CHORA MUSEUM

TOMB NICHES (Arcosolia) IN THE PARECCLESION

Frescoes inside the niche wall and arch of the southeast arcosolium (A)

The sarcophagi of the four tomb arcosolia in the parecclesion have not survived. On the niche wall of the southeast arcosolium, there are frontal paintings of four figures standing side by side above the sarcophagus level. The two men with court and religious clothes in the middle and the two women on either sides with both court and religious clothes represent the same two persons and they are the portraits of the husband and wife buried here. However, the identities of the owners of this tomb could not be determined.

On the upper part of this niche arch, just above the portraits, inside a cornered mandorla, a half-length Jesus whose hands are open is shining. A seraph is seen on the left side, whereas the depiction on the right side is not visible due to the deterioration here. On either side of the inner wall of the arch is a half-length angel figure praying with upraised hands.

Frescoes inside the niche wall and arch of the southwest arcosolium (B)

On the niche wall, above the sarcophagus level, only the shoulders of Virgin Mary and the hand of Child Christ raised in benediction is seen, because most of the tiles of the mosaic depiction have fallen down. On the right side, Michael Tornikes, who is resting in this tomb, is depicted standing and wearing court clothes. The lower part of the figure is destroyed and only the part over the shoulders is visible. The inscription on the upper section reads, “same person, monk Makarios”. On the right side is the figure of Tornikes’ wife, turned towards Virgin Mary and praying with upraised hands. The inscription on the upper section reads, “same person, nun Eugenia”. The feet of this figure as well are destroyed. Both figures are frescoes. The upper part of the arcosolium arch is decorated with a mosaic cross motif inside nested circles. On the left side of the inner wall of the arch is the mosaic portrait of Tornikes wearing monk clothes, and on the right side is the mosaic portrait of his wife. Since the lower parts of both mosaics are destroyed, only the parts above the waists are seen. On the monumental marble frame of the tomb, there are archangels on both sides of Jesus, and a long inscription (epitaphios) above this composition. This tomb belongs to Michael Tornikes, the close friend of Metochites who was the “Great Constable” at the court of Andronikos II. The original decoration was made of mosaic, but it was complemented with frescoes after having been destroyed in the Byzantine period. The Virgin Mary figure at the center of the niche and the figures inside arches are made of mosaic and the two figures on the sides of niches are frescoes.

The large arcosolium in the northwest wall of the chapel (C), assumedly belonging to Theodore Metochites

In order to highlight the importance of the tomb, an arched marble frame was formed. There is a relief of Jesus at the center of the arch, and reliefs of angels with faces looking toward Jesus on either sides of the arch. The monograms of the figures on the marble indicate that they are the archangels Michael and Gabriel. The faces of the figures are quite destroyed. On the marble frames of the tomb niches in the parecclesion, the background is painted blue and the reliefs are painted yellow. There is no inscription on this marble frame stating the owner of the tomb.

The arcosolium in the northeast wall (D)

The tomb in the northeast wall has no frame. Since there are neither frescoes or mosaic decorations inside the arch, nor an inscription, the owners of this tomb are not known.

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