Byzantine Art




This mosaic is in the lunette of the small atrium leading to the chapel, above the door. The rooms are among the few that survived from the original palace, which was built at the time of Archbishop Peter II (491-519). Portrayals of Jesus as universal sovereign or victorious hero were favoured in areas influenced first by the culture of the imperial court, and then by Byzantine art. This mosaic shows Jesus standing in a hilly landscape. He wears the military garb of the emperor, carries a cross and a book, and is standing on a lion and a serpent. The few gaps in the original mosaic are finished in tempera.

Circa 494-520,
Cappella Arcirescovile, Ravenna, Italy


Italian Byzantine Art

The most important centre of Byzantine art in Italy was that of the exarchate of Ravenna, part of the territory ruled from Constantinople by Justinian from 527 to 565. There, the church of Sant'Apollinare - from the early sixth century - was inspired by examples from Constantinople and the Pantheon of Rome, and decorated by Justinian's finest mosaicists. The Orthodox baptistry (early fifth century), the Arian baptistry (early sixth century), and the San Vitale baptistry (mid-sixth century) are also variations on the Pantheon, with wonderful effects of light in relation to the domes, which were built of very pale terracotta. Fretwork in the sculpture of the capitals and the low partitions and barriers show a rejection of sheer mass in favour of a more delicate, graphic treatment. The vigorous and sensitive moulding on fifth-century Ravenna tombs became more austere in the following century, relying on contrasts of light between solid and hollow panels rather than figurative elements. The unrivalled complexity of form, wealth of detail, and visionary expression in the Ravenna mosaics make them the finest examples of Byzantine art from the middle of the fifth century (the so-called Mausoleum of Galla Placidia built at this time still had Roman traits) to the late sixth century (Saints and Virgins in Sant'Apollinare Nuovo).


Mosaic, William of Sicily offers the Church to the Mother of God,
1180-94. Cathedral of Monreale Sicily.
This is one of an extraordinary series of mosaics executed between the 12th and the 13th centuries by local craftsmen as well as Venetians, and possibly also Greek-Macedonians. During the Norman reign, Greek, Muslim, and Latin masters devoted themselves to the arts; works bear scripts in all three alphabets, and also in Hebrew


 In the Adriatic region, both new and established settlements flourished among the Venetian lagoons, and were proud of their political autonomy. Although they paid lip service to the sovereignty of Byzantium, they never came under its rule. The fifth-century basilica of Aquileia, for example, was rebuilt in the Romanesque style in the 11th century. The whole area is notable for its important Roman mosaics from fourth-century religious buildings, some of later date in the cathedral presbytery, and another fine floor mosaic in the remains of the baptistry of the hamlet of Monastero. The floor mosaic of the baptistry of Graclo dates from the sixth century, and the local great basilica of Sant'Eufemia, consecrated in ad579, contains other late-antique mosaics. On the island of Torcello, the cathedral of the Assumption has a beautiful iconostasis (the screen dividing the sanctuary from the main body of the church). The Byzantine pre-Romanesque and Romanesque style of this area can also be seen in the church of Santi Maria e Donato on the island of Murano; there, a splendid mosaic of the Mother of God from the 13th century bears a strong Greek influence. In Sicily, mosaics from the Norman period reveal a similar influence. In the royal country residences of Cuba and Zisa, outside Palermo, the Altavilla family lavished money on buildings of rare charm and remarkable complexity, while retaining an outward appearance of consummate simplicity. Islamic, Byzantine, and Latin craftsmen decorated and built these residences using a variety of techniques and styles. Similarly, many sacred buildings in southern Italy can be defined as Byzantine pre-Romanesque and Romanesque, including the church of San Pietro in Otranto, with its fine tenth-century frescos, Santa Filumena at Santa Severina, and San Marco at Rossano.

Sarcophagus of the "Twelve Apostles".
Jesus Giving the Scriptures to Paul, Peter, and four other Apostles, fifth century.
Sant'Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna, Italy.
The series of sarcophagi in the side naves of this church provides interesting dues to the development from late Roman to late Byzantine art



This is a beautiful example of Byzantine goldwork, executed with extreme precision. The icon is made of embossed gold leaf and coloured enamel. The figure of the archangel is shown from the front, clad in armour, with wings and a halo. In his left hand, he carries the orb and the cross, symbols of Christ's authority, and, in his right, a drawn sword. At the top of the frame are three round plaques with Christ at the centre. Saints feature in the four elliptical plaques at the sides. The interstices are richly decorated with jewels. Such a refined, detailed work is likely to have come from the court workshops in Byzantium.

Framed icon, tenth century, Treasury of San Marco, Venice



St Mark's basilica in Venice was consecrated in 832 as the chapel of the body of St Mark, and was for centuries the chapel of the court of the doges. Although a succession of other architectural styles — Romanesque. Gothic, and Renaissance — left their mark on the basilica, it never lost its essentially Byzantine character. Its remarkable collection of icons, alongside other artistic genres, make it a great example of Byzantine artistic culture in the West. The celebrated bronze horses arrived in Venice in 1204. looted by the Doge Enrico Dandolo from the hippodrome of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. Some regard the horses as Greek works from the fourth or third century bc, while others see them as Roman masterpieces from the age of Constantino (fourth century ad). There is also an astonishing variety of art works — Egyptian, Roman, Persian, and, above all. Byzantine — in St Marks Treasury, next to the museum.

Bronze horses,
St Mark's basilica, Venice



Sant' Apollinare in Classe

Ravenna, Italy



Basilica of Sant' Apollinare in Classe

The Basilica of Sant' Apollinare in Classe in Ravenna, Italy, was erected by order of Bishop Ursicino, using money from the Greek banker, Julian the Silversmith. It was consecrated on May 8, 549 by Bishop Maximian and dedicated to the first bishop of Ravenna and Classe. The Basilica is thus contemporary to the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna. It was certainly located next to a Christian cemetery, and quite possibly on top of a pre-existing pagan one, as some of the ancient tombstones were re-used in its construction. In 856, the relics of Saint Apollinare were transferred from the Basilica of Sant' Apollinare in Classe to the Basilica of Sant' Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna.

(From Wikipedia)

Basilica Sant' Apollinare in Classe, (530-549), Ravenna, Italy


Basilica Sant' Apollinare in Classe, (530-549), Ravenna, Italy

Basilica Sant' Apollinare in Classe, (530-549), Ravenna, Italy


Basilica Sant' Apollinare in Classe, (530-549), Ravenna, Italy





Basilica of Sant' Apollinare Nuovo

Ravenna, Italy



San Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna.

San Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna.
Mosaic detail of Saint Andrew and fisherman,
before 526 A.D.

The Basilica of Sant' Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy, was erected by the Arian King Theodoric as his palace chapel, during the first quarter of the 6th century. Originally dedicated to Jesus Christ, it was reconsecrated in 561 with the suppression of the Arian cult to Saint Martin of Tours, the implacable foe of heretics. According to legend, Pope Gregory the Great ordered that the mosaics in the church to be blackened, as their golden glory distracted worshippers from the prayers Citation needed. The basilica was renamed again in 856, when relics of Saint Apollinare were transferred from the Basilica of Sant' Apollinare in Classe.
Its apse and atrium underwent modernization at various times, beginning in the 6th century with the destruction of mosaics whose themes were too overtly Arian or which expressed the king's glory, but the mosaics of the lateral walls, twenty-four columns with Corinthian columns, and an ambo are preserved.
On the upper wall of the laterial walls are 13 small mosaics depicting Christ's miracles and parables and 13 mosiacs depicting the Passion and Resurrection, however, the flagellation and crucifixion are lacking; Christ is always depicted as young, beardless and dressed as a Roman Emperor. These mosiacs are separated by decorative mosaic panels depicting a shell-shaped niche with a tapesty, cross, and two doves.

(From Wikipedia)



San Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna.
Top zone nave mosaic showing Christ before Pilate.


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