Tag Archives: Virgin Mary

Kariye Muzesi

Kariye Museum originally formed the center of a Byzantine monastery complex. Only the church section, which was dedicated to Jesus Christ the Savior, has survived. After the arrival of the Turks in Istanbul, this building, like the Hagia Sophia, was converted into a mosque. In 1948 it was made a museum leaving no Islamic element in the building except the 19C minaret outside in the corner.
“Kariye” is the Turkish adaptation of an ancient Greek word “Chora” which refers to countryside. Considering the perimeter of the walls of Constantine (4C AD) the building was located out of the city. If this theory is correct Chora Monastery should have been from the 4C. But unfortunately according to sources, the existence of Chora Monastery before the 8C is not certain.

Chora went through many restorations the last most significant instigated by Theodorus Metochitus, prime minister and first lord of the treasury, in the beginning of the 14C. The three most important features of the church, mosaics, frescoes and the funerary chapel (Paracclesion) are from that period. Theodorus Metochitus built the Paracclesion for himself and he was buried in the entrance of the church; his grave bears a marble stone. The art of painting in frescoes and mosaics were the indications of a new Byzantine art movement which was parallel to Italian Renaissance started by Giotto (1266-1337).

The building consists of the nave, the inner narthex, outer narthex and the paracclesion. The domes of the inner narthex and the paracclesion are lower than the main dome and are only seen from the rear of the church. The drum is supported on four huge pilasters in the corners and four great arches spring from these. The transition is supplied by pendentives. The drum has 16 flutes, each pierced by a window. Entrance to the nave is through both inner and outer narthexes. The niches in the paracclesion were built to keep sarcophagi, as this section was the funerary chapel.

In the mosaics, the lives of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary are depicted. Background elements and architectural motifs are highlighted to give depth. The scenes are realistic as if they were taken from daily life with figures correctly proportioned. Jesus has a humanitarian look upon his face.

Mosaics can be divided into 7 cycles: the nave panels; the six large dedicatory panels in the inner and outer narthexes; the ancestry of Jesus in the two domes of the inner narthex; life of the Virgin Mary in the first three bays of the inner narthex; the infancy of Jesus in the lunettes of the outer narthex; the ministry of Jesus on the vaults of the outer narthex and the fourth bay in the inner narthex; and finally the portraits of the saints on the arches and pilasters of the inner narthex.

Mosaics of major importance are as follows:

Nave; (1) Koimesis, the Dormition of the Virgin. Before ascending to Heaven, her last sleep. Jesus is holding an infant, symbol of Mary’s soul; (2) Jesus Christ; (3) The Virgin Mary.

Inner Narthex; (4) The Enthroned Christ with the Donor, Theodorus Metochitus offering a model of his church; (5) St. Peter; (6) St. Paul; (7) Deesis, Christ and the Virgin Mary (without St. John the Baptist) with two donors below; (8) Genealogy of Christ; (9) Religious and noble ancestors of Christ.

The mosaics in the first three bays of the inner narthex give an account of the Virgin’s birth and life. Some of them are as follows: (10) Rejection of Joachim’s offerings; (11) Annunciation of St. Anne, the angel of the Lord announcing to Anne that her prayer for a child has been heard; (12) Meeting of Joachim and Anne; (13) Birth of the Blessed the Virgin; (14) First seven steps of the Virgin; (15) The Virgin caressed by her parents; (16) The Virgin blessed by the priests; (17) Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple; (18) The Virgin receiving bread from an Angel; (19) The Virgin receiving the skein of purple wool, as the priests decided to have the attendant maidens weave a veil for the Temple; (20) Zacharias praying, when it was the time to marry for the Virgin, High Priest Zacharias called all the widowers together and placed their rods on the altar, praying for a sign showing to whom she should be given; (21) The Virgin entrusted to Joseph; (22) Joseph taking the Virgin to his house; (23) Annunciation to the Virgin at the well; (24) Joseph leaving the Virgin, Joseph had to leave for six months on business and when he returned the Virgin was pregnant and he became angry.

Here it continues not chronologically: (42-44) Miracles.

Outer Narthex; (25) Joseph’s dream and Journey to Bethlehem; (26) Enrollment for taxation; (27) Nativity, birth of Christ; (28) Journey of the Magi; (29) Inquiry of Herod; (30) Flight into Egypt; (31-32) Massacres ordered by Herod; (33) Mothers mourning for their children; (34) Flight of Elizabeth, mother of St. John the Baptist; (35) Joseph dreaming, Return of the holy family from Egypt to Nazareth; (36) Christ taken to Jerusalem for the Passover; (37) St. John the Baptist bearing witness to Christ; (38) Miracle; (39-41) Miracles.

(45) Jesus Christ; (46) The Virgin and Angels praying.

Paracclesion; The pictures here are frescoes. This chapel was designed to be a burial place. Among the major frescoes in the paracclesion are as follows: (47) Anastasis, the Resurrection. Christ, who had just broken down the gates of Hell, is standing in the middle and trying to pull Adam and the Virgin Mary out of their tombs. Behind Adam stand St. John the Baptist, David and Solomon. Others are righteous kings; (48) The Second coming of Christ, the last judgment. Jesus is enthroned and on both sides the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist (this trio is also called the Deesis); (49) The Virgin and Child; (50) Heavenly Court of Angels; (51-52) Moses.


The symbol and mythology regarding the mother goddess is found in many diverse cultures of the ancient world. She represents the creative power of all nature and the processes of fertility, along with the periodic renewal of life. Representations of the mother goddess date from Paleolithic times.
The Neolithic settlement of Catalhoyuk (c.7000 BC) in Anatolia provides archaeological evidence that the cult of the mother goddess has been continuous. The chief deity was a goddess who simultaneously incorporated the roles of young woman, mother in childbirth and old woman.

The worship of a great goddess was particularly dominant in Middle Eastern religions, especially in the cult of Cybele. We only learned her various names after the introduction of writing to Anatolia in 1950 BC: Kubaba, Kumpapa, Kybele, Cybele, etc. She was a fertility goddess involved with a young male consort who died but was continually reborn. This element of the dying male deity, representing vegetation, is a later development in the cult of the mother goddess and is regarded as a transition from her primal state of being an unmarried mother to having a son, a lover, or both.

Artemis of Ephesus is the extension of the mother goddess and the source of the Virgin Mary cult which parallels virginity and motherhood.

Further cultural integration occurred with the adoption of the Egyptian Isis cult by the Greco-Roman world. Isis became a universal goddess, incorporating local goddesses and identified with the mystery of fertility. The cult of Isis persisted during the first four centuries of the Christian era, until persecution finally halted cult activities.

In Christianity the figure of the Virgin Mary as theotokos, or the “Mother of God,” has clear affinities with that of the ancient mother goddess. Her role, however, is diminished and that of the divine child is central.

There are 935 million Moslems in 172 countries of the world today. This is nearly 18% of the world’s population. 6% of Moslems live in Turkey. More than 33% of the world population are Christian.
Among the Islamic countries there are two different models: The first is fundamentalist, like Iran or other Arab countries and the second is modern like Turkey. Although 99% of the Turkish population are Moslem, Turkey is a secular state and people have freedom to choose their religion and beliefs. No one is forced to participate in any religious ceremonies or rites against his will and no one is viewed as being at fault because of his beliefs.

In secular Turkey all religious affairs are carried out by a central government organization affiliated to the Prime Ministry, namely the Department of Religious Affairs. The function of this organization is to carry out tasks related to the beliefs, divine services and moral principles of Islam and to enlighten citizens on religious matters.

Islam is the name of the religion that arose in the Arabian Peninsula where its founder, the Prophet Mohammed, was born in 571 AD in the city of Mecca.
A pious, charismatic man, Mohammed was a merchant by trade, who in his youth searched for a purer and more meaningful religion than the polytheistic beliefs that surrounded him.

In his fortieth year he received his first revelation. He was called to be the Prophet of God to his people. He began to preach oneness of God and to preach the message entrusted to him that there is but one God, to whom all humankind must commit themselves. The polytheistic Meccans resented Mohammed’s attacks on their gods and finally he emigrated with a few followers to Medina. This migration, which is called the Hegira (Hicret), took place in 622 AD; Moslems adopted the beginning of that year as the first year of their lunar calendar.

In Medina, Mohammed won acceptance as a leader. Within a few years he had established control of the surrounding region and in 630 he finally conquered Mecca. The Kaaba, a shrine that had for some time housed the idols of the pagan Meccans, was rededicated to the worship of Allah and it became the object of pilgrimage for all Moslems.

The believers of Islam are called Moslems (Muslims). The Arabic word Islam means the act of committing oneself unreservedly to God and a Moslem is a person who makes this commitment.

The religion of Islam is the youngest of the three great monotheistic religions. According to Moslems, all the universe is Islam, all the religions that have ever existed are Islam and the prophets with their followers are Moslems. God sent Mohammed as a messenger from among the Arabs, bringing a revelation in “clear Arabic”. Thus, as other peoples had received messengers, so the Arabs received theirs.

Islam is the last religion and Mohammed is the last prophet. Islam does not deny or ignore previous religions or their prophets. The Koran records that Mohammed was the Seal of the Prophets, the last of a line of God’s messengers that began with Adam and included Abraham, Noah, Moses and Jesus. The Koran is said to be the perfection of all previous revelations.

The Five Conditions of Islam
1) To say and to believe “I witness that there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet”. When somebody believes in this, it means he believes and acknowledges everything declared by Mohammed.
2) To practice namaz 5 times a day; early in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, in the early evening and at night.


Each prayer is called namaz in the Arabic language. The leader of the prayer is the Imam and his assistant during the prayer is the muezzin. The time to pray is announced to people by the muezzin. In former times this took place from the top of a minaret, but now it is announced over loudspeakers.

All Moslems in the world pray in the Kaaba direction and call it “kible” which represents a spiritual unity. The word kible derives from Kaaba which is associated with Kybele (the mother goddess of Anatolia) as there was previously a cult of Kybele in Kaaba. For a Moslem the Kaaba is the sanctuary that Abraham and his son Ismail built for God. It is a symbol of God’s uniqueness.

It is accepted as being more correct if people practice namaz in the mosque, although they are not obliged to do so. Each set of prayers is about 10-20 minutes long.

The average number of people practicing namaz in the mosque, regularly 5 times a day, is not more than 4-8% of the total male Moslem population in Turkey.

For a Moslem, Friday is the holy day as is Sunday for a Christian or Saturday (Shabbat) for a Jew. The Imam gives a sermon to the people in Turkish at the noon time prayers on Fridays. According to the law, they are not allowed to speak about politics in their sermons. For men, these noon time prayers on Friday have to be practiced in the mosque and the average number of people attending rises to 30-40% of the total male population. In many places you may notice that shops close so that workers may attend the Friday noon time namaz.

Early morning prayers on the first days of the two religious holidays (Seker and Kurban Bayrami) are the two most important prayer times for men in a year. Attendance at these times can rise to 70-80% of the male population.

3) Oruc: To fast for 30 days during the holy month of Ramadan (Ramazan in Turkish). From sunrise to sunset eating, drinking, smoking and having sexual intercourse is forbidden for all except the sick, the weak, pregnant women, soldiers on duty, travelers on necessary journeys and young children.

The coming of Ramadan is a big social event throughout the country. To celebrate it minaret balconies are lit as hundreds of lights (mahya) are stretched between the minarets of mosques with some figures, words and expressions to welcome or praise Ramadan. The figures are of flowers, boats, bridges or mosques. Papers, magazines and TV channels have special features and programs during Ramadan.

The process of fasting starts at about 3 ‘clock in the morning with the street drummer’s music. Each vicinity has its own drummer who makes music to wake people up each morning during the whole month. All his efforts are to make a living from the tips he collects at the end of the holy month from his neighborhood.

After being awakened by the drummer people have the opportunity to eat before sunrise as it is then which marks the beginning of fasting for the day. While fasting eating is not the only thing prohibited. Bad behavior, such as cursing, lying, doing harm to others are also forbidden.

People who fast expect respect from others. This means, especially in smaller cities, that restaurants will be closed during the daytime and people will not eat, drink or smoke in public.

At sunset, the muezzin’s call for the early evening prayer marks the end of the day’s fasting. Olives, salt, dates and water are religiously accepted as being the best foods to break the day’s fasting.

About 20-25% of Turkish people fast in Ramadan in urban areas and 60-70% in rural areas.

4) Hac: Visiting Mecca on a pilgrimage is only achievable for those who can financially afford it. Generally people prefer going to Mecca when they come to a certain age usually between 50-60 although there is no age restriction. The returning pilgrim is entitled to use the honorific haci (pilgrim) before his name, a title that indicates his piety. He is then more careful to refrain from any sin for the rest of his life.

5) Zekat: To give alms to the poor as a part of one’s wealth that being 1/40 each year. In practice lots of people give alms to the poor, but sometimes not at the established rate.

A man in the act of ritual ablution before going to prayer

Attributes Of God

He is called Allah. He exists. There is no beginning or end to His being. He is unique. He does not look like any creature. The cause of His being has nothing to do with anything except Himself. He is omniscient and omnipotent. He hears, sees and speaks without using sounds or letters. God sent a messenger to each society and Mohammed was sent for all societies which means that he is actually the last prophet.
In Islam, the lives of individuals and of society are organized by the Holy Koran, which was revealed to Mohammed as vouchsafed through the angel Gabriel. According to the Koran, everybody is born as an innocent Moslem being regardless of his mother or father, but should practice the main beliefs of Islam as he grows up. No one can or should come between God and the worshipper.

Believing in the hereafter as well as God is also emphasized in the Koran. Man’s life is not limited by his death. On the contrary, the gates of a higher world open with death. The position of the human being in the hereafter will be determined by his behavior on earth. The punishment is hell and the reward is heaven.

According to Islam, murder, cruelty, adultery, gambling, usury and the consumption of carrion, pork, blood and alcohol are strictly forbidden. Women should dress “decently” so that other people cannot see their hair, legs or arms. Boys have to be circumcised before the transition to manhood.

The language of Islam is Arabic because the Koran is God’s words in Arabic. A translation into another language may give the meaning of the revelation, but its sacred character is lost. Turkish people do not speak Arabic, because in formal education Arabic is not taught except in Imam Vocational Schools. If families want their children to learn Arabic, they send them to Arabic courses given in the mosques by the imams or muezzins during the holidays. On these courses, due to the limited time, they can only learn how to read the Holy Koran.

Islamic countries are generally ruled by the Seriat, Canonical Law (Islamic Law). Despite the absence of a formal church structure, religious functionaries played an important role in the Ottoman state. Islamic law regulated all aspects of life. The sultan, the supreme head of the empire, ruled as the representative of God on earth.

However, the Republic of Turkey is a secular state which means religious affairs are not combined with those of the state.

The Alevis

Today’s Moslems are mainly divided into 2 types: Sunni and Shia. Sunnis acknowledge the first four Caliphs (Ebubekir, Omer, Osman, Ali) as rightful successors of Mohammed, whereas Shias believe in Ali and the Imams as the right successors of Mohammed. More than two thirds of the Turkish population are Sunnis. The Shias of Anatolia are not the same as Shias of Iran. In Anatolia they are called Alevis which comes from the word Ali. It is a mixture of Anatolian cultures together with a deep belief in the incarnation of God in Ali. Compared to the Sunnis of Anatolia, the Alevis are more flexible. For example, they stopped going to mosques on the rationale that Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed and the founder of Alevism, was murdered in a mosque, thus violating the sanctity of the building; and they stopped formal prayers for safety’s sake. A system of traveling holy elders (dede) replaced the more traditional Moslem structure of authority. The ban on wine and alcohol was relaxed, with wine actually used for religious ceremonial functions. The month of fasting was converted into eight days during the month of Muharrem.


A mosque (from the Arabic mescit) is a place of public worship in Islam. The Turkish word for mosque is cami and it means “a place where people gather” in Arabic. Mosques must have an area for ritual ablutions and be positioned as such so that worshippers face Mecca during prayers. The leader (imam), when opening services at prayer times, stands in or before the mihrab, prayer niche in the mosque which indicates the direction of Mecca. The preacher, generally the imam himself, speaks from the minber. An additional liturgical requirement is the minare (minaret), a high, generally pointed tower from which Moslems are called to prayer.

In the Koran, the term mescit refers either specifically to the Holy Sanctuary (the Kaaba Mosque) in Mecca or to religious buildings in general. Early Islam did not require a specially built space for the performance of the principal liturgical obligation of common prayer. The obligation could be met anywhere, provided the direction in which worshippers must face during prayer (kible) was properly determined. Soon after the Prophet Mohammed’s death (632), his house in Medina, which had often been used for gatherings of the faithful, became a model of the proper kind of meeting place in which to pray at formally appointed times as well as to perform a variety of social, political and administrative functions related to the Moslem faith.

Generally, but with notable exceptions, mosques have assumed the form of large enclosed spaces serving the collective needs of the Moslem community and decorated with quotations from the Koran and with ornaments intended to heighten the unique quality of the monument. Statuary or other images of living beings are uniformly absent from the mosque; geometric or floral motifs predominate in its carved-wood, plaster, tile, or mosaic decoration. The floors of mosques are generally covered with rugs; hanging lamps, candlesticks, stands for holy books and platforms for readers are often placed within the interior.

The Anatolian-type mosque was created under the influence of the local Anatolian architecture of the 13-14C, reaching its perfection with the growth of the Ottoman Dynasty in Bursa, Edirne and eventually Istanbul. It is characterized by the domination of a single dome covering the main prayer hall. Inside, brilliantly patterned supports extend gracefully from the top of the cupola and in the exterior courtyard tall minarets frame the soaring dome. The Anatolian-type mosque appeared in all the lands that came under Ottoman rule, but its masterpieces are the 16C creations of the great Turkish architect Sinan in Edirne (the Selimiye Mosque) and in Istanbul (the Suleymaniye Mosque).