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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Architecture and art of the Byzantine Empire​



This thread presents images of buildings and art works made in various territories under the rule of the Empire of Constantinople.

There will not be presented objectives that have been influenced by the Byzantine culture, only those made by the Byzantines themselves in what is now Greece, Macedonia, Turkey, Italy, Syria, Israel, Egypt and few other countries, when they were part of the empire.




Territorial evolution of the empire from Wikipedia



Byzantium is an amazing world. The legimitimate continuators of the Roman empire, they always called their state Roman Empire (Greek: Basileia Rhōmaiōn) up to 1453.

They have been the only light of civilisation in a barbarized world for almost 1000 years, between the end of Antiquity and Late Middle Age. Their wealth and the fast of the imperial court fascinated the Barbarians who either tried to conquer it or to become their allies, the same way happened with the Roman Empire in Antiquity.


Their capital, Constantinople, situated on two continents is a symbol of the blend of European and Asian influences in the their culture.

The Byzantine art reflects not the only the Hellenistic heritage but also the heritage of the countless peoples and cultures from Mediterrana and surrounding areas: Anatolian, Levantine, Caucasian, Latin and so on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Walls of Constantinople​


The city was founded with the name Byzantium in 657 BCE by Greeks from Megara (an ancient city in Athens region - Attica).
For several centuries it benefited of the commerce between the Black Sea and Mediterrana.


In 330 CE emperor Constantine decided to move here the capital of the Roman empire. The reason was both political and religious. He wanted the capital to be closer to the eastern borders exposed to the attacks of empire's main enemy - Persia, as well as to other invaders.


Also, he wanted to accelerate the Christianization of the empire by abandoning Rome with its strong pagan institutions and creating a new capital in the eastern, Greek speaking half of the empire, where the percent of Christians was much higher at his time (10-20% compared with 2-3% in the Latin world).


He built a completely new city over the old one, with monumental constructions and ornated with works of art (both pagan and Christian) collected from various other cities.

The name of the new city was The New Rome, but later the name Constantinople (Constantinopolis, "Constantine's city") prevailed.



During Theodosius II (408–450) the city expanded much over the line of fortifications built by Constantine and a new line, longer and much stronger was built, which is mostly preserved until today: the Theodosian Walls, 5,7 km long, 12 m tall with 96 towers 15-20 m tall.

This is one the most complex systems of fortifications ever built, beaten perhaps only by the the Great Wall of China.






The Theodisan Walls of Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey by Nickmard, on Flickr



The Theodisan Walls of Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey by Nickmard, on Flickr



The Theodisan Walls of Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey by Nickmard, on Flickr

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Ankara Citadel​


It was founded by Hittites 3000 years ago, rebuilt by Celts (Galatians) in 3rd century BCE and than Romans.

What can be seen today was mostly made in 859 by the Byzantine Emperor Michael III with reuse of ancient materials but parts of walls from all historical periods are found too.

Inside the citadel is the oldest part of the city, with picturesque Anatolian houses.



For more than two millenia (from Galatians time to present), it was the strongest fortress in Anatolia.



 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Constantinople​




I thought to revive this thread with some old (in internet time) photos made by me in Constantinople / Istanbul. They are from 2003 and are my first photos made with a digital camera.












Valens Aqueduct finished in 368 has a lenght of 921 m (from the original 971 m), a height of ~29 m and a width of 7.75–8.24 m.




























The Golden Gate on the Constantinople Walls (built during Theodosius II, 408–450) was the ceremonial gate in the fortifications of the city.


The Golden Gate was used especially for the occasions of a triumphal entry of an emperor into the capital on the occasion of military victories or other state occasions such as coronations. On rare occasions, as a mark of honor, the entry through the gate was allowed to non-imperial visitors: papal legates (in 519 and 868) and, in 710, to Pope Constantine. The Gate was used for triumphal entries until the Komnenian period; thereafter, the only such occasion was the entry of Michael VIII Palaiologos into the city on 15 August 1261, after its reconquest from the Latins. With the progressive decline in Byzantium's military fortunes, the gates were walled up and reduced in size in the later Palaiologan period, and the complex converted into a citadel and refuge.






























The Obelisk of Theodosius is an ancient Egyptian obelisk of Pharaoh Tutmoses III (1479–1425 BCE) re-erected in the Hippodrome of Constantinople by the Roman emperor Theodosius I (379-392).

The marble pedestal had bas-reliefs dating to the time of the obelisk's re-erection in Constantinople. On one face Theodosius I is shown offering the crown of victory to the winner in the chariot races, framed between arches and Corinthian columns, with happy spectators, musicians and dancers assisting in the ceremony.













 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Constantinople - Late antiquity churches​





The Studios Monastery was historically the most important monastery of Constantinople. Although the monastery has been derelict for half a millennium, the laws and customs of the Stoudion were taken as models by the monks of Mount Athos and of many other monasteries of the Orthodox world; even today they have influence.

It was founded in 462 by the consul Stoudios, a Latin patrician from Rome who had settled in Constantinople.

The only part to survive into the 20th century was the Cathedral of St. John Baptist, probably the oldest remaining church in Istanbul, a 5th century basilica which was converted by Bayezid II's equerry into the mosque. The ruins of the monastery complex were looted by local inhabitants to repair their houses, while the magnificent 13th century pavement still lies open to elements "and disappears slowly but steadily".




In the eighth and eleventh centuries, the monastery was the centre of Byzantine religious poetry; a number of the hymns are still used in the Orthodox Church.

Three of the Stoudite monks rose to become the patriarchs of Constantinople (which was the head of most of the Orthodox Church up to 19th century, when national churches of Slavs, Romanians and other people rose to autocephaly). Three emperors (Michael V 1041–1042, Michael VII Doukas1071–1078 and Isaac I Komnenos 1057–1059) became monks inside the walls of Studion.

In 1204, the monastery was destroyed by the Crusaders and was not fully restored until 1290. The Russian pilgrims Anthony (c. 1200) and Stephen (c. 1350) were amazed by the size of the monastic grounds. It is thought that the cloister sheltered as much as 700 monks at the time.


The greater part of the monastery was again destroyed when the Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453.






















The Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus, also known as the Little Hagia Sophia is one of the few Late Antiquity basilicas in Constantinople.

This Byzantine building with a central dome plan was erected in the sixth century by Justinian, likely was a model for Hagia Sophia (St. Sophia), and is one of the most important early Byzantine buildings in Istanbul. In fact, it created the model of the Byzantine church, by combining two Roman types of buildings: the basilica composed of a single nave (a type of longitudinal construction used for commerce and public meeetings) with other Roman type of structure, the dome (used for example and the Pantheon in Rome). With further evolutions, most of the Orthodox churches all around the world are still built after the initial model of Sergius and Bacchus.



In second picture, in the backdrop can be seen a relatively new white building lying on a bricked structure. This brick wall is nothing else but the remainnings of the famous Hippodrome of Constantinople, the sporting and social centre of the city for most of its history.

On the upper part is the present square Sultanahmet Meydanı, where is the Obelisk of Theododius and two other columns erected by two emperors.
























Agia Irene Church, situated near Agia Sophia (in the actual courtyard of Topkapî Palace, the residence of the Ottoman Sultans), was the first church built in Constantinople after the capital of Roman Empire was moved from Rome to this city (previously named Byzantium.

It was first erected by Constantine the Great (306-337), the re-founder of Constantinople. In present form, it was built between 532-537, shortly after Sergius and Bacchus and little before the actual building of Agia Sophia.

 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Constantinople - Agia Sophia Mosaics​





Because is well known, I won't present exterior views of the basilica but some interior mosaics which date from after the Iconoclast Period (726-787, 814-842) when almost all religious images in the Byzantine Empire were destroyed, including the original mosaics of Agia Sophia.







The Virgin and Child in the apse was inaugurated in 867 and was the first of the post-iconoclastic mosaics.

These mosaics were believed to be a reconstruction of the mosaics of the 6th century that were previously destroyed during the iconoclastic era. The mosaics are set against the original golden background of the 6th century.

















The portraits of the archangels Gabriel and Michael (the latter largely destroyed) in the bema of the arch also date from the 9th century.



















Empress Zoe mosaic dates from the 11th century

















Comnenus Mosaics date from 1122

 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Constantinople - Medieval Churches​








Myrelaion Church was built in 922. Like almost all the churches in the city, was converted into a mosque that is called the Bodrum Mosque.























The Pantokrator Monastery was and still is the second largest Christian religious edifice in the city after Agia Sophia.

Is made of two churches adjoined by a chapel and it represents the most typical example of architecture of the Byzantine middle period. Built between 1118-1124, the monastery was converted into a mosque called Zeyrek Mosque.



Until a few years ago, the edifice was in a desolate state, and as a result it was added to the UNESCO watchlist of endangered monuments. During the recent years it underwent extensive (albeit still unfinished) restoration. My pictures date from the period of abandonment.




































The Lips Monastery, also called The Monastery of Mary Panachrantos and today as Fenari Isa Mosque, has two churches, one from 908 and one from 1304


























The Pammakaristos Church, now Fethiye Mosque, is believed by many historians and archaeologists that can be attributed to Michael VII Ducas (1071–1078).


Following the fall of Constantinople, the seat of the Orthodox Patriarchate was first moved to the Church of the Holy Apostles (a vanished building were the emperors were buried, demolished to make place to the present Fatih Mosque), and in 1456 to the Pammakaristos Church, which remained as the seat of the Patriarchate until 1587. In 1592 was converted into a mosque.

While the main building remains a mosque, the parekklesion has since then been a museum.

In second picture you can see a Greek inscription on the girdle surrounding the church.

































Saint Theodosia Monastery, now Gül Mosque, is one of the most important Byzantine buildings of Constantinople. Its dedication and the date of its construction, which for long time appeared certain, are now disputed by scholars.

The church and adjoining monastery were erected by Emperor Basil I ( 867–886) toward the end of the ninth century.

You can see here a photo of the building in a larger view of the urban setting.
























Theotokos Kyriotissa Church, now the Kalenderhane Mosque, was rebuilt three times between 6th and 12th centuries and in present form dates from 1197.

 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Constantinople -the Museum of the former monastery Chora​





The remaining Church of the Holy Saviour is considered to be one of the most beautiful surviving examples of a Byzantine church. In the 16th century was converted into a mosque and, finally, it became a museum in 1948.


Chora in Greek language means outside, referring to its location originally outside of the walls, because the original church was built in the early 5th century, and stood outside of the 4th century walls of Constantine the Great (see map in the second post of the thread).


The majority of the fabric of the current building dates from 1077–1081.


The powerful Byzantine statesman Theodore Metochites endowed the church with much of its fine mosaics and frescos. Theodore's impressive decoration of the interior was carried out between 1315 and 1321. The mosaic-work is the finest example of the Palaeologian Renaissance (the final phase of Byzantine civilisation and art).















































































 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Ravenna - Neon Baptistery





Ravenna was the capital of Western Roman Empire between 402- 476. It then served as the capital of the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths until it was conquered in 540 by the Byzantine Empire. Afterwards, the city formed the centre of the Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna until the invasion of the Franks in 751, after which it became the seat of the Kingdom of the Lombards.




During the reign of Gothic King Theoderic the Great (491–501) and during the Byzantine rule, many magnificent churches, baptisteries and other structures were built, of which many survive to these days and are listed by Unesco as world heritage sites. No less than eight such buildings are Unesco monuments, more than in any other city in Italy, if not in the entire world.








Baptistry of Neon, also called the Orthodox Baptristry, dates from 430, together with its mosaics. It was the baptistery used by the Trinitarian population of Ravenna, made mostly by local (Latin speaking) people, in contrast with the occupying Goths who were of Arian faith.







 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Ravenna - Arian Baptistry




Built around the year 500 and was part of the complex of the Arian Cathedral (which is preserved but heavily modified). The mosaics were made by Orthodox artists, because the Goths didn't have such professionals. So the images reflect the Trinitarian, not the Arian doctrine.



I won't enter in details about the differences between Trinitarianism and Arianism because on this forum there are people who suspect you of religious prozelitism if you make any reference to religion, as religion is not also a cultural phenomenon. Those interested can find info on Wikipedia or other sites.



 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Ravenna - Mausoleum of Galla Placidia





Built around 430 and decorated with mosaics in the same time, is described by Unesco as "the earliest and best preserved of all mosaic monuments, and at the same time one of the most artistically perfect".


The building was formerly the oratory of the Church of the Holy Cross and now contains three sarcophagi. The largest sarcophagus was thought to contain the remains of Galla Placidia (died 450), daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I.


 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Ravenna - Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo






It was built around the year 500 as chapel of the Royal Palace of Gothic King Theoderic.


Part of the mosaics, those containing Arian themes, have been destroyed when the church was converted to Trinitarianism. Those surviving are among the most important in Paleochristian and Byzantine art. On upper rows are biblical (Old and New Testament) themes realized during the Arian period. Between windows are saints made also by Arians. The lower row of mosaics were made 50 years later, when the church was converted to Catholicism (Trinitarianism): a row of saint men on northern side and of saint women on southern side, also the Three Magi moving towards the group of the Madonna and Child. An interesting representation of the Palace of Theoderic, as well of Classe (the port of Ravenna situated 2 km from the city), was preserved too.


 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Ravenna - Basilica of San Vitale​






Built between 537-546, the church has an octagonal plan. The building combines Roman elements: the dome, shape of doorways, and stepped towers; with Byzantine elements: polygonal apse, capitals, and narrow bricks.


The church is most famous for its wealth of Byzantine mosaics, the largest and best preserved outside of Constantinople. The church is of extreme importance in Byzantine art, as it is the only major church from the period of the Emperor Justinian I to survive virtually intact to the present day.


These mosaics are executed in the Hellenistic-Roman tradition: lively and imaginative, with rich colors and a certain perspective, and with a vivid depiction of the landscape, plants and birds. They were finished when Ravenna was still under Gothic rule.


At the foot of the apse side walls are two famous mosaic panels, executed in 547. On the right is a mosaic depicting the East Roman Emperor Justinian I standing next to court officials. Another panel shows Empress Theodora and a train of court ladies.


 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Mar Saba Monastery, West Bank, Palestine​





Situated in Kidron, a rocky valley east of Bethlehem, was founded in 483 and the conglomerate of buildings remained almost unchanged since that period, most of the them being more than 1,500 years old.

The monastery is important because here was created the Typikon, the set of rules that regulate the life in Orthodox monasteries and liturgical services to these days.

It is considered to be one of the oldest inhabited monasteries in the world, and still maintains many of its ancient traditions. One in particular is the restriction on women entering the main compound. The only building that women can enter is the Women's Tower, near the main entrance.













 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia​





Ohrid is a city of 56,000 people on the shore of the lake with the same name. Know in Antiquity as Lychnidos and a center of early Christianity, is mentioned in 879 with the present name of Slavic origin.

Between 990 and 1015, Ohrid was the capital of the First Bulgar Empire and from 990 to 1018 the seat of the Bulgar Patriarchate. The Byzantines reconquered the city in 1018 and the patriarchate was downgraded to archbishopry. In 16th century this archbishopry reached its peak, subordinating Moldavia, parts of today Bulgaria and Serbia and even the Orthodox districts of Italy (Apulia, Calabria and Sicily), Venice and Dalmatia.



From the big number of religious buildings Ohrid once had (365 according to legend, one for each day of the year), around ten churches, monasteries and chapels survive to these days. The old town os dominated by the Samuil's Fortress built in 9th century over a 4th century BCE stronghold.



The lake and the architectural monuments are an Unesco site (both natural and cultural).







City views






















Sveti Sofija Cathedral, one of the most important monuments of Macedonia, was built during the First Bulgarian Empire, after the official conversion to Christianity of the Bulgars. Some sources date the building during the rule of Knyaz Boris I (852 – 889), others during the rule of Tzar Samuel of Bulgaria (997 – 1014). The interior of the church has been preserved with frescoes from the 11th, 12th and 13th century, which represent some of the most significant achievements in Byzantine painting.






















Sveti Naum - established in 905, the church dates from this year.





















Sveti Kliment i Pantelejmon Monastery - attributed to Saint Clement of Ohrid, (ca. 840 – 916) many archaeologists believe that churchman himself designed the building. His tomb is preserved in a crypt.

Judging by the architectural style and design of the monastery, researchers say that Saint Clement intended for his building to be a literary school for disciples, thus it is believed to be the first and oldest discontinued university in Europe.

The monastery is the most venerated in the Republic of Macedonia.























Sveti Jovan at Kaneo - 13th century


Sunset at St. Kaneo by Fursa, on Flickr​



















Sveta Bogorodica - 1295













 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thank you guys! And stay around because there are many amazing and little / un - known things to come!






Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt​





Built between 548 and 565 and preserved almost entirely in its originary form, is one of the oldest continously inhabited monastery in the world and an Unesco World Heritage Site.



It was established by Emperor Justinian and enclosed an older, 4th century chapel erected by Empress Helena (246-330). The chapel was built on the spot where the mythical burning bush was saw by Moses of the Old Testament (the existence of Moses is dismissed by modern historiography).

The monastery is situated in a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai, on whose top, according to legend, Moses received the Ten Commandments.

After the conquest of Egypt and Sinai by Muslims, a mosque was built in 10th century inside the walls of the monastery, but was never used.





The monastery library preserves the second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts in the world, outnumbered only by the Vatican Library.

The complex houses irreplaceable works of art: mosaics, the best collection of early icons in the world, as well as liturgical objects, chalices and reliquaries, and church buildings.

The large icon collection begins with a few dating to the 5th and 6th centuries, which are unique survivals, the monastery having been untouched by Byzantine iconoclasm when most of the religious images were destroyed. The oldest Christian icon in the world is also preserved there. The monastery was an important centre for the development of the hybrid style of Crusader art, and still retains over 120 icons created in the style.

The church preserves 6th century mosaics similar to those from Ravenna or Euphrasian Basilica in Poreč, Croatia.






Two interesting historical facts relates Romania and Romanians to this monastery.

One is that Justinian, when founded it, has brought peasants from what is today Romania and Balkans as guardians and servants of the monastery. A document mentions that Justinian has moved here 200 families "from the Land of Vlach" (name resembling the medieval name of Romanians and Aromanians) in south-east Europe that will later form the Jebaliyeh tribe, which still serves the monastery today, being the bedouins from the area. This ethnic group still posseses historical and oral tradition of the origin in the Land of Vlah, their initial Christian faith. There were records about the Latin language of these bedouins and about their dressing preserving elements from the traditional costumes of the people in Carpathians & Balkans. You can read an English study on this here


Another Romania-related fact is this country's main mountain resort, Sinaia, bears the this name because of the monastery that preceded the resort and which was built as a property of Saint Catherine Monastery.











 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Dead Cities in Syria​







The Dead Cities or Forgotten Cities are a group of 40 abandoned villages grouped in eight archaeological parks between Aleppo and Idlib. Most villages which date from the 1st to 7th centuries, became abandoned between the 8th and 10th centuries. The settlements feature the well-preserved architectural remains of dwellings, pagan temples, churches, cisterns, bathhouses etc.

After conquest by the Arabs, the trade routes changed, and as a result these towns lost the majority of the business which fostered their economies.

These ancient settlements cover an area 20–40 km wide and some 140 km long. The majority of the dead cities are well-preserved and were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, under the name of "Ancient Villages of Northern Syria".














Kharab Shams - one of the oldest preserved Christian basilicas in the world, dates from 4th century CE


DSC03440 by fchmksfkcb, on Flickr​




















Mushabbak Basilica, around 470


DSC03380 by fchmksfkcb, on Flickr​






















Church of Saint Simeon Stylites, is one of the most celebrated ecclesiastical monuments in Syria and among the oldest standing Christian churches in the world. The cross-planed basilica was built around 475 CE around the the pillar on whose top he lived 37 years. While Simeon (390-459) was alive and after that, this was one of the mains places of pilgrimage in late Antiquity. It was the sort of an oracle, people coming with questions and receiving answers from Simeon.



The base of Simeon's pillar is preserved (second and third pictures) in the central space (once covered by a large dome) of the basilica.




























Bara - established in 4th century CE




















Resafa known in Roman times as Sergiopolis, had massive fortifications built by Justinian in 6th century. In the 4th century, it became a pilgrimage town for Christians coming to venerate Saint Sergius, a military martyr. The basilica in his honour dates from




















Serjilla - the village was built in 473

















Qasr Ibn Wardan - the most interesting in my opinion, is a sixth-century military complex built by Justinian and comprising a palace, church and barracks. Established as a part of a defensive line against the Persians, its unique style is "imported" directly from Constantinople and not found anywhere else in present-day Syria.










 
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