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Virtual Reality: Inner Narthex, Bay 4

Turkey, Istanbul, Kariye Camii, Interior View: Inner Narthex, Bay 4 © Columbia University in the City of New York 2004


Cycle of the Infancy of Christ and of Christ's Ministry
  • The narrative cycle of the Ministry of Christ concludes in the inner narthex beneath the dome containing the early ancestors of Christ, which we may also regard as the beginning of the successive cycles. The narrative cycles have, in effect, come full circle, emphasizing the divine plan of salvation.
Christ Healing a Blind and Dumb Man is in the southwest pendentive [134]. Christ, standing with St. Peter, gestures toward the afflicted man, who points toward his eyes.

Christ Healing Two Blind Men is in the northwest pendentive [135]. Accompanied by two apostles, Christ gestures toward two seated sightless men.

Christ Healing Peter's Mother-in-Law is in the northeast pendentive [136]. She is seated in bed, while Peter stands to her side, and Christ grasps her by the wrist.

Christ Healing the Woman with the Issue of Blood is in the southeast pendentive [137]. The afflicted woman lies prostrate on the ground touching the hem of Christ's garment as he turns to address her.

Christ Healing the Man with the Withered Hand is on the eastern side of the southernmost arch [138]. The man holds his deformed arm toward Christ, who gestures toward him.

Christ Healing a Leper is on the western side of the same arch [139]. The latter wears a loincloth and is recognizable by his spots. The figure of Christ is missing except for his feet.

Christ Healing a Multitude is in the west wall of the bay [141]. Christ, accompanied by apostles, addresses a group that includes three seated men: a blind cripple with a hand crutch, a blind man, and another with a distended tumor. Behind them, a woman presents her child with deformed legs; another woman and child appear behind her. In the group of standing figures to the right are a crippled man, a blind woman, and a woman leaning on a stick.

As with the life of the Virgin, the cycle of Christ’s Infancy also appears unresolved, ending with a transition that leads directly to the cycle of Christ’s Ministry.
The fourth bay of the iner narthex also contains the monumental Deesis mosaic, located to the right of the door into the naos, showing Christ and the Virgin with two previous benefactors of the monastery kneeling at their feet. The Virgin gestures to Christ in intercession for the benefactors [6].

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.

The cycle of the infancy of Christ
and of Christ's ministry begins in the domical vault of the first bay of the outer narthex and concludes in the south bay of the inner narthex. The story is taken up directly from the previous narrative. As in the inner narthex, the narratives are sometimes contorted to fit the domical vaults. Normally two different episodes appear in each vault.
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© 2004 Columbia University in the City of New York | Miram & Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery | Visual Media Center