The first bay of the parekkelsion is covered by a ribbed dome
lit by large windows.
The Virgin and Child and Attendant Angels are represented in
the western dome [211-223]. The Virgin appears as the Queen of
Heaven at the apex of the dome. Within the dome's segments are
twelve angels, who form a sort of guard of honor, wearing brightly
colored costumes of the Byzantine court. This frescoed dome is
subdivided with ribs providing the flatter surfaces more suitable
The Four Hymnographers are seated in the pendentives below the
dome. These are Byzantine poets noted for their hymns honoring
the Virgin [224-227].
John of Damascus, in the northeast pendentive, is the most
famous, a theologian active in the eighth century. He is identified
by his turban and is depicted writing the Idiomela for the
Kosmas the Poet, in the southeast pendentive, a student of
John of Damascus, who is shown with an uninscribed book in
Joseph the Poet, in the southwest pendentive, holding a scroll
on which he writes his Canon for the Akathistos Hymn, an addition
to the most important Byzantine hymn honoring the Virgin. The
verses connect Joseph to the Old Testament scenes depicted
Theophanes Graptos, in the northwest pendentive, a ninth-century
writer who was a monk at the Chora. He is shown writing verses
from the funeral service, which refer to the adjacent scene
of Jacob's Ladder and to the role of the Virgin in salvation.
Jacob Wrestling with the Angel and Jacob's Ladder is in the
lunette at the west end of the north wall . In the first,
he wrestles with the angel, during which he sees God face to
face. In the second, he dreams of the ladder leading to heaven,
with angels ascending and descending, and the Lord standing upon
it. Jacob's Ladder was regarded as a prefiguration of the Virgin,
and accordingly the ladder is depicted leading to an image of
the Virgin and Child.
The Lord Appears to Moses Before the Burning Bush is on the
opposite side of the lunette [229, 230]. Realizing he is standing
on holy ground, Moses Removes His Sandals. On the adjacent arch
is a third episode, Moses Hides His Face, "for he was afraid
to look upon God." The Burning Bush, which burned without
being consumed, was regarded as a metaphor for the Virgin, signifying
the Virgin Birth.
Scenes from The Dedication of Solomon's Temple fill the south
wall of the parekklesion.
The Bearing of the Ark of the Covenant to the new Temple located
on the west side of the lunette in the second bay . Typologically
the Ark and the Virgin are related, and the scenes parallel those
of the Virgin's presentation and life in the Temple, depicted
in the inner narthex; both Virgin and Ark are containers of God.
The Bearing of the Sacred Vessels is located on the southern
side of the arch separating the first and second bays .
Solomon and All of Israel is on the east half of the lunette
in the first bay . Solomon, who is richly dressed as a Byzantine
emperor, leads the elders of Israel.
The Installation of the Ark in the Holy of Holies is on the
west side of the lunette on the south side of the first bay .
It shows the Ark being placed in the sanctuary of the Temple.
Light radiates from the sky above to show that the "glory
of the Lord" has filled the Temple.
The Prophesy of Isaiah concerning the army of Sennacherib, who
was unable to enter the walled city of Jerusalem, is on the southern
side of the western arch . Isaiah holds a scroll and gestures
toward The Angel Smiting the Assyrians before Jerusalem. Between
the prophet's outstretched hand and the angel, the gate of Jerusalem
is topped by an image of the Virgin in the tympanum. Here, the
inviolate city is a symbol of the Virgin. Although the prophesy
of Isaiah was not read on the Virgin's feast days, the inclusion
of this scene may be related to Theodore Metochites' personal
devotion to the Archangel Michael.
Completing the cycle of Old Testament prefigurations of the
Virgin is a somewhat unusual scene of Three Priests before the
Altar . Originally identified as Aaron and his sons, the
fragmentary inscription in fact refers to the burnt offering
to be made on the eighth day on the altar, from the vision of
Ezekiel. The altar of sacrifice symbolizes the Virgin, and the
sacrifice refers to Christ's sacrifice. The priests are shown
carrying small boxes and a censer. Both formally and typologically
they refer to the Three Magi, whose cycle terminated in the adjacent
seventh bay of the outer narthex.
The Souls of the Blessed in the Hand of God (fragmentary), an
unusual scene, is in the crown of the western arch extending
onto the western tympanum [237, 238]. Following the Book of Wisdom
(of Solomon), "the souls of the righteous are in the hand
of God, and the tortures of death shall not touch them."
In the center of the arch separating the first and second bays
of the parekklesion is a portrait medallion of Christ .
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