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Byzantine Art

Byzantine art and architecture are the artistic landmarks of the great Byzantine Empire. The empire covered Mediterranean Europe and Asia Minor from the 4th to the 15th centuries A.D., emerging naturally from the Roman Empire after 330 A.D. when the Roman Emperor Constantine moved it's capital east from Rome to Byzantium. The metropolis of New Rome was renamed Constantinople and is present day Istanbul in Turkey, located on the Bosphorus dividing Europe and Asia. The empire endured for more than a millennium until the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, leaving way for the Ottoman Empire. Present Turkey and Greece were at the heart of the Byzantine Empire, which was based on christian religion and dominated by greek language and traditions. The east coast of Italy was a major landmark, where Ravenna was the capital city of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th and 6h centuries and Venice took over the control of the area in the middle ages. Various dynasties controlled the Byzantine empire, particularly flourishing under the reign of Emperor Justinian about 550 A.D., when it's coverage reached from Italy to North-Africa and Israel. Artistic revivals took place during the 9th century Macedonian dynasty and the 12th century Byzantine Renaissance. Byzantine architerture is characterized by it's central-shaped domed churches with atriums and round arches on roman-style columns. The golden interior mosaic decorations are famous artistic expressions, influenced by the early-christian buildings from Rome and by styles from the orient. In turn, byzantine art greatly influenced the Romanesque and medieval styles in the west and the later Ottoman styles in the east. The most important Byzantine monuments can be found today in Turkey, Greece and Italy. The former capital cities of Istanbul and Ravenna present a great wealth of early byzantine churches and monuments to the visitor, as well as collections of great mosaics. In Greece, the cities of Athens and Thessaloniki preserve many churches, while inside the country some great monasteries and mountain churches can still be visited. Many more countries in Eastern Europe and Asia Minor preserve byzantine churches, often in very diverging styles. The late-byzantine architecture of the Orthodox church in Russia and Ukraine or the early churches of Georgia and Armenia in the east of the empire are some distinct examples. On this page we present a small overview of Byzantine monuments organized per country, not meant to be complete.

 

[Turkey] [Greece] [Italy] [Croatia] [Bulgaria & Macedonia] [Russia & Ukraine] [Armenia & Georgia ] [Other countries]

 

 

Interactive map
Click on below map to go to the Google Maps page localising these buildings (map by Cees van Halderen).

 

 

TURKEY
Istanbul preserves the fragments of about 40 byzantine churches, mostly converted into mosques. Highlights are the amazing Hagia Sofia cathedral and the mosacis of the Chora monastery. More monuments can be found at the ruins of Ephesus and Ani, in Trabzon, and at the mountain churches of Goreme in Cappadocia.

 

Istanbul (Turkey), Hagia Sofia : exterior

 

Istanbul (Turkey), Hagia Sofia : interior

 

Istanbul (Turkey), Hagia Sofia : dome

 

Istanbul (Turkey), Chora monastry (Kariye Camii) : exterior

 

Istanbul (Turkey), Chora monastry (Kariye Camii) : mosaics

 

Istanbul (Turkey), Pammakaritos church (Fethiye Camii) : exterior

 

Istanbul (Turkey), Pammakaritos church (Fethiye Camii) : mosaics

 

Istanbul (Turkey), Hagia Eirene

 

Istanbul (Turkey), St Sergius and Bacchus (Kucuk Aya Sofia)

 

Istanbul (Turkey), Pantocrator church (Zeyrek Camii)

 

Istanbul (Turkey), Yerebatan Sarayi (Basilica Cistern)

 

GREECE
Greece was at the heart of the byzantine empire and retains many small churches and larger monasteries. Most important monuments: Athens and Thessaloniki (both preserve many byzantine churches), the inland monasteries of Daphni and Hosios Loukas, the mountain monasteries of Meteora, the late-byzantine churches of Mystras and the church of Monemvasia.

 

Athens (Greece), Agii Apostoli : exterior

 

Athens (Greece), Agii Apostoli : dome

 

Athens (Greece), Kapnikarea

 

Athens (Greece), Mitropolis

 

Thessaloniki (Greece), St Demetrius

 

Hosios Loukas (Greece)

 

Hosios Loukas (Greece)

 

Meteora (Greece)

 

Meteora (Greece)

 

Mystras (Greece), Agi Theodori

 

Mystras (Greece), Pantanassa

 

Mystras (Greece), Panagia Odigetria

 

Mystras (Greece), Agia Sophia

 

 

ITALY
The most important monuments are located in Ravenna and Rome, refer to the dedicated pages for a detailed desciption. In the north, San Marco at Venice and Torcello in the Venetian laguna are not to be missed. In the south, Stilo in Calabria and the churches at Sicily such as Palermo and Cefalu present a very distinct arab-norman byzantine style.

 

Ravenna (Italy), S. Apollinare in Classe

 

Ravenna (Italy), S. Vitale

 

Ravenna (Italy), S. Apollinare Nuovo

 

Ravenna (Italy), Battistero degli Ariani

 

Roma (Italy), S. Prassede

 

Roma (Italy), S. Lorenzo

 

Roma (Italy), S. Maria in Domnica

 

Venezia (Italy), S. Marco

 

Venezia (Italy), S. Marco

 

Torcello (Italy)

 

Napoli (Italy), Duomo

 

Palermo (Sicilia), cathedral

 

Palermo (Sicilia), Cappella Palatina

 

Palermo (Sicilia), Martorana (S. Maria dell'Ammiraglio)

 

 

CROATIA
The Euphrasian basilica in Porec is the most important byzantine church in Croatia. Smaller examples can be found in Pula or Nin.

Porec (Croatia), Euphrasian basilica

 

Porec (Croatia), interior

 

Porec (Croatia), apse mosaics

 

 

BULGARIA & MACEDONIA
The most important monuments of Bulgaria are the churches of Sofia and Nessebar. In Macedonia, many smaller churches can be found, for example in Ohrid (various monuments) and Gorno Nerezi (near Skopje).

Sofia (Bulgaria), St-George

 

Ohrid (Macedonia), S. Sofia

 

Ohrid (Macedonia), S. Sofia

 

Ohrid (Macedonia), S. Jovan Kaneo

 

Ohrid (Macedonia), S. Bogorodica Peribleptos

 

Ohrid (Macedonia), S. Bogorodica Peribleptos

 

Ohrid (Macedonia), Plaosnik baptistry

 

Ohrid (Macedonia), S. Naum

 

Kurbinovo (Macedonia), S. George

 

 

RUSSIA & UKRAINE
The most important byzantine monuments of Russia are located in Vladimir and around the town of Novgorod. In Ukraine, the churches of Kiev and Chernihiv are remarkable examples of the Orthodox byzantine style.

Novgorod (Russia), St Sofia

 

ARMENIA & GEORGIA
Many small hilltop monasteries in deserted rough landscapes. Very particular style and decoration. Most important monuments in Armenia: the churches of Edjmiadzin, Geghard, Hagardzin, Haghbat, Sanahin and Zvartnots. In Georgia: Alaverdi, Gelati, Jvari, Kutaisi and Mtskheta.

Edjmiadzin (Armenia), St-Hripsime

 

Geghard (Armenia)

 

Zvartnots (Armenia)

 

Hagardzin (Armenia)

 

Haghbat (Armenia)

 

Mtskheta (Georgia)

 

Kutaisi (Georgia), Bagrati Cathedral

 

Gelati (Georgia)

 

Alaverdi (Georgia)

 

OTHER COUNTRIES
Byzantine monuments can be found in many other countries in eastern Europe and Asia Minor, including Romania, Serbia, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordania and Syria. Great variety in styles, architecture and decoration.

Kyrenia (Cyprus)

 

Lambousa (Cyprus)

 

Jerusalem (Israel), St Sepulchre

 

Rasafa (Syria), St Sergius

 

 

 

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