Original extravagant examples of Byzantine culture are presented in music, applied arts and, of course, architecture. The best structural achievements of the era, as well as the significant religious influence of the orthodox canons of Christianity, are reflected in the unique images and incredible works created by the desire to glorify the state, the emperor and God.
Features of Byzantine architecture
Historical reference: Byzantium, the only surviving part of the once great Roman Empire, reached its greatest prosperity in the 5th-6th centuries. The economic boom has brought about an unprecedented development of art, architecture and high achievements in construction. In works of architecture, for example, the most impressive motifs of various styles were organically intertwined, from antique to elements of Middle Eastern architecture.
Particular attention was paid to the construction of buildings designed to exalt the state and the emperor himself, and, of course, beautiful places of worship for the glorification of God. A surge in the construction of everything beautiful and majestic began during the reign of Emperor Justinian. During this period, palaces, temples, churches, triumphal arches and various engineering structures, taller and larger than those built by his predecessors, were actively erected.
Thanks to the passion of the esthete emperor for the beautiful and refined during his reign (527-565), the foundations of a new architectural direction began to emerge, including his own monumental style, characterized by the complexity of structures and impressive aesthetics. In addition, the striking features of the architectural direction of Byzantium are:
• Greek style planningor rather, the floor plans are similar to the shape of the Greek cross, characterized by strict symmetry;
• five-dome system impressively rises above the building in the shape of an equilateral cross. This design has been very popular in the design of churches and temples for many centuries;
• unity of materials … If buildings were erected from bricks (of any type), then it was used in all structural elements. When building from stone, architects gave preference only to natural tones of the material. Sometimes combined masonry was used, it was used to enhance the decorative effect;
• vaulted ceilings … Thanks to their engineering knowledge, the architects were able to correctly calculate the load (this is important when erecting domes), they also invented stable corner pylons and a drum - an intermediate insert in the form of a cylinder, placed between the walls and the dome;
• use of colorful and intricate mosaicsdepicting religious stories and events that are surrounded by a smaller pattern;
• active use marblestarting with mosaics and ending with arrays in the form of flooring, steps, columns, etc.
1. Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (Turkey)
One of the most famous examples of Byzantine architecture is rightfully the majestic Hagia Sophia with its impressive forms and no less fascinating history. During the period of its existence, and this is 1500 years (!), The cultural heritage of all mankind has undergone not only several restorations and complete reconstructions, but also more than one change of religions. Despite this, the embodied intricacy, detailing and drama of the architectural style have survived to this day, demonstrating the cultural heritage of more than one empire, state, and religion.
Design features: The composition of the temple is centered. The huge dome, reaching 33 meters in diameter, is clearly enlarged to create a stunning effect both outside and inside. The dome is located above a square base, the entire load of the large-scale object falls on four powerful pylons 23 m high, which provide stability.
2. Basilica of Sant Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna (Italy)
The Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo is another Byzantine church in Italy, which occupies an important step not only in the religious life of the inhabitants of the city of Ravenna. As part of the cultural heritage and an example of Byzantine architecture, it is also of considerable interest. It was originally the chapel of Theodoric the Great, but in 561, Emperor Justinian I changed its name to Sanctus Martinus in Coelo Aureo and ordered a complete renovation. During his reign, iconic mosaics of amazing beauty appeared, in which one can learn the fundamental plots from the New Testament, see the miracles and torments of Christ, Saints, prophets, martyrs and angels.
These magnificent works and early Christian mosaics were covered with thick plaster for a long time only because Pope Gregory the Great believed that they distracted from the worship of God. Over the centuries-old history of its existence, the basilica has “gone through” more than one reconstruction and rebuilding, so now you can see the bell tower, marble portico, mosaic floor and even frescoes depicting the events of World War II.
3. Basilica of St. Mark in Venice (Italy)
St. Mark's Basilica, or the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Mark's Basilica, is a unique piece of Byzantine architecture that has become a vivid example of the Italian interpretation of Byzantine aesthetics. During its design and construction, which began in 1063, the architects were inspired by the innovative forms and decoration of the Hagia Sophia at that time. The design of the basilica, which has remained unchanged since then, is in the shape of a Greek cross, covered with five domes, in line with the basic rules of Byzantine architecture. However, like the monumental carved portals, marble reliefs decorated with mosaics, wood carvings, sculptures and bas-reliefs that adorn the facades of the amazing temple.
The luxurious interior of St. Mark's Basilica is striking in its beauty and grandeur. Its domes, arches and vaults are decorated with bright mosaic canvases, the floor and font are made of multicolored and white marble. By the way, the Byzantine and Venetian masters worked on the decoration of the shrine for several centuries.
4. Monastery of Hosios Lucas in Distomo (Greece)
Hosios Loukas in Distomo, built on the western slopes of Mount Helikon in Greece, is one of the most impressive structures of the early Middle Ages. The spiritual shrine is recognized as a vivid example of the era of Byzantine architecture, it is closely connected with other monasteries of Daphne and Nea Moni on Chios, which are built according to another principle of Byzantine architecture - the unity of material.
According to Novate.ru, the main attraction of the monastery and the octagonal domed church are still mosaics, most of which are well preserved. Unfortunately, more valuable decorations and items of worship have been lost due to the constant robbery. As it turned out, uninvited "guests", from the Templars to the Turks, often visited here.
5. Basilica Cistern in Istanbul (Turkey)
This example of Byzantine architecture differs from richly decorated churches, but still its purpose is no less significant than religious objects. As the name suggests, the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul is a gigantic underground reservoir for storing water supplies. Like the above-mentioned masterpieces of Byzantine architecture, it is inherent in the main elements of a new direction in art, which appeared during the reign of Justinian I.
An iconic design feature of this impressive building is the columns and their bases, which are shaped like the head of Medusa. As the legends say, which locals and guides are vying with each other to tell tourists, Medusa's face is turned to the side to prevent her from turning people to stone. However, experts say that such an arrangement increases the base area of the column, increasing its stability. But, whatever the reasons prompted for such an installation of massive supports, they are still a functional sculpture, adding a special flavor to this Byzantine work.
Learn in more detail how the underground reservoir was built near Constantinople and why Basilica Cistern stands out from the general number of ancient monuments, it is possible from a new review.