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Βyzantine architecture Byzantine architecture is the architecture of the Byzantine Empire. The empire gradually emerged as a distinct artistic and cultural entity from what is today referred to as the Roman Empire after 330 A.D., when the Roman Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire east from Rome to Byzantium.
Byzantium, "New Rome", was later renamed Constantinople and is now called Istanbul. The empire endured for more than a millennium, dramatically influencing Medieval and Renaissance era architecture in Europe and, following the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, leading directly to the architecture of the Ottoman Empire.
Main Features Early Byzantine architecture was built as a continuation of Roman architecture. A distinct style gradually emerged which imbued certain influences from the Near East and used the Greek cross plan in church architecture.
Main features Buildings increased in geometric complexity Brick and plaster were used in addition to stone in the decoration of important public structures Classical orders were used more freely Mosaics replaced carved decoration Complex domes rested upon massive piers, and windows filtered light through thin sheets of alabaster to softly illuminate interiors.
Early Period – The Churches The establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire brought with it a monumental church building programme, under official sponsorship. The Emperor Constantine and members of his family started building many churches, which served as cathedrals, martyria or imperial chapels and mausoleums.
The Basilica A new architectural form was adopted for these new Christian edifices: the basilica, widely used in the Roman world for judicial, commercial, military and ritualistic purposes. This was a rectangular hall, internally divided by two or four series of columns, ending with an elevated chancel at the east end. Basilicas could accommodate large congregations.
The central plan church Another category was the central plan church. This type featured a uniform arrangement around a centre. Such were circular and polygonal churches, which were mostly used as burial monuments and baptisteries.
Eukterioi oikoi Until 200 AD, private homes provided the meeting- places for the devotional practices of the new religion. But by the mid-3rd century there was a surge in the number of believers. This increase and the need for new places of worship led Christians to adapt houses specifically for the purpose.
During the period following the first Christian persecutions up to the early 4th century, larger buildings were erected. These were called eucteria, prayer places, or ecclesiae, places of assembly for the faithful.
Eucterium An example dating back to 313-319 AD, has been located in Aquileia in north-eastern Italy. Its floor-mosaic preserves an inscription mentioning the name of the donor, Bishop Theodore.
Early Byzantine Period Common trends are evident in its most important monuments, which are concentrated in the Italian peninsula. They are usually central plan buildings or three-aisle basilicas with an elevated middle aisle and brick walls without galleries. The wealth of interior decoration, including Marble inlay (opus sectile) and mosaics provided a marked contrast to their simple exterior.
The Rotunda Its buildings include the Rotunda, a circular plan Roman edifice of the times of Galerius (306- 311), which was adapted into the Christian Church of St. George around the mid-5th century.
Santa Constanza Santa Constanza at Rome is one of the earliest monuments of this period. It is a circular edifice with abundant mosaic decoration, built as a mausoleum for Constantia, daughter of Constantine the Great, who died in 354.
Santa Maria Maggiore The three-aisle basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (432-440) with its interesting mosaics, the Lateran baptistery, founded by Constantine the Great, should also be mentioned among the religious buildings in Rome.
Cruciform plan Mausoleum of GallaPlacidia, Ravenna (after 450 A.D.)
The Basilica of Sant ApollinareNuovo The Basilica of Sant Apollinare Nuovo is a basilica church in Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna (Italy). It was erected by the Ostrogoth King Theodoric as his palace chapel, during the first quarter of the 6th century (as attested in the Liber Pontificalis). This Arian church was originally dedicated in 504 CE to Christ the Redeemer.
The Building Programme of Justinian 1 The ambitious building programme implemented by Justinian (527-565) throughout the Empire during the 38 years of his reign reflected his vision to restore the Imperium Romanum and to establish an absolute central monarchy. Our knowledge about this building programme is based on the De Aedificiis by Prokopios and on the monuments that still survive today.
In six volumes Prokopios describes the innumerable building projects implemented by the emperor according to geographical units. He makes individual reference to Constantinople, the Persian-Roman frontier, the Black Sea, Europe - in other words Macedonia, Thessaly, the Greek mainland and the Peloponnesos - Asia Minor and Palestine and finally North Africa, from Alexandria to Gibraltar.
Justinian Architecture Justinians era is a landmark in the evolution of Byzantine architecture. The most important achievement of this period was the emergence of a new architectural type, the domed basilica, which fused elements of the two building types that prevailed in church building in the 4th and 5th centuries, that is, the basilica and the central plan edifice.
The restored Early Christian Basilica of St.John, Ephesus
San Vitale, Ravenna, 547 AD. Justinian is depicted in the famous mosaic in the sanctuary, as is the bishop Maximian, under whom the church was consecrated in 547. The monument is a central plan octagonal edifice, very much resembling the architecture of imperial buildings in the capital city such as the Church of Saints Sergios and Bakchos (527-536).
Hagia Sophia Hagia Sophia (from the Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία, "Holy Wisdom"; Latin: Sancta Sophia or Sancta Sapientia; Turkish: Ayasofya) is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453, it served as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople
Between 1204 and 1261 it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Patriarch of Constantinople of the Western Crusader established Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931, when it was secularized. It was opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.
Hagia (Saint) Sophia is one of the most important monuments of world architecture. Every Byzantine emperor of any importance has associated his name with the history of the monument. Dedicated to Divine Wisdom, the original church was built by Constantine the Great. Yet, it was soon to be destroyed by fire, in 404. It was rebuilt by Theodosios II in 415, before it was burnt in the Nika revolt in 532.
On February 23 of the same year building began anew, following an ambitions architectural design conceived by Anthemios from Tralleis and Isidoros from Miletos, the two architects selected by Justinian. The emperor himself oversaw the construction works, which lasted five years. It was consecrated on December 21, 537, and Justinian is reported by contemporary sources to have exclaimed: I have defeated thee, Solomon!
Hagia Irene 4th c. A.D. Hagia Irene or Hagia Eirene (Greek: Ἁγία Εἰρήνη, "Holy Peace", Turkish: Aya İrini), often erroneously rendered in English as St Irene, is a former Eastern Orthodox church located in the outer courtyard of Topkapı Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. It is open as a museum every day except Monday but requires special permission for admission.
Justinian churches in Greece Three ecclesiastical buildings on the Greek mainland that combine a traditional basilica plan with the new architectural elements introduced in the Justinian era, namely the dome and barrel vaults, are particularly interesting.
These are: the Churches of Basilica II at Philippi, Virgin Hekatontapyliane at Paros and Saint Titos in Gortys, Crete. The Philippi monument was built shortly before 540, following the model of a three-aisle basilica with a lateral aisle. Yet this does not feature the typical two-aisled wooden roof but a combination of arched elements such as barrel vaults, cross vaults..
View of the Panagia (the Virgin)Hekatontapyliane, Paros, 550 AD.
The Mausoleum of Theodoric The Mausoleum of Theodoric (Italian: Mausoleo di Teodorico) is an ancient monument just outside Ravenna, Italy. It was built in 520 A.D. by Theodoric the Great (king of the Ostrogoths) as his future tomb.
Greece Around 300 monuments from this period have been excavated in the mainland and on the islands of Greece. The oldest basilica, identified in Epidaurus on the outskirts of the holy ground of Asklepios sanctuary, has been dated to 400 A.D. (on the evidence of its floor-mosaics).
Thessalonike Substantial and well preserved monuments are to be found in Thessalonike, which was becoming an important commercial, economic and cultural centre of the Empire by the 5th century.
St. Demetrius The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios (Greek: Άγιος Δημήτριος), is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki, dating from a time when it was the second largest city of the Byzantine Empire.
Other Basilicas in Greece Other important centres in northern Greece included Philippi and Amphipolis, where excavations brought to light many Roman and Christian buildings. Basilicas were also found in Phthiotid Thebes, a Christian city that was destroyed around the mid-7th century, was excavated near the modern city of Volos. in Nikopolis, Epiros.
in the Peloponese, in Corinth, Sikyon and Tegea, where an important floor-mosaic survives, and in Lechaion where one of the largest basilicas in Greece was found. This building, dedicated to the martyr Leonides, totalled 186 metres in length and featured impressive sculptural decoration. Also devoted to Leonides, the smaller church of Ilissos in Athens features an architectural design that is regarded as predecessor of the domed basilica.
"Christian architecture in Greece culminated in around 500 and its magnificence overshadowed all other east-coast provinces except of course Constantinople.“ Richard Krautheimer
Middle byzantine period Liturgical changes influenced the architectural development of Byzantine ecclesiastical buildings from the end of the 6th century onwards. There was a change in the two Introits in the ceremony of the Mass, and in particular regarding the carrying of the Holy Gospel (Small Introit) and the Holy Gifts, which were escorted in a procession so that the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist could be conducted (Big Introit).
Those changes brought about the arrangement of the sanctuary in three parts with greatest space and emphasis being given to the central part. Up to the first half of the 6th century, the sacred vessels and the Holy Gospel were kept in the diakonikon, a room at the southern part of the narthex or of the atrium, while offerings were kept in the prothesis. From here they were escorted in the procession through the middle aisle to the altar.
Around the middle of the 6th century, these rooms were taken to the south and the north of the nave and gradually they were incorporated into the sanctuary, with apses on the eastern side. The course of the two Introits no longer took place along the central aisle but around it.
This period, there was a trend in architecture for concentration around a centre, a tendency for squaring, and, as a result, the dimensions of churches were reduced in length and increased in width. The four barrel-vaults gradually came to form an isosceles cross and the piers became square.
Besides, the cross was emphasized by making it obvious both internally in the ground plan as well as externally in the roofing. These characteristics appeared in the domed basilica which was evolved in the cross-in-square church.
Another architectural feature of this period is the change in the structure of the sanctuary. The prothesis at the north and the diakonikon at the south of the Holy Altar, which at first was not connected with the nave, were little by little harmonized into a unified, tripartite Holy Altar with three apses projecting on the eastern side. All parts were connected with the naos as well as with each other. These changes were gradual and do not become standard until the 10th century.
Viewed externally, the proportions of the majority of churches appeared heavy. Main features : the drum of the dome is fairly low the dome is not a perfect circle. the doors and windows are minimal and irregular
the walls are of heavy dimensions and sometimes narrow at the top and often require external supports or (buttresses). As for the construction, the materials used were rather cheap, usually rubble masonry without brick or marble decoration - evidence of the economic decline of the Byzantine state.
Sparta. Plan of the Church ofHosios Nikon. 7th century. The tripartite Holy Altar projects at the side, has three three-sided apses in the eastern part and the narthex to the west. In the middle apse there is a semicircular synthronon along with the kyklion.
Other examples in Greece The basilica in Tegani, in Mani (end of the 7th century) The Basilica of Mastros in Aetolia (end of the 7th century) an episcopal church with central horseshoe apse. The basilica near the village of Byzari in Crete (c. 700 )
The main feature of the period 610-867 is the domed basilicas evolving towards the inscribed cruciform plan. The main characteristic of such basilicas was a central room covered by the dome, which was supported by four, bulky piers, with arches and pendentives. The tripartite sanctuary was attached to the central room and the lateral aisles.
As churches, an effort was been made to incorporate a cross shape both in the ground plan and externally in the roofing. The lateral aisles along with the narthex frequently formed a unified perimetric portico with lower roofing than the central core, and there were passages of communication between the two sections, while sometimes there was also a gallery. Thus came about the domed church with ambulatory, which most likely originated from domed basilicas.
Agia Sofia, Thessaloniki (8th c., based on theHagia Sofia in Constantinople) Its ground plan is that of a domed Greek cross basilica. Together with the Gül and the Kalenderhane Mosques in Istanbul and the destroyed Church of the Dormition in Nicaea, it represents one of the main architectural examples of this type, typical of the Byzantine middle period.
The complex tetrastyle : Ag. Demetrios,Katsouri, Arta (mid 8th c.) The cross was formed within a quadrangle and the dome supported by four columns . They are found in Constantinople and in the regions influenced by the metropolis. A tripartite sanctuary whose rectangular form was divided up with an isosceles cross was added to these churches.
Cappella Palatina, Palermo The Palatine Chapel (Italian: Cappella Palatina) is the royal chapel of the Norman kings of Sicily at the center of the Palazzo Reale in Palermo, southern Italy. The sanctuary, dedicated to Saint Peter, is reminiscent of a domed basilica. It has three apses, as is usual in Byzantine architecture, with six pointed arches (three on each side of the central nave) resting on recycled classical columns.
Church of Pantokrator/ ZeyrekMosque c. 1118 - 1136 Zeyrek Mosque (full name in Turkish: Molla Zeyrek Camii), is a mosque in Istanbul, made of two former Eastern Orthodox churches and a chapel. It represents the most typical example of architecture of the Byzantine middle period in Constantinople and is, after Hagia Sophia, the second largest religious edifice built by the Byzantines still extant in Istanbul.
Late byzantine period The older architectural types continued to be used, while on the Greek mainland a new type of church appeared, known as the transverse-vault church, which soon spread to Epiros, central Greece, Euboea, and the Peloponnese. The usually small size of these churches and the disposition of the roof in the form of a cross, must have contributed to the particularly wide diffusion of this type of church construction, which was continually used in Greece until as late as the 18th century.
At the same time, in the Latin-occupied areas, besides the transverse-vault churches, most prevalent were simple architectural types, such as the single-cell barrel-vaulted churches. These were usually small buildings without particular external decoration, reflecting the limited means of the local community and of the ecclesiastical representatives who saw to their construction.
Examples The most important and characteristic examples of Palaiologan architecture are found in Thessalonike and in Mistra, the capital city of the despotate of the Morea.
Thessalonike In Thessalonike, the first half of the 14th century is a time of intense building activity. As it can be seen in the churches of the Holy Apostles, of St Catherine, St Panteleemon and others the main features are: the exclusive use of bricks in the upper part the preference given to the type of the cross-in-square church with a peristyle and the very definite stress on the decorative aspect of the outer facades, which are embellished with blind arcades, small niches and elaborate brick patterns.
Mistra The monuments of Mistra, on the other hand, are characterised by the combination of architectural elements of the Helladic school - of mainland Greece, that is - with elements of the school of Constantinople, to which are added local devices and elements of Western origin.
Here, a new architectural type is devised: the composite type of church, which is a combination of the three-aisled basilica on the ground floor and the cross-in-square plan in the gallery. The external conformation of the walls using bricks and stones, in accordance with the cloisonne system of masonry, which is a characteristic feature of the Helladic school, is combined with blind arcades and brick decorative patterns - reticulated patterns, dentil courses etc. - which differ from those encountered in the churches of Thessalonike.
Ground plan of the church of theHoly Apostles in Thessalonike
View from thenortheast of thechurch of the HolyApostles inThessalonikeA special characteristicof the Palaiologanarchitecture is the richdecoration of theexterior masonry.
Terminology The distinct characteristics of Byzantine church architecture are: Basilica: This is a public congregation building according to Roman architecture. Apse: Semicircular recess which is generally found in a Christian Church and a Roman basilica. Fresco: It is a type of painting on new and slightly wet plaster. Dome: It is a hemispherical vault or roof Mosaic: designs or pictures
Terminology Iconostasis: It is a screen in all churches of the Byzantine period which separates the sanctuary and nave Nave: It is the churchs primal passageway Vault: It is a roof, which is arched and made of stone or brick Sanctuary: A holy place like a mosque, church and temple. Narthex: It is the main entrance hall Pantokrator