Cycle of the Infancy of Christ and of Christ's
The fourth bay of the outer narthex continues with scenes from
the Infancy of Christ.
The Journey of the Magi, in the fourth lunette, is located to
the right of the entry axis. The Magi appear riding spirited
horses, following the star; The Magi before Herod are shown carrying
gifts and dressed as priests, before an enthroned Herod .
The Flight of Elizabeth and John is in the lunette opposite
the journey of the Magi . With a soldier in hot pursuit,
his sword raised, Elizabeth and her son, the future John the
Baptist, escape miraculously when a mountain opens up to hide
The mosaics of the next two vaults are almost entirely lost. In
the fourth bay, however, one can discern the lower portions of
Christ confronting a spotty-legged leper in the episode of Christ
Healing a Leper .
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.