Early Christian and Byzantine Art

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Early Christian and Byzantine Art. Greeks, and especially Romans produced art that was very realistic. Remember the beauty of the Greek and Roman sculpture. Whereas, early Christian art was more concerned with Symbolic Representation. Early Christian Art. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • Early Christian and Byzantine Art

  • Greeks, and especially Romans produced art that was very realistic. Remember the beauty of the Greek and Roman sculpture

  • Whereas, early Christian art was more concerned with Symbolic Representation.

  • Early Christian ArtThree key points of Early Christian Art:Symbolic- express a religious thought or ideaFound on frescoed walls of catacombs outside RomeAcceptance of the Christian religion created a need for new architecture- starting in the 4th century

  • First three hundred yearsChristianity began in the 1st century AD as a Jewish sect but quickly spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. Although it was originally persecuted under the Roman empire, it would ultimately become the state religion.

    Four decades later after Christs crucifixion, in 70 CE the Roman Army attacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Jewish temple.

    The destruction of the Temple further disconnected the two groups and caused them to spread out and travel to other lands. From this destruction emerged two main movements: rabbinical Judaism centered in local synagogues, and the Christian movement.

  • Christianity travelled to Rome, and Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome possibly in 64 A. D. (though the place and date are not mentioned in the New Testament). Supposedly, Peter was crucified by Nero who blamed the Great Fire of Rome on the Christians (which conveniently allowed him to build his new 100-300 acres palace right in the centre of include a large lake, which was the future placement of the Colosseum).

    For 250 years Christians suffered from sporadic persecutions for their refusal to worship the Roman emperor, considered treasonous and punishable by execution.

    Some feel, they needed some places to meet secretly.

  • CatacombsThe catacombs are the ancient underground cemeteries, used by the Christian and the Jewish communities, above all at Rome. The Christian catacombs, which are the most numerous, began in the second century and the excavating continued until the first half of the fifth.Christians did not want to cremate their dead (as done by the Romans) due to their belief in bodily resurrection In the beginning they were only burial places. Here the Christians gathered to celebrate their funeral rites, the anniversaries of the martyrs and of the dead.http://www.catacombe.roma.it/en/storia.html

  • During the persecutions (until 313 A.D.), in exceptional cases, the catacombs were used as places of momentary refuge for the celebration of the Eucharist. They were not used as secret hiding places of the early Christians. This is only a fiction taken from novels or movies. THE GOOD SHEPHERD ORANTS and THE STORY OF JONAHFresco-A method of painting on plaster, either dry or wet (usually) In the latter method, pigments are applied to thin layers of wet plaster so that they will be absorbed and the painting becomes part of the wall.

  • The figure of the Good Shepherd resembles earlier shepherd figures in pagan Classical art that represent benevolence and philantropy. Additional meaning would have been ascribed to the figure by early Christian viewers in the context of Christ's phrase "I am the shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep," The figure was not originally intended as direct portraiture of Christ which would have been contrary to Old Testament injunctions against idolatry

  • Exodos scene and Retrieving Moses from the Nile, Dura Europos synagogue, c. 250 CE, Syria. http://www.arthistory.upenn.edu/smr04/101910/101910lecture9.html

  • 13.Baptistry in Christian House, Dura Europos, miracles of Jesus, Dura Europos, 3rd cent. CE, Syria.http://www.arthistory.upenn.edu/smr04/101910/101910lecture9.htmlDura-Europos ("Fort Europos") was a Hellenistic and Roman walled city built on an escarpment ninety meters above the banks of the Euphrates river. It is located near the village of Salhiy, in today's Syria http://www.le.ac.uk/ar/stj/dura.htmwww.philthompson.net/pages/icons/duraeuropos.html

  • Sarcophagus- A coffin, usually of stone, although sometimes made of wood, metal, or clay. In ancient times they were often decorated with carvings of the deceased or with some religious or mythological subject.

  • ConstantineConstantine was the first Roman ruler to become a follower of the Christian religion.Before Constantine's reign Christians were often punished for their religious beliefs. This changed when Constantine gave religious freedom to all Christians living in the Roman Empire. He also allowed members of the Christian Church to take part in the Roman government. The new freedom of worship helped spread Christianity into many regions of Europe.

  • In A.D. 306, Constantine replaced his father as the new ruler of the Western Roman Empire. Constantine, however, was not accepted as ruler by everyone. He had to fight many other would-be leaders for his position. In A.D. 312 Constantine defeated his last rival at the Battle of Milvian Bridge. The victory made Constantine ruler of the entire Western Empire. According to legend, it was during the battle that Constantine became a Christian.Around A.D. 315 the Arch of Constantine was built in Rome to celebrate Constantine's victory.

  • Arch of Constantine

  • Byzantine 324 C.E.The Byzantine Empire, founded when the capital of the Roman Empire was transferred from Rome to Constantinople in 324 CE.Constantinople remained as the geographic and symbolic center of this cultural and political sphere until its conquest and collapse (1453).With the edict of Milan, promulgated by the emperors Constantine 313 CE, the Christians were no longer persecuted. They were free to profess their faith, to have places of worship and to build churches both inside and outside the city, and to buy plots of land, without fear of confiscation.

  • After the death of Constantine in 337, the Roman Empire was split into Eastern and Western EmpiresThe Western half declines and the eastern half, with its capital in Constantinople (now Istanbul) flourished.in 527 it gained further strength with the reign of Justinian (Golden Age of Byzantine)

    Roman Empire -300 A.D.Byzantine Empire- 500 A.D.

  • The early churches were called basilicas.A basilica is an early type of Christian cathedral or church. Basilicas have a very open floor plan and high ceilings. San Piero a GradoPisa. ItalySanta Costanza, Rome, Italy ca 350

  • Outside of the churches may appear plain but they are filled with beautiful mosaics (made of glass-tesserae)Much of Byzantine architecture was created to express religious experience and mediate between the believer and GodTherefore a high ceiling stressed the heavens above and created awe among its viewersLight was also an important featureGradually the exterior also became imaginative with the onion-shaped domes of Russian churchesThe Byzantine tradition of art and architecture lasted over 1000 years

  • Early Christian Basilica

    Long brick building with a timber roofconnected to an atrium (courtyard) in the frontwith a covered walkway around it (narthex)led into the nave (central part of the basilica) through two doors in the cornersside aisles on each side of the nave, separated with columns usually taken from pagan templesClerestory windows above columns to flood interior with lightApse- semi circular area at the front of the nave, above the apse a half domeTransepts were added in latter basilicas to accommodate large crowdsCrypts were sometimes placed under the apse for the burial of clergy

  • Early St. PetersBelow: reconstruction drawing of St. Peters, Rome c. 333-390 CE plan of St. Peters, Rome right: elevation of interior of St. Peters Rome.

  • St. Pauls Outside the Walls, Rome, 385 C.E-interior (symbolized richness of spirit) highly decorated with mosaics of coloured glass and gold, and marble inlaid floors. -eighty granite columns in four rows direct the view to the triumphal arch (also covered in mosaics)-exteriors plain brick-alter placed on the raised portion, covered by a canopy of carved and painted wood called a baldachin-a triumphal arch separated nave from the apse, symbolized the victory of Christ over eternal death

  • Atrium and Narthex St. Pauls Outside the Walls

  • Baldachin- St. Peters (Vatican) in Rome

  • plan and interior of church of San Vitale, brick, c. 540-547 CE, Ravenna. Some churches followed a rotunda plan

  • Sculpture- not much was produced and most have been destroyedArchangel Michael -sixth century AD ,British Museum, LondonSmall ivory (42 cm)panel from a diptych. Draped figure of an archangel standing with orb in right hand, staff in left. The Archangel or Saint Michael who appears on this part of the diptych is probably a literal copy (as to details) of a much more ancient figure (perhaps the goddess Victory [see Nike] from whom the Christian angel is derived) the carver had before his eyes. Although the precision of the Archangel, his classical robes and the architectural elements framing the figure embody a focus on the realism of antiquity.-the angel seems to hover over the staircase, barely touching the stairs.Painstaking classical realism has been abandoned in favour of added emphasis on symbolism. -architectural setting is symbolic and ornamental not realistic

  • Golden Age Of Byzantine ArtHagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom)Constantinople (Istanbul), 532-537 ADstoneArchitects: Anthemius of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletushttp://www.mcah.columbia.edu/ha/html/byzantine_turkey_hag_ahm_2.htm

  • Hagia Sophia is one of the great architectural triumphs of the ages. Here, the architects have transported the enormous outward thrust of the huge dome through features called pendentives, to four great stone piers, which are not directly beneath the dome. The dome is used for the first time as a roof over a square, rather than a drum, which was used in the Pantheon. Because the supporting structure is so inconspicuous, the dome gives the illusion of being magically suspended above the nave. The minarets are Turkish additions after 1453

  • The architects devised a system where arches were placed in the four walls and the circle of the dome rests on the four arches, a pendentives is formed in the four corners. The massive weight of the dome is supported by this spherical triangle, which transfers the thrust to the four huge piers that support it.pendentive - A concave, triangular piece of masonry (a triangle section of a hemisphere), four of which provide the transition from a square area to the circular base of a covering dome. Although they appear to be hanging (pendant) from the dome, they in fact support it.

  • St. Marks Venice-began 1063 This is the largest and most lavish decorated church in the Second Golden AgeIt was built to hold the body of St. MarkIt is based on a typical Greek cross planEach arm has a dome of its ownThe exterior has many mosaicsFour horses formerly stood above the main entrance (they are now preserved in a museum)

    The second church on this site was burned in a rebellion in 976, rebuilt in 978 and again to form the basis of the present basilica in 1063. Though straddling into the Romanesuqe era it is still considered a Byzantine design.

  • Fethiye Camii (Church of Pammakaristos), Interior view, ca. 1100, Istanbul (Turkey) http://www.mcah.columbia.edu/ha/related_sites/fethiye_camii_360/html/1.html


  • Byzantine artByzantine art was very religious. Most Byzantine art was created for the Eastern Orthodox Church. Much Byzantine art was made by servants of the courts or members of religious orders. Most of these artists remained anonymous. Mosaics and Fresco paintings covered the domes of many churches. They were often made of precious materials such as lapis lazuli, gold and silver. Byzantine artists had to follow many rules about subject matter, content, and form. Symbolic representation was very important in Byzantine art. The subjects appear flat and fairly abstract compared to the liveliness and individualism of Western art because Byzantine artists used little shading or other techniques that would have made their subjects more lifelike.

  • Mosaics

    Conveyed messages of salvation through mosaicsThey achieved an incredible degree of expressiveness in this mediumRoman mosaics were made of polished, coloured stone, but Byzantine mosaics were made of brightly coloured glass (tesserae) pressed into wet plasterThe glass pieces were set on a slight angle to reflect the light. Green and gold are used most often, but there are also scarlets, purples and blues

  • The Emperor Justinian and his AttendantsThe Empress Theodora and her Attendants, c. 547 AD, mosaic, Ravenna,

    These mosaics are companion panels of depicting the Emperor Justinian and his Attendants, and Empress Theodora and her attendants. Both are located in the apse, which flanks the altar, of the church of San Vitale. These mosaics are prized among the most accomplished examples of surviving Byzantine mosaics

  • Lots of gold glass tesserae.They portray the emperor and empress as semi-divine rulers bringing gifts at the dedication of San Vitale (though they never actually attended the ceremony). The figures are stiff and stylized, including: full frontal viewpoints, elongation of the figure, and stylization of faces with large eyes and almond shape faces, and decorative costumes. Strong use of symbolism- bread and wine of Eucharist. Halo to show that Justinian is Gods holy representative on earth and therefore holy himself.

  • Mosaic-A picture or design made of tiny pieces (called tesserae) of coloured stone, glass, tile or paper adhered to a surface. It is typically decorative work for walls, vaults, ceilings or floors, the tesserae set in plaster or concrete.

  • Mosiacs of Hagia Sophia The mosaic were scrapped off the wall and covered with plaster by the Moslems when the converted the church into a mosque. This was due to the fact their religion does not permit likenesses of peopleSome mosaics have been uncoveredAlso the Iconoclastic Controversy happened in the Christian religion as well for over for over 100 years (725 to 842 CE) and no art was produced in this period. After this period we have the second Golden Age of Byzantine. The plans of churches were based on the Greek cross, such a St. Marks discussed before .

  • 313 CE - Constantine converts to Christianity324 CE- The Byzantine Empire, founded when the capital of the Roman Empire was transferred from Rome to Constantinople326- CE- the pilgrimage of Constantines mother, Empress Helena, to Jerusalem where she finds relics and dedicates the building of churches (Church of the Holy Sepulchre )527 CE- Golden Age of Byzantine-Justinian532-537-Hagia Sophia -Constantinople (Istanbul)547 CE- The Emperor Justinian and his Attendants-mosiac614 CE when the Persians invaded Jerusalem, destroyed many of the churches and monasteries. 638 CE Jerusalem was captured by the Muslim Caliph Umar, six years after the death of Muhammad685 CE- The Dome of the Rock starts construction by Caliph Abd al-Malikibn Marwan - completing it in 691 CE. 725 to 842 CE -Iconoclastic Controversy in Christian religion 842 CE-the Second Golden Age of Byzantine1063- St. Marks Venice 1453 CE The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the Byzantine capital by the Ottoman Empire

  • Dome of the RockMt. Moriah (site of Jerusalem)was considered highly sacred for several reasonsJewish-It was considered to be the site where Abraham (2000 BCE) had built an altar on which he prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.At this same site, the patriarch Jacob gathered stone from the altar upon which his father Isaac was to be sacrificed, and using this stone as a pillow spent the night sleeping upon the rock. Upon waking from a stunning visionary dream, Jacob anointed the stone pillow with oil he had received from heaven and the stone then sank deep into the earth, to become the foundation stone of the great temple that would later be built by Solomon. The First Temple of the Jews was built during the reign of King Solomon (960 BCE). Nebuchadrezzar II of Babylon forced the Jews into exile (most went to Babylon), and completely destroyed the temple in 586 BC. In 539 BC, Persia conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem. Reconstruction began and the Second Temple was completed by 515 B.C.E

  • Greek Rule Jerusalem was captured by Alexander the Great. For most the next five centuries Greeks ruled over the Judah.

    Roman RuleIn 64 BC, the Roman general Pompey captured Jerusalem, ushering in several centuries of Roman rule. During this period Herod the Great (ruled 37-4 BC) rebuilt and enlarged the Second Temple and created the famous Western Wall (also called the Wailing Wall) as part of the supporting structure for the enlarged Temple Mount.

    During the next two centuries the Jews twice revolted against their Roman oppressors, the city of Jerusalem suffered greatly and the Second Temple was demolished in 70 AD.

    In the year 135 AD, the Roman Emperor Hadrian began construction of a new city, upon the ruins of old Jerusalem. Upon the site of the destroyed Jewish temple, Hadrian built a temple to the god Jupiter, but this temple was itself demolished by the Byzantines after the empire became Christian.

    Christianity-The conversion to Christianity of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine (306-337) and the pilgrimage of his mother, Empress Helena, to Jerusalem in 326. Helena's pilgrimage and Constantine's royal support made possible the building of many Christian shrines in the city.The Christian control of Jerusalem was carried on until 614 AD when the Persians invaded the city, destroyed many of the churches and monasteries.

  • Islam-Jerusalem was captured in 638 CE, six years after the death of Muhammad, by the Muslim Caliph Umar. Soon after his occupation of the city, Umar cleansed the Temple Mount, built a small mosque and dedicated the site to Muslim worship. Nearby they built a more spectacular building, the Dome of the Rock, not only to proclaim the supremacy of Islam, but also to ensure that the new followers of Islam would not be tempted by Christianity.Importance of the temple mount:A certain passage in the Koran links the Prophet Muhammad with Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. That passage, the seventeenth Sura, entitled 'The Night Journey', recounts the story of a dream Mohammed has where he takes a midnight ride (al-Isra) on his flying horse al-Buraq, which had the face of a woman, the body of a horse and the tail of Peacock. The narrative of the Koran in Sura 17 describes it as follows:

    "Glory be to Him, who carried His servant by night from the Holy Mosque to the further mosque, the precincts of which we have blessed."

    and from the sacred rock atop of the temple mount he made a spiritual trip to heaven and met the prophets before him) (it is stated in refeneces that this vision is around 617 and 624 A.D ).Muslim believe the two temples mentioned in this verse as being in Mecca and Jerusalem.At this hallowed site, known in Arabic as Haram al Sharif, the 9th Caliph, Abd al-Malik, built the great Dome of the Rock between 687 CE and 691 CE to protect pilgrims. Adjacent to the Dome is the Al-Aqsa Mosque wherein Muslims make their prayers towards Mecca. Designed by Byzantine architects (not all texts agree with this) engaged by the Caliph, the Dome of the Rock was the greatest monumental building in early Islamic history and remains today one of the most sublime examples of artistic genius that humanity has ever produced (the Great Mosque of Damascus, being a true mosque, is the earliest surviving monumental mosque).

  • The Dome of the Rock-detailsThe structure is octagonal and the dome is borne by a double system of pillars and columns. The walls, ceiling, arches, and vaults are decorated with floral images. The dome, on the inside, is covered with coloured and gilded stucco. The dome is 20 meters high, 10 meters in diameter, and its supporting structure, made of lead, was originally covered in pure gold (In 1960, as part of Jordans restoration, the dome was covered with a durable aluminium and bronze alloy made in Italy. The restoration was completed in August 1964. In 1998 the golden dome covering was refurbished following a donation of $8.2 million by King Hussein of Jordan who sold one of his houses in London to fund the 80 kilograms of gold required. (Wipedica)The sacred foundation stone is encircled by sixteen arches that formerly came from different churches in Jerusalem, which were destroyed during the Persian occupation of the city in 614 AD. Writing of the sublimely beautiful structure with its heavenly dome, its columns of rare marble and its brilliant mosaics

  • The facade is made of porcelain The Koranic ura, or chapter, is inscribed across the top in the tile work commissioned in the 16th century by Suleiman the Magnificent. The sura al- Isra (The Night Journey), is inscribed above Ya-Seen. (Wipedica)

  • Painting in the Middle AgesThey had a strong tradition of paintingMost paintings were icons (religious images) painted on wooden panels.Often used as worship centers in homeThe interiors of the churches also were decorated with icons.Byzantine painting was colourful and emotional.Artists used egg tempera as their mediumFigures were painted against a brilliant gold backgroundTriptych (three hinged pieces) Diptych (two hinged pieces) were examples of the portable art of the Byzantine era

    Christ Icon, St. Catherines Monastery, c. 6th cent. CE, Sinai, Egypt.

  • Enthroned Madonna and Child (13th century)(131 x77 cm)Typical of Byzantine styleThe Madonna floats rather than sits on her throne.The Christ child seems to be resting securely on her arm.Meaning and emotion are more important than the depiction of reality.The use of gold backgrounds heightens the effect of otherworldliness and transcendence

  • National Gallery of Canada Jacopo di Cione Triptych of the Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints (1370 - 1380 ) Ugolino di Nerio St. Anne and the Infant Virgin (1330 - 1335 )

  • Migration Artornamental metalwork, usually pins to hold garments, often inlaid with precious stonesPurse Cover (7th century)-garnets, glass, enamel and gold- geometric on top- man between two beasts and eagles seizing two ducks

  • What is an Illuminated Manuscript?

  • The term manuscript translates from Latin as made by hand. Illumination comes from the Latin word illuminare meaning light up.These illuminated manuscripts were so called because of their frequent incorporation of gold or sometimes silver leaf onto the page. Decoration with drawings, usually in gold, silver, and rich colors, especially in the initial letters of manuscripts, particularly those done during the Middle Ages. A manuscript, produced during the Middle Ages, in which the pages are decorated this way. Often these manuscripts contain small pictures known as illuminations or miniatures.

  • PriestsMonksReligiousMiddle AgesMonasteries

  • MaterialsSkinFeathersGoose or SwanCuredInkParchment and Vellum

  • Manuscripts

    influenced by tribal tradition of geometric motifs and interlacing of letters, flowers and animalsmonks spent their lifetimes illustrating their pages of scripture while in their secluded monasteriesornamentation represents everything rich and beautiful paying tribute to God

    Lindisfarne Gospel Book (698-721) Christianized Great Britain)long time to illustrate one bookmany vellum (parchment pagesX-P (chi-rho) is a contraction of the Greek name for Christinterlaced with abstract and geometric designs of minute detailhidden in the intricate scrolls are serpents dragons and other fantastic animals

  • Christian faith was bound by the authority of sacred writings, and it placed increasing importance on the production of books and their illumination. Some fragments of the biblical text, written in silver and gold on purple vellum and sumptuously illuminated, are still preserved). Foremost of these is the Vienna Genesis, a manuscript of the first half of the 6th cent.

  • East Asian calligraphyChinese calligraphy written by Song Dynasty (A.D. 1051-1108) poet Mi Fu.

  • Indian CalligraphyA page from the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikh

  • Persian calligraphyPage of calligraphy in ornamental style, 1868-69

  • Islamic calligraphyA page of a 12th century Qur'an

  • Western calligraphyCalligraphy of the German word "Urkunde" (deed)

  • Hebrew manuscripts in the fifteenth century

  • German, Hildesheim, ca. 11701407AD Latin Bible from Belgium

  • Medieval Scribes

  • No sculpture in the round- bas relief


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