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Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture

Architectural History ACT 322 Doris Kemp

Topics

Byzantine Architecture The Ideal Byzantine Church


Central Plan Domes Lighting and Decoration

Hagia Sophia Other Justinian Structures

Byzantine Architecture

In the years around 500 A.D. the Western Empire laid in ruins

Rome had been sacked twice and Italy was in the hands of the Ostrogoths Constantinople was the capitol of the Eastern Empire

The Eastern Empire lived on

Had been built on the Hellenic city of Byzantium (modern day Istanbul, Turkey)

Byzantine Architecture

A formal shift from early Christian to Byzantine architecture can be seen in the early sixth century A.D.

Timber-roofed Latin basilican churches gave way to domed, central-plan structures in the Eastern Empire

Byzantine Architecture: Ideal Byzantine Church

No two Byzantine churches were identical Features of the ideal Byzantine church:
Central plan Pendentive dome String focus on structure, lighting, and elaborate decoration

Byzantine Architecture: Ideal Byzantine Church

Central Plan

The axis descended away from visitors

Leaves no possible active participation except weakly around a central axis

In most Byzantine churches, the centralized building core was square

Byzantine Architecture: Ideal Byzantine Church

Domes
Central core of the church formed an integral part of a larger structure that included supporting structure and vaulting as well The dome complimented the spatial core of the church Domes were generally placed over cylinders, as at the Pantheon

Byzantine Architecture: Ideal Byzantine Church

Domes

Occasionally, domes were placed over polygons or even squares


Created certain structural problems Pendentive

Provided a way to set a circle (dome) atop a square A Roman invention, though rarely used Byzantines used pendentives very often

Domes were used to invoke powerful images of the Christian heaven

Byzantine Architecture: Ideal Byzantine Church

Photo: Sullivan

Byzantine Architecture: Ideal Byzantine Church

Lighting and Decoration


Articulation was very important in Byzantine architecture No visible surfaces were left in a natural state All was dissolved in color and light:

Glowing marble pavements Richly veined marble walls Extensive mosaic cycles Rich patterns of light created by glass and structural features

Byzantine Architecture: Ideal Byzantine Church

Photo: Sullivan

Byzantine Architecture: Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia
Symbolizes the ideal Byzantine church Built as the new Cathedral of Constantinople by the Emperor Justinian in 532 537 A.D. Intended to be the keystone of Justinians massive architectural campaign

Byzantine Architecture: Hagia Sophia

Photo: Sullivan

Byzantine Architecture: Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia
Justinian believed that only natural scientists and philosophers would be able to create the structure he had seen in his dreams Designed by two men:

Anthemius of Tralles

Natural scientist Mathematician Professor of stereometry and physics at Constantinople

Isidorus of Miletus

Byzantine Architecture: Hagia Sophia

Photo: Sullivan

Byzantine Architecture: Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia
Built in an amazing five years Its first dome was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt in 563 A.D. Was converted to a mosque by the Ottoman Turks

Byzantine Architecture: Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

Has some structural problems


Main piers are of excellent solidarity, built of massive ashlar masonry Rest of the building, however, was built of brick in thick mortar beds The dome generates tremendous pressure

Corners are supported by pendentives but the sides have little support

Byzantine Architecture: Hagia Sophia

Photo: Sullivan

Byzantine Architecture: Hagia Sophia

Photo: Sullivan

Byzantine Architecture: Other Justinian Structures

No other Byzantine churches approach even half the scale of Hagia Sophia Two churches bear a resemblance to Hagia Sophia
SS. Sergious and Bacchus S. Vitale

Byzantine Architecture: Other Justinian Structures

SS. Sergius and Bacchus


Located in Constantinople Built as a palace chapel between 527 and 536 Many historians believe it was an experimental version of the Hagia Sophia

Byzantine Architecture: Other Justinian Structures

Photo: Sullivan

Byzantine Architecture: Other Justinian Structures

S. Vitale
Located in Ravenna, Italy Very precise and strict double-shell form that featured a dome Featured mosaics of Justinian and his queen, Theodora, and their court

Byzantine Architecture: Other Justinian Structures

Photo: Sullivan

Byzantine Architecture: Other Justinian Structures

Church of St. John the Evangelist

Built at his tomb in the Hellenistic city of Ephesus on the coast of Asia Minor c. 548 A.D.

Photo: Sullivan

Byzantine Architecture: Other Justinian Structures

S. Marco

Located in Venice, Italy Although built in the Romanesque Period (c. 1063 1094), it is considered more Byzantine in style than Romanesque

Photo: Sullivan

References

Sullivan, Mary; http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/ http://www.brynmawr.edu/Acads/Cities/wld/wdpt1.html Trachtenburg/Hyman; Architecture: From Prehistory to Postmodernity Wodehouse/Moffett; A History of Western Architecture

Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture


Architectural History ACT 322 Doris Kemp