As the Italian peninsula was invaded by northern Germanic peoples, the Eastern Empire and Constantinople increased in power under the rule of Justinian I (ruled 527-565). Justinian commissioned the Church of Hagia Sophia, famous for its dome, "a golden, light-filled canopy ... suspended on a 'golden chain from heaven'" (a ring of windows) (Stokstad, 167). The centrally planned church utilized pendentives, triangular curving wall sections that spring from the corner piers, to transfer weight from a square to a circular opening.
Byzantine churches were also built outside of the new capital, including San Vitale in Ravenna. The two-story, dome covered octagon is a study in "complex, interpenetrating interior spaces" that create "an airy, floating sensation" (Stokstad, 169). The church is richly decorated with veined marble veneer and glass and gold mosaics, the most famous being those of Justinian and Theodora. The Church of Sant' Apollinare in Classe, a simple basilica plan church, is most famous for the large mosaic of the Transfiguration that decorates the apse.
Early illuminated manuscripts, executed on parchment, contained images for personal study and prayer. Worshipers would also pray before icons, panels painted with religious themes. Virgin and Child with Saints and Angels is an icon from the late 6th century that portrays the Virgin as an imperial throne for Christ. The Virgin, Christ and angels are influenced by Roman art while the saints are more stylized. These works were popular until the 8th century, when iconoclasm forbade the production of religious images.
Later Byzantine artists were influenced by both Classical and Early Byzantine art. The Church of San Marco, Venice, is inspired by the Byzantine domed church. Christ Pantokrator, from Daphni, Greece, is a combination of both styles, and emphasizes "an intellectual rather than a physical ideal" (Stokstad, 177). Details were eliminated, replaced by simple linear forms, focusing on the large eyes and clawlike hand. Luxury items were produced for the church and the court, using silver and gold, jewels and enamels, in techniques such as repousse relief and cloisonne enamel. Eastern churches followed the traditional Byzantine plan of a dome over a Greek cross, but were enhanced with multiple shapes and sizes, layered surfaces and geometric designs. Byzantine conventions, "including simple contours, elongation of the body, and a focus on a limited number of figures," carried over into Eastern art as well (Stokstad, 178).
Pendentive - triangular curved masonry supports providing transition from dome to arched supports arranged in a square base
Squinches - octagonal dome support sections that bridge the corners of a square base
Campanile - bell tower
Icon - stylized religious imagery painted on panels that evolved toward a very formal representation while being a focus of devotion
Iconoclasts - religious movement that eschewed religious imagery
Iconophiles - people who offered devotions to/at icons
Tempera - paint medium that uses egg yokes for its binder
Mandorla - pointed-arched all-encompassing nimbus
Anastasis (Greek: Resurrection)
Cardo - a hinge or pivot used in ancient construction to hang a door
Ciborium - a canopy, usually standing free and supported on four columns, covering the high altar; also, a similar canopy used over a statue, etc.
Ambo - a large pulpit and reding desk, in early Christian churches
Bema - in Eastern churches, that part containing the altar combining the bishop's throne and the clergy's stalls
Early Byzantine 527 - 726
Saint Michael the Archangel, Ivory, approx. l’5” x 5 1/2”, early 6th century
Hagia Sophia, Constantinople, 532 - 537
(by Anthemius of Tralles & Isidorus of Miletus)
San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy, 526 - 547
Justinian Bishop Maximianus & Attendants, mosaic from the north wall of the apse, c. 547
Theodora & Attendants, mosaic from the south wall of the apse, c. 547
Christ Between Angels & Saints, mosaic, from the apse vault, Sant’ Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna, Italy, c. 533 - 549
Saint Apollinaris amid sheep, Apse Mosaic c. 549
Iconoclasm 726 - 843
Middle Byzantine 843 - 1204
Monastery churches at Hosios Loukas, Phocis, Greece, Katholikon 1011-1022
The Crucifixion, mosaic in the monastery church in Daphne, Greece, 1090 - 1100
St. Mark’s, Venice, Italy begun 1063
Virgin (Theotokos) & Child, icon (Vladimir Virgan), Tempera on wood late 11th - 12th cent.
David Composing the Psalms, Paris Psalter, approx. 15 x 11”, c. 950 - 970
Late Byzantine 1261 - 1453
Anastasis, apse fresco in the parekklesion, Church of Christ in Chora, Constantinople, 1310 - 1320
Three Angels (The Old Testament Trinity), Tempera on wood, 56 x 45”, c. 1410
DJB Quick Notes:
~ St. Matthew: Angel
~ St. John: Eagle
~ St. Luke: Ox
~ St. Mark: Lion
DJB In-Depth Notes:
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK