(Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Byzantine architectureis the architecture of the Byzantine or Later Roman Empire. This terminology is used by modern historians to designate the medieval Roman Empire as it evolved as a distinct artistic and cultural entity centered on the new capital of Constantinople rather than the city of Rome and environs. The empire endured for more than a millennium, dramatically influencing Medieval architecture throughout Europe and the Near East, and becoming the primary progenitor of the Renaissance and Ottoman architectural traditions that followed its collapse.
Overview of extant monuments
Early Byzantine architecture was built as a continuation of Roman architecture. Stylistic drift, technological advancement, and politicaland territorial changes meant that a distinct style gradually resulted in the Greek crossplan in church architecture.
Buildings increased in geometric complexity, brickand plaster were used in addition to stonein the decoration of important public structures, classical orderswere used more freely, mosaicsreplaced carved decoration, complex domesrested upon massive piers, and windows filtered light through thin sheets of alabasterto softly illuminate interiors. Most of the surviving structures are sacred in nature, with secular buildings mostly known only through contemporaneous descriptions.
Prime examples of early Byzantine architecture date from Justinian I's reign and survive in Ravennaand Istanbul, as well as in Sofia(the Church of St Sophia). One of the great breakthroughs in the history of Western architecture occurred when Justinian's architects invented a complex system providing for a smooth transition from a square plan of the church to a circular dome (or domes) by means of squinchesor pendentives.
In Ravenna, we have the longitudinal basilicaof Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, and the octagonal, centralized structure of the church of San Vitale, commissioned by Emperor Justinian but never seen by him. Justinian's monuments in Istanbul include the domed churches of Hagia Sophia and Hagia Irene, but there is also an earlier, smaller church of Sts Sergius and Bacchus (locally referred to as "Little Hagia Sophia"),which might have served as a model for both in that it combined the elements of a longitudinal basilica with those of a centralized building
Secular structures include the ruins of the Great Palace of Constantinople, the innovative walls of Constantinople(with 192 towers) and Basilica Cistern(with hundreds of recycled classical columns). A frieze in the Ostrogothicpalace in Ravenna depicts an early Byzantine palace.
Hagios Demetriosin Thessaloniki, Saint Catherine's Monasteryon Mount Sinai, Jvari Monasteryin present-day Georgia, and three Armenianchurches of Echmiadzinall date primarily from the 7th century and provide a glimpse on architectural developments in the Byzantine provinces following the age of Justinian.
The period of the Macedonian dynasty, traditionally considered the epitome of Byzantine art, has not left a lasting legacy in architecture. It is presumed that Basil I's votive church of the Theotokos of the Pharosand the Nea Ekklesia (both no longer existent) served as a model for most cross-in-squaresanctuaries of the period, including the Cattolica di Stiloin southern Italy (9th century), the monastery church of Hosios Lukasin Greece (c. 1000), Nea Moni of Chios(a pet project of Constantine IX), and the Daphni Monasterynear Athens(c. 1050).
The cross-in-square type also became predominant in the Slavic countries which were Christianized by Salonikas missionaries during the Macedonian period. The Hagia Sophia churchin Ochrid(present-day Macedonia) and the eponymous cathedralin Kiev(present-day Ukraine) testify to a vogue for multiple subsidiary domes set on drums, which would gain in height and narrowness with the progress of time.
Comnenian and Paleologan periods
In Istanbul and Asia Minorthe architecture of the Komnenian periodis almost non-existent, with the notable exceptions of the Elmali Kilise and other rock sanctuaries of Cappadocia, and of the Churches of the Pantokratorand of the Theotokos Kyriotissain Istanbul. Much architecture survives on the outskirts of the Byzantine world, where the national forms of architecture came into being: in the Transcaucasiancountries, in Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, and other Slavic lands; and also in Sicily(Cappella Palatina) and Veneto(St Mark's Basilica, Torcello Cathedral).
The Paleologanperiod is well represented in a dozen former churches in Istanbul, notably St Saviour at Choraand St Mary Pammakaristos. Unlike their Slavic counterparts, the Paleologan architects never accented the vertical thrust of structures. As a result, there is little grandeur in the late medieval architecture of Byzantium (barring the Hagia Sophiaof Trapezunt).