Restoring Byzantium Miriam & Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery
Building Exhibition Resources
History Images Virtual Reality 3-D Animations Iconography
Virtual Reality: Parekklesion, Bay 1

Turkey, Istanbul, Kariye Camii, Interior View: Parekklesion, Bay 1 © Columbia University in the City of New York 2004


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 for water.

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 Fire.
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.

Building: History | Images | Virtual Reality | 3-D Animations | Iconography
Exhibition: Overview | Gallery | Works of Art | Symposium | Publication
Resources: Historic Photos | Restoration | Bibliographies | Related Links | Credits

© 2004 Columbia University in the City of New York | Miram & Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery | Visual Media Center