Church of the Holy Savior of Chora
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Church of the Holy Savior of Chora

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Kariye Camii Sok., Kariye Meydani, Istanbul,

Hard to find—Edirnekapı is not used to tourists, and the signage is terrible—but worth the effort, this pumpkin-domed church-turned-museum is one of the great surviving jewels of Byzantine art and architecture. Its frescoes and glittering-gold mosaics are some of the best preserved in the city; and you won’t have to elbow your way through crowds to see them. The conflicted relationship between modern Turkey and its Byzantine past, however, is reflected in the museum’s lack of educational outreach: there are no signs that explain the complex iconography, no brochures in English, and no tour guides. (To bone up on the history before you visit, check out www.mcah.columbia.edu/byzantium/index2.html.)

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