The Last Judgment, in the eastern bay of the parekklesion, shows
Christ's triumph over death and redemption of the righteous, a
fitting subject for a funeral chapel [204-210]. A structural crack
runs through the dome and has disfigured much of the fresco. Note
that Christ's mandorla is now egg-shaped when it should be circular.
Appearing at the Second Coming, Christ is seated on a rainbow,
surrounded by a mandorla of light, as judge of mankind. Flanking
Christ stand the Virgin and John the Baptist who intercede on
behalf of mankind. The twelve apostles are enthroned in symmetrical
groups either side. Choirs of the Elect appear on four clouds
that form a semi-circle on the northeast and western parts of
the vault. Directly below Christ the Judge are the Hetoimasia
and the Weighing of Souls. The first is the prepared throne of "justice
and judgment" mentioned in Psalms. Either side, Adam and
Eve prostrate themselves in prayer. Directly below the throne
hangs a scale, on which the angels weigh the deeds of souls.
The Fiery Stream and the Lake of Fire descends from the left
foot of Christ and runs into the southeast pendentive.
The Land and Sea Giving up Their Dead, is in the southwest pendentive.
As angels blow their trumpets, bodies rise from their coffins
and the sea. An Angel and a Soul occupy the northwest pendentive.
Uniquely in this composition, an angel presents a soul for judgment.
It has been suggested that this represents St. Michael presenting
the soul of Theodore Metochites for judgment. Lazarus the Beggar
in Abraham's Bosom, in the northeast pendentive, is surrounded
by the souls of the blessed. The scene is set in paradise. The
Rich Man in Hell is set opposite Lazarus, in the southeast pendentive,
below the fiery stream. Seated, he turns toward Lazarus to beg
The Torments of the Damned, on the south wall, on the eastern
half of the lunette adjacent to the Rich Man in Hell is divided
into four compartments. The monochrome figures suffer a
variety of tortures: the Gnashing of the Teeth (badly flaked),
the Outer Darkness, the Worm that Sleepeth Not, and the Unquenchable
The Entry of the Elect into Paradise, in the north lunette of the
east bay, is the final episode in the Last Judgment composition.
The scene is divided into two halves with the gate of paradise
in the center. From the left a mixed group of figures, representing
different categories of the elect, is led by St. Peter, who applies
his keys to the gate. On the right, paradise is white and vegetated.
The Good Thief, wearing a loincloth and carrying his cross, welcomes
the elect. He gestures toward the Virgin.
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 funerary chapel contains prefigurations of the Virgin and Themes of Resurrection
and Judgment. Like the narthexes, the program of the parekklesion is divided
between the Virgin and Christ. Here, however, the overriding theme is Salvation,
befitting a funeral chapel. The western domed bay is devoted to the Virgin;
the upper walls represent Old Testament prefigurations of the Virgin, emphasizing
her role in Salvation. The eastern bay is devoted to the Last Judgment. The complex
program of the chapel culminates in the conch of the apse, where the Anastasis
(Harrowing of Hell) is represented, flanked by scenes of resurrection. Unlike
the narthexes and the naos, the parekkelsion is decorated with frescoes.