the upper part of the depiction reads, “She Who Takes Seven Steps”.

The Virgin Given Affection:On the eastern part of the vault, Joachim and Anne are depicted while sitting and giving their child Mary affection. The scene is surrounded with architectural structures, two servants, and two peacocks symbolizing eternal life and incorruptibility are located at the corners. The inscription over Anne and Joachim reads, “Theotokos (Mother of God) Given Affection”.

The Virgin Blessed:At thecenter of the low inner vault located in the north is a decorative medallion description. At the western part, Joachim is shown walking towards the three priests sitting around the table for the blessing of Child Mary, whom he is carrying in his arms. Joachim’s covered hands draw attention. The inscription on the upper part of the depiction reads, “Blessing by the Priests”.

Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple:On the third section over the main entrance to the central space is the scene where Mary, at the age of five, is presented by her mother and father, together with a group of women carrying torches, to Priest Zechariah, since childless Joachim had promised to present his child to the temple, if he was to be given one. From this moment on, a ciborium where only high-ranking religious functionaries are allowed to sit was assigned to Mary and she received training in the temple until she became 15 years old. On the right side of child Mary, who is sitting on a backed sofa in a four-columned and dome-like ciborium behind the priest, is a figure of an angel. The inscription around the ciborium reads, “The Holy is being Blessed”.

The Virgin Receiving Bread from the Angel:In the four-columned ciborium at the lower part of the southern arch leading to the central space is the scene where Mary, who is sitting on the throne, is receiving bread from Gabriel. The monogram on the upper part of Mary’s head reads, “Theotokos (Mother of God)”. A servant is sitting in front of the Ciborium where Mary is. The inscription on the upper part of the scene with depictions reads, “Theotokos Receiving Bread from the Angel”. The scene on the other part of the arch depicting the instructions given to Mary in the temple has been quite destroyed. The inscription here reads, “Theotokos receiving training in the temple”.

The Virgin Mary Receiving a Skein of Wool from the Temple:On the arch over the door of the inner narthex leading outside are three priests sitting on a terrace in front of a building. The priest on the right side is depicted while giving a skein of purple wool to Mary for the weaving of a veil for the temple. Behind Mary are six virgins who wait to receive skeins of wools. The inscription on the upper part of the architectural structure reads, “Attendants brought wool to the virgins, purple fell to Mary”.

Zechariah and Twelve Rods:In the scene about the selection of a suitor of Mary, who reached the age of marriage, there are twelve rods before Mary, who is sitting on a safe sofa in a colonnaded ciborium. Priest Zechariah was informed by the angel that Mary, who was fifteen years old, would marry with a widower. The rods of Mary’s 12 suitors, descendants of David, were left to the temple, and she would marry with the one whose rod was to blossom. In the scene, Priest Zechariah is shown while praying on his knees before the rods. The inscription on the scene reads “Praying before the rods”.

The Virgin Entrusted to Joseph:On the arch of the western wall in the central part of the northern section, Priest Zechariah and Mary are depicted standing before a four-columned ciborium. Priest Zechariah is giving the blossomed rod back to Joseph with one of his hands, and holding the head of Mary with the other one. The owner of the rod, Joseph, who was a carpenter, is walking towards Mary and Zechariah, and the other suitors are seen behind him. The inscription on the scene reads, “Entrustment to Joseph”.

Joseph Taking the Virgin Mary to his House:On the arch in the lower part of the northern dome, Joseph is depicted taking Mary, who was entrusted by Priest Zechariah to him, to his house. Behind Joseph, his son is seen. The inscription on the scene reads, “Joseph taking Theotokos, going to his house”.

Annunciation to the Virgin Mary:On the pendentive of the northern dome, Mary is seen next to a well before a building, where she came to draw water. She appears wondered, because of Gabriel’s annunciation. According to the Gospel of Luke, Gabriel said to Mary, “You have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be”, Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” The inscription on the scene reads, “Annunciation at the well”.

Joseph Leaving the Virgin:In the scene on the arch of the western wall under the northern dome, Joseph, who is leaving his house in order to work, bids farewell to Mary. In this scene, Mary is very sad, while Joseph is bidding farewell. Behind Joseph is his son, who is carrying carpentry material in the basket in his back. The mosaics on the right side of this scene have not survived. The inscriptions on the scene read, “You see, while going far away for construction works, I leave you in my house” and “Mother of God”.

INNER NARTHEX TOMB NICHE (ARCOSOLIUM)

The tomb niche of Demetrius Palaiologos is in the north wall of the inner narthex. Although a large part of the mosaics on the arch of the tomb niche have partially been destroyed, probably, inside the medallion here is the depiction of Christ Pantocrator, the face section of which has been destroyed. The inscription on the left side of the depiction reads “Chora” and the one on the right side reads “Ton Zonton”. The Blachernitissa who is in the Orans position (praying) can be seen inside the niche. The inscription on the scene including Virgin Mary and Child Christ reads, “the source of life”. On the three sides of the each of the carved pedestals on either sides of the arcosolium arch are reliefs of military saints. 

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