Marble Decorations

The word “marble”, which is known as “Marmaron” in Greek, was named after the Marmara Island (Prokonnessos) that was famous for its rich marble deposits. These white marbles with gray grains were extensively used for the decoration of the Chora. In addition to the marbles from the Marmara Island, porphyritic, ancient green, onyx, red, yellow and pink grained marbles brought from different places such as the North Africa, the island of Euboea (Eğriboz) and the Afyon province produced a rich outlook. Marble blocks of the same sets were cut and mounted side by side in order to form patterns, rich symmetrical figures and motifs resembling wood grains.

Although the marble works in Chora are as rich and striking as those in the Hagia Sophia are, they do not attract the attention of visitors that much, because of the rich mosaics and fascinating fresco pictures. Especially the naos and the wall coverings in the narthexes of Chora contain marble. Marble patterns in opus sectile were used in coverings and additionally in the friezes under the cornices on the naos walls.

Attentive observers are able to see the fine marble works in the frames of the tomb niches, in the marble intarsia cornices, in the yellow and dark colored reliefs on the capitals of the columns, and on the first door on the north side of the entrance to the naos.

The marble door in the north axis of the naos has lost its embossments like the door of heaven and hell in the southern gallery of the Hagia Sophia. It is an imitation of the bronze and wood doors of the 6th century, and one of the few surviving examples of its kind. The embossed yellow painted figures of pigeons, which drink water from bowls, on the upper frieze of the lintel on the main entrance door of the naos are of high-quality workmanship. On the frames on the two tombs in the parecclesion, the background is blue and the embossed sections are yellow.

The walls of the parecclesion are decorated with imitation marble frescoes. The omphalion in the south axis of the naos floor schematically resembles the omphalion in the Hagia Sophia. This section was supposedly used during ceremonies.