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Chapter 7 Jewish, Early Christian, and Byzantine Art
Catacombs of Commodilla, Jesus the Alpha and Omega Rome, Italy 4 th c. AD. fresco
Catacombs of Commodilla, Jesus the Alpha and Omega • This panel shows a bearded Jesus flanked by two Greek letters: on the left alpha, the first letter of the alphabet, on the right, omega, the last letter of the alphabet. The picture evokes Rev 1: 8: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and was and who is to come, the Almighty. "
Menorahs and Ark of the Covenant, wall painting in a Jewish catacomb, Villa Torlonia, Rome, 3 rd Century.
Dura-Europos in Syria c. 244 -245 wall with the Torah Niche, tempera on plaster
Detail of Niche at Dura. Europos in Syria c. 244245 wall with the Torah Niche, tempera on plaster
Finding of the Baby Moses, Wall painting Dura-Europos, Syria. Copy in tempora on plaster 244 -45 AD.
Maon Synagogue floor, Eretz Yisrael, 530 AD. , mosaic detail.
Menorah • During the wanderings of the Children of Israel through the desert, the artisan, Bezalel, the son of Uri, was commanded to fashion a seven-branched candelabrum or menorah, for use in the Lord's Tabernacle:
CHRISTIAN SYMBOLISM • Like Musical Notation, Christian Symbolism illustrates that for which it stands. And it adds a certain beauty and mysticism to religion, speaking as it does of an unseen world and a supernatural faith. For the proper understanding of Christian Art and Architecture some knowledge of symbolism is absolutely necessary.
Symbols • The Dove represents the HOLY GHOST, under which figure the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ at His Baptism. • The Fish represents Christ - The Greek word "Ixthus" which means "Fish, " is spelled from the first letters of Greek words meaning, "Jesus CHRIST, Son of GOD SAVIOR. " This sign was used as a secret symbol by the early Christians in the days of persecution. • The Gospels are symbolized by the Figures of a Man, a Lion, an Ox, and an Eagle referring to Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke and Saint John, who respectively represented Our Lord as Man, King, Priest and Victim and GOD. • The Lamb typifies Christ as the Lamb of GOD symbolizing Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. It is usually seen holding a Banner and Cross. The Good Shepherd also represents Christ. This is probably the earliest of all Christian symbols. CHRIST is sometimes shown with the Sheep in His Arms.
Symbol of the Cross • The Cross represents the mode of Christ’s Death. Though long antedating Christianity it was early adopted as a Sacred Symbol. Of the many forms of the Cross, the Latin, the Celtic, the Greek and the Maltese are those most generally seen. The shape of the "True Cross" was probably the Latin (or perhaps the "T") Cross, having the lower arm longer than the others.
Latin Cross - The most common depiction of a Christian cross in modern times. Tau Cross This form of cross (resembling the Greek letter Tau) predates the Latin cross. Greek Cross - All arms are of equal length. St. Peter’s Cross Representing St. Peter’s upsidedown crucifixion.
Catacomb Painting: Good Shepherd, Orants, and the Story of Jonah 4 th century AD, Rome
Good Shepherd, marble statue, 3 rd century 19 ¾” H 16” W
Early Christian Architecture • The invention of the Christian church was one of the brilliant-perhaps the most brilliant--solutions in architectural history. This was achieved by a process of assimilating and rejecting various precedents, such as the Greek temple, the Roman public building, the private Roman house, and the synagogue. • The Early Christian period saw the growth of Christianity, effectively an underground Eastern mystery cult during the first three centuries AD. It was established as the state religion of the Empire under the successors of Constantine. Ecclesiastical administration set up within the framework of the Roman Empire. • Little change in social and economic order. Gradual split between Eastern and Western Empire in state and church. Political and economic breakdown of the West, ending in barbarian invasions.
• Early Christian Architecture: basilical church developed from Roman secular basilica; centralized type from Roman tombs. Basilical plan modified for liturgical requirements; congregation and clergy segregated in nave and aisles vs. transept and apse. Different variants in East and West. • In Rome, classical marble wall membering and vocabulary, and emphasis on massive wall, gradually replaced by broad, flat surfaces, evenly lighted; plain brick exteriors; mosaic bands of interiors. Long planes with little articulation, either horizontal or vertical. •
Baptistry in Christian House, Dura Europos, miracles of Jesus, Dura Europos, 3 rd century AD. , Syria.
• Following the Edict of Milan in 313 Constantine began an extensive building program to provide churches and meeting places for Christians. Previously they met in private homes that had rooms for worship. The first Christian churches used Roman structural and design elements. The basilica evolved into the essential design for the church that is still used today.
Basilica Plan Churches
Central Plan Churches
Reconstruction drawing of St. Peter’s, Rome c. 333 -390 AD right: interior view of St Paul outside the Walls, Rome c. 385 AD.
Old St. Peter's, Rome, c. 330, AD.
Santa Sabina, Rome, c. 422 -432 AD.
Interior of Santa Sabina, Rome
CHURCH OF SANTA SABINA : Doors Panel 17: Elijah taken to Heaven
Plan of Santa Costanza, brick, c. 350 CE, Rome right: interior view of Santa Costanza.
Santa Constanza, Rome c. 350 AD. Second type of ancient building – the Tholos. A round structure with a central plan.
Harvesting of Grapes, mosaic in the ambulatory vault, Church of Santa Costanza
Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna, Italy, c. 425 -26 AD.
• “Built between 425 and 433, this small mausoleum adopts a cruciform plan, and the crossing is covered by a dome. On the outside, the architect simply juxtaposed masses. However, in contrast to Romanesque architecture, the mausoleum walls give the impression of being simple partitions designed to mark off the interior spaces. Blind arcades are its only decoration. The inside is relatively small and extremely simple. The mausoleum was intended from the very start to be covered with mosaics, and these are the oldest in Ravenna. The principal scene depicts the martyrdom of St. Lawrence at the moment when the saint approaches the red-hot gridiron. The other niche represents the Good Shepherd, and on the upper walls are the apostles. ”
Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence, lunette mosaic, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna, Italy, c. 425 -26 AD.
Good Shepherd, lunette mosaic, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna, Italy, c. 425 -26 AD.
Bookcase with the Gospels in codex form – Detail of a mosaic in the eastern lunette, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
Baptism of Christ, with Twelve Saints; dome mosaic, Baptistry of the Orthodox (Neonian Baptistery), mid-5 th century A. D.
Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus. c. 359 A. D.
Detail from the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus. c. 359 A. D.
Early Byzantine art: The First Golden Age • The style of the Eastern Empire (called Byzantine) begins with the re-naming of the capital and continues in some parts of Europe and Russia well into the 15 th century A. D. Architecturally, the Byzantine style is distinguished by an emphasis on centrally planned, domed structures such as San Vitale is located in Ravenna, a major Byzantine outpost in Italy. It is a particularly good example of the style's mystical, surging spaces: chapels seem carved out of the radiating aisle, and the plan is a complex octagon-within-anoctagon shape. This church dates to the first great flowering of Byzantine art, the First Golden Age, when the Emperor Justinian ruled from Constantinople.
Isidore of Miletus: Hagia Sofia exterior, cross section, and plan
Cathedral built at Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) under the direction of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I
The Dome • It was not always possible to have a cylindrical base to support a dome. To support a dome on a square base arches could be built to bridge the corners and create an octagonal base. These were called squinches. An even more elaborate system of transferring the thrust of a dome to four points was to employ segments of vaults which are called pendentives.
Plan, The Church of San Vitale, Ravenna, 530 -547
The Church of San Vitale, Ravenna, 530 -547
The Lamb of God supported by Angels, 546 -548, dome apse mosaic, Church of San Vitale, Ravenna, 530 -547 The Church of San Vitale, Ravenna, 530 -547
San Vitale, aerial view, apse nearest viewer
Justinian and his Retinue, 546 -548, mosaic, north wall of the apse, Church of San Vitale, Ravenna, 530 -547
Theodora and her retinue, 546 -548, mosaic, south wall of the apse, Church of San Vitale, Ravenna, 530 -547
Apse mosaic of St. Appolinaris and Transfiguration of Christ, Sant’Apollinare in Classe, ca. 550
The Archangel Michael Right leaf of a diptych, early sixth century. Ivory, approx. 17" X 151/2" Constantinople, ca. 500 A. D. An ivory panel depicting Saint Michael the Archangel
Rebekah at the Wall and Abraham's Servant, page 13, The Vienna Genesis, 6 th cent.
Detail of The Vienna Genesis
Illumination from the Rabbula Gospels Syriac, AD 586, 33 x 26. 7 cm.
Icon Virgin and Child with Saints and Angels encaustic on wood from St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt late sixth century
Middle Byzantine Art • The resolution of the Iconoclastic controversy in favor of the use of icons ushered in a second flowering of the empire, the Middle Byzantine period (843– 1261). The arts flourished, Greek became the dominant official language, and Christianity spread from Constantinople throughout the Slavic lands to the north.
• In 1204, Crusaders from western Europe took Constantinople, founding the Latin Empire, which lasted until 1261, when Byzantine rule was reestablished. The final great artistic flowering that followed lasted until Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, more than 1, 100 years after its founding. Long after its fall, Byzantium set a standard for luxury, beauty, and learning that inspired both the Latin West and the Islamic East.
Icon Our Lady of Vladimir Egg Tempera on Wood Panel 12 th century Byzantine faces, with later restorations 45 x 27 in
Icons and Iconoclasm • The term icon comes from the Greek eikon, which means "image" or "likeness. " In a religious context, it refers to some image or representation of important religious figures, but especially divine or semi-divine figures. Often, these images are venerated in some fashion.
The Iconoclastic Controversy • Occurred between the mid-8 th century and the mid-9 th century in the Byzantine Christian Church over the question of whether or not Christians should continue to revere icons. Most unsophisticated believers tended to revere icons (thus they were called iconodules), but many political and religious leaders wanted to have them smashed because they believed that venerating icons was a form of idolatry (they were called iconoclasts).
• The controversy was inaugurated in 726 when Byzantine Emperor Leo III commanded that the image of Christ be taken down from the Chalke gate of the imperial palace. After much debate and controversy, the veneration of icons was official restored and sanctioned during a council meeting in Nicaea in 787. However, conditions were put on their use - they had to be painted flat with no features which stood out. Down through today icons play an important role in the Eastern Orthodox Church, serving as "windows" to heaven.
• One result of this conflict was that theologians developed the distinction between veneration and reverence (proskynesis) which was paid to icons and other religious figures, and adoration (latreia), which was owed to God alone. Another was brining the term iconoclasm into currency, now used for any attempt to attack popular figures or icons (outside of the strict religious sense of the word).
Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, 1037 - 46
Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, 1037 - 46 St. Nicholas Cathedral, Chicago, Illinois
Hosios Loukas Monastery: Phocis, Greece, c. 1020 - 1040.
Hosios Loukas Monastery: Phocis, Greece, c. 1020 - 1040. Interior
The Crucifixion, Church of the Dormition, Daphni. c. 1090 -1100
Interior of St. Mark's Basilica, Venice. begun 1063
Objects of Veneration and Devotion • During the second Byzantine golden age, artists of great talent and high aesthetic sensibility produced small luxury items of a personal nature for members of the court as well as for the church.
The Harbaville Triptych. Late 10 th Century. Ivory
Multiple – dome church plans • Domed Greek Cross • Greek Cross domes over square plan • Quincunx domes over square plan • Expanded quincunx
The Palatine Chapel (Italian: Cappella Palatina) is the royal chapel of the Norman kings of Sicily situated on the ground floor at the center of the Palazzo Reale in Palermo. The chapel was commissioned by Roger II of Sicily in 1132. It took eight years to build and many more to decorate with mosaics and fine art. The sanctuary, dedicated to Saint Peter, is reminiscent of a domed basilica. It has three apses, as is usual in Byzantine architecture, with six pointed arches (three on each side of the central nave) resting on recycled classical columns.
Marble and mosaic decoration in the Chamber of King Roger, Palazzo Normano, Palermo, 1154 -66.
The late Byzantine period (1204– 1453) • Quite a number of buildings from the late Byzantine period survive in Istanbul, Thessaloníki, and throughout Greece and the Balkans. In general they are on a small scale and follow the plan of those of the middle Byzantine period.
Paracclesion of the church of the Monastery of the Savior in Chora
Icon Archangel Michael silver gilt with enamel and gemstones late 10 th or early 11 th century Michael is one of the principal angels in Abrahamic tradition; his name was said to have been the war-cry of the angels in the battle fought in heaven against Satan and his followers.
• The name of the church, "in Chora" means "in the country" because the very ancient monastery to which it was attached was outside the walls of the Constantinian city; later when it was included within the Theodosian walls, the name remained the Holy Savior of Chora. The mosaics and frescoes are by far the most important and extensive series of Byzantine paintings in the city and among the best and most beautiful in the world.
Fresco of the Resurrection (Anastasis) in the Church in Chora
The Old Testament Trinity Prefiguring the Incarnation" by Andrei Rublev, c. 1410, is painted on wood, 56" X 45". This late Byzantine style can be seen in the art of the west in late Gothic and early Renaissance painting.