Scenes from the story of Joachim and Anne fill much of the northwest to southeast
areas of the first bay of the inner narthex.
Joachim's Offerings Rejected is represented in the northwest pendentive below
the dome . The bearded priest Zaccharias is shown praying in the Temple,
which looks much like the sanctuary of a Byzantine church.
Joachim in the Wilderness is in the southeast pendentive, showing a forlorn
Joachim contemplating his misfortune .
The Annunciation to St. Anne is located in the partially preserved lunette
below . As she prays in the garden, an angel announces to Anne that she
will bear a child.
The Meeting at the Golden Gate is on the arch between the first two bays and
includes the happy Joachim meeting and embracing Anne at the gate of Jerusalem
. The scene is inscribed "The Conception of the Theotokos" ("Bearer
Scenes from the story of Joseph and the Virgin fill the southwest area
of the first bay of the inner narthex.
Joseph Taking the Virgin to His House is located on the arch between the second
and first bays . Accompanied by one of his sons, Joseph leads the Virgin.
Here Joseph is one of the artist's experiments, a composite figure probably
created from two different sketchbook models. Is he coming or going?
The Annunciation to the Virgin at the Well, is in the southwest pendentive
of the first bay . An angel announces to the Virgin that she will
give birth. The drama is emphasized by the position of the Virgin, who seems
to be flying.
Joseph Taking His Leave of the Virgin and Joseph Reproaching the Virgin, in the
lunette of the first bay, when he returns from his trip to find his wife with
child . These scenes offer interesting parallels to the story of Joachim
and Anne, with which the cycle began. Both Anne and the Virgin Mary are blessed
with miraculous conceptions.
This discussion of the Kariye Camii iconography is adapted
from Robert G. Ousterhout, The Architecture of the Kariye Camii in Istanbul,
Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1987. We
would like to thank Professor Ousterhout for generously allowing us to adapt
his text for this Web site.
The outer and inner narthexes are decorated with mosaic cycles of the lives of
the Virgin and Christ. Both begin at the northern end, with thematic and visual
references linking the two cycles.
Three bays of the inner narthex are devoted to the story of the Virgin, from
miraculous birth to miraculous pregnancy. The unfamiliar subject is based on
the Protevangelium, or Apocryphal Gospel of St. James, which was widely accepted
during the Middle Ages. The Genealogy of Christ fills the two dome mosaics of
the inner narthex in the northern and southern bays [7-81]. The mosaic
encrusted domes are known as pumpkin domes with undulating, faceted surfaces.
The result is multiple curves that capture the light from many angles, creating
a shimmering surface and suffusing the interior with a golden glow. The
Bust of the Virgin, surrounded by the royal ancestry, is in the north dome and
the Bust of Christ is in the south dome.