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Dr. Binumol Tom Professor, Department of Architecture,College of Engineering, Trivandrum
Historic context By the time Constantine became the Caesar of the Roman empire, the Empire had split in half: The Western Roman Empire centered in Rome, speaking Latin the Eastern Roman Empire of Byzantium (Constantinople), today Istanbul Byzantium, "New Rome", was later renamed Constantinople and is now called Istanbul. The empire endured for more than a millennium, dramatically influencing Medieval and Renaissance era architecture in Europe and, following the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, leading directly to the architecture of the Ottoman Empire.
Historic context The Eastern Empire, or Byzantine Empire became strong and stable in the sixth century under Emperor Justinian: lasting 1000 years, with a great cultural history It fell to the Turks in 1453. The borders were breached and the Emperor was forced to abandon Rome, moving the center northward, first to Milan then to Ravenna. Barbarians spilled over the rest of the Roman Empire, Germany, Spain, Italy, Gaul, and Africa. By the end of the sixth c. there were dozens of barbarian kingdoms which replaced the central authority of the Roman Emperor. Sea trade ceased, great cities were abandoned, and Rome shrunk. just about every institution of the Government ceased, except one. the Church.
Architecture of the Byzantine Empire Byzantine Characterized especially by massive domes with square bases and Architecture rounded arches and spires and extensive use of glass mosaics. Early Byzantine architecture was built as a continuation of Roman architecture. Stylistic drift, technological advancement, and political and territorial changes meant that a distinct style gradually emerged which imbued certain influences from the Near East and used the Greek cross plan in church architecture.
Byzantine architecture Greek cross plan in church architecture - A cross with four equal arms at right angles Buildings increased in geometric complexity, brick and plaster were used in addition to stone in the decoration of important public structures, classical orders were used more freely, mosaics replaced GREEK CROSS LATIN CROSS carved decoration, complex domes rested upon massive piers, and windows filtered light through thin sheets of alabaster to softly illuminate interiors.
Greek Cross A square plan in which the nave, chancel and transept arms are of equal length forming a Greek cross, the crossing generally surmounted by a dome became the common form in the Orthodox Church, with many churches throughout Eastern Europe and Russia being built in this way. Churches of the Greek Cross form often have a narthex or vestibule which stretches across the front of the church. This type of plan was also to later play a part in the development of church architecture in Western Europe, most notably in Bramantes plan for St. Peters Basilica
Greek and Latin Cross PlansThe Byzantine Church of the Pisa Cathedral from the "Leaning Tower"Holy Apostles, Athens, shows a shows the Latin Cross form, with projectingGreek Cross plan with central apse, foreground and free-standingdome and the axis marked by the baptistry at the west.narthex (transverse vestibule).
Byzantine Dome construction The most distinctive feature was the domed roof. The dome, which had always been a traditional feature in the East, became the prevailing motif of Byzantine architecture, which was a fusion of the domical construction with the Classical columnar style. To allow a dome to rest above a square base, either of two devices was used: the squinch (an arch in each of the corners of a square base that transforms it into an octagon) or the pendentive. Domes of various types were now placed over square compartments by means of "pendentives," whereas in Roman architecture domes were only used over circular or polygonal structures.
Byzantine Dome construction These domes were frequently constructed of bricks or of some light porous stone, such as pumice, or even of pottery, as at S. Vitale, Ravenna. Byzantine domes and vaults were, it is believed, constructed without temporary support or "centering " by the simple use of large flat bricks, and this is quite a distinct system probably derived from Eastern methods.
The mystical quality of the light that floods theinterior has fascinated visitors for centuries. Thecanopy-like dome that also dominates the inside ofthe church rides on a halo of light from windowsin the domes base.The windows create the illusion that the dome isresting on the light that comes through them--likea "floating dome of heaven."Light is the mystic element that glitters in themosaics, shines from the marbles, and pervadesspaces that cannot be defined. It seems to dissolvematerial substance and transform it into an abstractspiritual vision.
Byzantine Dome construction Windows were formed in the lower portion of the dome which, in the later period, was hoisted upon a high "drum" - a feature which was still further embellished in the Renaissance period by the addition of an external peristyle. The grouping of small domes or semi-domes round the large central dome was effective, and one of the most remarkable peculiarities of Byzantine churches was that the forms of the vaults and domes were visible externally, undisguised by any timber roof; thus in the Byzantine style the exterior closely corresponds with the interior.
Materials used in construction The system of construction in concrete and brickwork introduced by the Romans was adopted by the Byzantines. The carcase (skeleton) of concrete and brickwork was first completed and allowed to settle before the surface sheathing of unyielding marble slabs was added, and this independence of the component parts is characteristic of Byzantine construction. Brickwork, moreover lent itself externally to decorative patterns and banding, and internally it was suitable for covering with marble, mosaic, and fresco decoration. The ordinary bricks were like the Roman, about an inch and a half in depth, and were laid on thick beds of mortar.
Materials used in construction brickwork necessitated special care in making mortar, which was composed of lime and sand with crushed pottery, tiles, or bricks, and much of it remains as hard as that in the best buildings of Rome, while the core of the wall was sometimes of concrete, as in the Roman period. The decorative character of external facades depended largely on the arrangement of the facing bricks, which were not always laid horizontally, but sometimes obliquely, sometimes in the form of the meander fret, sometimes in the chevron or herringbone pattern, and in many other similar designs, giving great variety to the facades. An attempt was also made to ornament the rough brick exteriors by the use of stone bands and decorative arches. Walls were sheeted internally with marble and vaults and domes with coloured glass mosaics on a golden background...
Features of Byzantine ArchitectureGreek Roman and Oriental elements in architecture and its decoration Greco- Roman Columns, arches, vaults, domes over square bases Oriental (Eastern)Rich ornamentation, rich use of colour, mosaics, poly chrome marble and stone workPlay of Light indoors
Hagia Sophia “Church of Holy Wisdom,” chief church in Constantinople Rebuilt by Justinian between A.D. 532-537 after Constantine’s original was burned down in a riot Holy Wisdom"; Latin is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453, it served as the cathedral of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Patriarch of Constantinople of the Western Crusader established Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1934, when it was secularized. It was opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.
Hagia Sophia Architects were Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles Reconciled basilica and central plans Central dome 101 feet in diameter Pendentives made dome appear “suspended from by a chain from heaven” At the dedication of the church, Justinian reportedexclaimed, “Solomon I have outdone thee!”
Hagia Sophia Semi dome Gallery Piers (resist the outward thrust of the dome to north and south) Gallery above Aisle Piers Rectangular bodyProjecting apse Inner Narthex Outer Narthex 75mX70m(east) Square (100 byzantine feet Atrium (now 31.2m), dome Nave destroyed) over on Semi domes pendentives Piers Exedra Gallery above Aisle
Style of Hagia Sophia (Church of Divine Wisdom) Large dome in center of the structure Four massive pillars arranged in a square This was a unique feature to the Hagia Sophia The dome was the main focus of the Byzantine Church for the remainder of the empire
FROM CLASSICAL MATERIALISM TO CHRISTIANTRANSCENDENTALISM. Hagia Sophia, in many ways is similar to the Pantheon, it is large, domed basic differences - pagan classical point of view to Medieval pt of view. In the Pantheon, everything was clear, understandable, in H. Sophia architectural form becomes blurred, softened, mosaics covered upper parts of the wall, the lower parts are richly patterned marble. Where there are no marble or mosaic, there are windows, hundreds. The dome sits on a row of windows. In early morning and late afternoon, light filters through windows so the dome rests on light. A miniature heaven, unsubstantial quality prevails, symbolic of heaven. Architects hide all supports from view. Where the Pantheon was solid, massive, H. Sophia is insubstantial, shell like. The walls disappear.
S. Mark’s Venice 830 c. to receive the relics of S.Mark Based on the justinian church of the Holy Apostles, Constantinople 5 domes, each carried on 4 piers Narthex on each side of nave Baptistery on south side
How to recognize a Byzantine Church? Ground plan could be basilican, cruciform, circular or polygonal Main entrance from the west Altar at the eastern end of the church Principal building material was brick, arranged in decorative patterns or covered in plaster Roofs were either tiled or covered by sheets of lead Brilliant mosaic work in the interiors (most recognizable feature) Exterior – rather plain, with austere entrances flanked by blind arcades Domes supported on pendentives
How to recognize a Byzantine Church? Predominant colours of mosaics – blue and gold Few columns – unrestricted view of the interior mosaic art Subject depicted – scenes from the holy Bible or the imperial court Mosaics – made up of small cubes of marble or glass set in cement. Cement placed in layers, final layer fresco on the damp cement – cubes placed in the cement following the outlines of the design, last layer of cement applied unevenly, so that when the cubes were set in, the faces of the different cubes were at angle to each other and reflected light from one cube to another. Magical impression of light and depth conveyed by mosaics – heavenly ambience
How to recognize a Byzantine Church? Columns and capitals – classical prototypes Carvings of the capitals – deeply incised lines and drilled holes- strong black and white effect Dome – structural feature (over a square opening – important consequence in Renaissance Architecture ) No human figures in Byzantine decoration Decorative features – scrolls, circles and other geometric forms or by depicting leaves and flowers Wind blown acanthus leaves were a popular subject