The dazzling mosaics and frescoes in the former Church of the Holy Savior in Chora are considered to be among the finest Byzantine artworks in the world. Most of the mosaics, in 50 panels, depict scenes from the New Testament and date from the 14th century. They are in splendid condition, having been plastered over when the church became a mosque in the 16th century and not uncovered until the 1940s. "Chora" comes from the Greek word for countryside; the original church here was outside the city walls that were built by Constantine the Great, but at the beginning of the 5th century AD Theodosius built new fortifications to expand the growing city, which brought the church inside the walls. The current edifice is believed to have been built in the 12th century.
The modern entrance is off to the side of the church, but it's best to head straight to the original front doorway, where the mosaics begin. The nave itself is light and airy but has lost most of its decoration, though
a mosaic of the Dormition (Assumption) of the Virgin survives over the door, as well as a small mosaic of Mary and Jesus. The large side chapel was used for burials and contains several large tombs including, on the left, that of Theodore Metochites, which is surrounded by frescoes of saints and stories from the Old Testament. In the apse is an arresting image called the Anastasis, or "Resurrection"; it's one of the masterpieces of Byzantine art, showing Christ raising up Adam and Eve from their tombs at the end of time.
The easiest way to reach Kariye Müzesi is by taxi (about 15 TL from Eminönü), or take an Edirnekapı-bound bus from Eminönu or Taksim Square. The tree-shaded café outside the church and Asitane Restaurant next door are both pleasant spots for lunch before you trek back into town.