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Originally appearing in Volume V02, Page 388 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BYZANTINE ARCHITECTURE The term " Byzantine " is applied to the style of architecture which was developed in Byzantium after Constantine had transferred the capital of the Roman empire to that city in A.D. 324. It is not possible, in the early ages of any style which is based on preceding or contemporaneous styles, to draw any hard and fast line of demarcation; and already before the Peace of the Church, a gradual transformation in the Roman style had been taking place, even in Rome itself. Thus the arch had gradually been taking the place of the lintel, either frankly as a relieving arch above it (portico of Pantheon), or introduced in the frieze just above the architrave (San Lorenzo), or by the conversion of the architrave into a flat arch by dividing it into voussoirs, as in the Forum Julium at Rome or in the temple of Jupiter at Baalbek. In the palace built by Diocletian at Spalato, the architrave or lintel of the Golden Gate is built with several voussoirs, and the pressure is further relieved by an arch thrown across above it. Long before this, however, and already in the 2nd century A.D. in Syria, this relieving arch had been moulded and decorated, with the result of emphasizing it as a new architectural feature. In this same palace at Spalato, in order to obtain a wider opening in the centre of the portico, leading to the throne room, it was spanned by an arch, round which were carried the II mouldings of the whole entablature, viz. architrave, frieze and cornice. At a still earlier date in Syria the same had been done in the Propylaea of the temple at Damascus (A.D. 151) and other examples are found in North Africa. Now when Constantine transferred the capital to Byzantium, he is said to have imported immense quantities of monolith columns from Rome, and also workmen to carry out the embellishments of the new capital; for his work there was not confined to churches, but included amphitheatres, palaces, thermae and other public buildings. Owing to the haste with which these were built, and in some cases probably to the ephemeral materials employed, for the roofs of the churches were only in timber, all these early works have been swept away; but there remain two structures at least, which are said to date from Constantine's time, viz. the Binbirderek or cistern of a thousand columns, and the Yeri-Batan-Serai, both in Constantinople. As one of the first tasks a Roman emperor set himself to perform was the provision of an ample supply of water, of which Byzantium was much in need, there is every reason to suppose that they are correctly attributed to Constantine's time. If so, as the construction of their vaults is quite different from that employed by the Romans, it suggests that there already existed in the East a traditional method of building vaults of whichthe emperor availed himself ; and, although it is not possible to trace all the earlier developments, the traditional art of the East, found throughout Syria and Asia Minor, must from the first have wrought great changes in the architectural style, and in some measure this would account for the comparatively shcrt period of two centuries which elapsed between the foundation of the new empire and the culminating period of the style under Justinian in AD. 532-558. Constantine is said to have built three churches in Palestine, but these have either disappeared or have been reconstructed since; an early basilican church is that of St John Studius (the Baptist) in Constantinople, dating from A.D. 463, and though it shows but little deviation from classic examples, in the design and vigorous execution of the carving in the capitals and the entablature we find the germ of the new style. The next typical example is that found in the church of St Demetrius at Salonica, a basilican church with atrium in front, a narthex, nave and double aisles, with capacious galleries on the first floor for women, and an apsidal termination to the nave. Instead of the classic entablature, the monolithic columns of the nave carry arches both on the ground and upper storeys; above the capitals, however, we find a new feature known as the dosseret, already employed in the two cisterns referred to, a cubical block projecting beyond the capital on each side and enabling it to carry a thicker wall above. In later examples, when the aisles were vaulted, the dosseret served a still more important purpose, in carrying the springing of the vaults. The nave and aisles of this church of St Demetrius were covered with timber roofs, as the architects had neither the knowledge, the skill, nor perhaps the materials to build vaults, so as to render the whole church indestructible by fire. One of the first attempts at this (though the early date given is disputed) would seem to have been made at Hierapolis, on the borders of Phrygia in Asia Minor, where there are two churches covered with barrel vaults carried on transverse ribs across the nave, the thrust of which was met by carrying up solid walls on each side, these walls being pierced with open- ings so as to form aisles on the ground floor and galleries above. The same system was carried out a century earlier in central Syria, where, in consequence of the absence of timber, the buildings had to be roofed with slabs of stone carried on arches across thenave. It is probable that in course of time other examples will be found in Asia Minor, giving a more definite clue to the next development, which we find in the work of Justinian, who would seem to have recognized that the employ- ment timber or combustible Scale of Feet mater s was fatal to the long 0 10 20 30 40 50 60+ duration of such buildings. Accord-FIG. 27.-Plan of SS. Sergius ingly in the first church which he and Bacchus. built (fig. 27), that of SS. Sergius and Bacchus (A.D. 527), the whole building is vaulted; the church is about loo ft. square, with a narthex on one side. The central portion of the church is octagonal (52 ft. wide), and is covered by a dome, carried on arches across the eight sides, which are filled in with columns on two storeys. These are recessed on the diagonal lines, forming apses. The vault is divided into thirty-two zones, the zones being alternately flat and concave. We now pass to Justinian's greatest work, the church of St Sophia (fig. 28), begun in 532 and dedicated in 537, which marks the highest development of the Byzantine style and became the model' on which all Greek churches, and even the mosques built bythe Mahommedans in Constantinople, from the 15th century on-wards, were based. The architects employed were Anthemius of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus, and the problem they had to solve was that of carrying a dome 107 ft. in diameter on four arches. The four arches formed a square on plan, and between them were built spherical pendentives, which, overhanging the angles, reduced the centre to a circle on which the dome was built. This dome fell down in 555, and when rebuilt was raised higher and pierced round its lower part with forty circular-headed windows, which give an extraordinary lightness to the structure. At the east and west ends are immense apses, the full width of the dome, which are again subdivided into three smaller apses. The north and south arches are filled with lofty columns carrying arches opening into the aisle on the ground storey and a gallery on the upper storey, the walls above being pierced with windows of immense size. The church was built in brick, and internally the walls were encased with thin slabs of precious marble up to a great height (fig. 29). The walls and vault above were covered with mosaics on a gold ground, which, as they represented Christian subjects, were all covered over with stucco by the Turks after the taking of Constantinople. During the restoration in the middle of the 19th century, when it became necessary to strip off the stucco, these mosaics were all drawn and published by Salzenburg, and they were covered again with plaster to prevent their destruction by the Turks. The columns of the whole church on the ground floor are of porphyry, and on the upper storey of verd antique. The length of the church from entrance door to eastern apse is 26o ft.; in width, including the aisles, it measures 238 ft., and it measures 175 ft. to the apex of the dome. The columns and arches give scale to the small apses, the small apses to the larger ones, and the latter to the dome, so that its immense size is grasped from the first. The lighting is admirably distributed, and the rich decoration of the marble slabs, the monolith columns, the elaborate carving of the capitals, the beautiful marble inlays of the spandrils above the arches, and the glimpse here and there of some of the mosaic, which shows through the stucco, give to this church an effect which is unparalleled by any other interior in the world. The narthex or entrance vestibule forms a magnificent hall 240 ft. in length, equally richly decorated. Externally the building has little pretensions to architectural beauty, but its dimensions and varied outline, with the groups of smaller and larger apses and domes, make it an impressive structure, to which the Turkish minarets, though ungainly, add picturesqueness. In A.D. 536 a second important church was begun by Theodora, the church of the IToly Apostles, which was destroyed in 1454 by order of Mahommed II. to build his mosque. The design of this church is.known only from the clear description given by Procopius, the historian who has transmitted to us the record of Justinian's work, and its chief interest to us now is that it forms the model on which the church of St Mark at Venice was based, when it was restored, added to, and almost rebuilt about 1063. The church of St Sophia was not only the finest of its kind at the time of its erection, but no building approaching it has ever been built since in the Byzantine style, nor does much seem to have been done for two or three centuries afterwards. At the same time the erection of new churches must have been going on, because there are certain changes in design, the results probably of many trials. The difficulty of obtaining sufficient light in domes of small diameter led to the windows being placed in vertical drums, of which the earliest example is that of the western dome of St Irene at Constantinople, rebuilt A.D. 718-740. This simplified the construction and externally added to the effect of the church. The greatest change, however, which took place, arose in consequence of the comparatively small dimensions given to the central dome, which rendered it necessary to provide more space in another way, by increasing the area on each side,sc that the plan developed into what is known as the Greek cross, in which the four arms are almost equal in dimensions to the central dome, and were covered with barrel vaults which amply resisted its thrust. In front of the church a narthex and sometimes an exonarthex was added, which was of greater width than the church itself, as in the churches (both in Constantinople) of the Theotokos and of Chora (A.D. Io8o). The latter, better known as the " mosaic mosque," on account of its splendid decoration in that material, is of special interest, because in the five arches of its facade we find the same design as that which originally constituted the front of the lower part of St Mark's at Venice, before it was encrusted with the marble casing and the plethora of marble columns and capitals brought over from Constantinople. Sometimes an additional church was built adjoining the first church and dedicated to the immaculate Virgin, as in the church of St Mary Panachrantos, Constantinople, the church of St Luke of Stiris, Phocis, and the church in the island of Paros. In the last-named church the apse still retains its marble seats, rising one above the other, with the bishop's throne in the centre. In addition to the churches already mentioned in Constantinople, there are still some which have been appropriated by the Turks and utilized as mosques. At Mount Athos there are a large number of Greek churches, ranging from the loth to the 16th centuries, which are attached to the monasteries. At Athens one of the most beautiful examples is preserved in the Catholicon or cathedral, the materials of which were taken from older classical buildings. This cathedral measures only 40 ft. by 25 ft., and is now overpowered by the new cathedral erected close by. The external design of the Byzantine churches, as a rule, is extremely simple, but it owes its quality to the fact that its features are those which arise out of the natural construction of the church. The domes, the semi-domes over the apses, and the barrel vaults over other parts of the church, appear externally as well as internally, and as they are all covered with lead or with tiles, laid direct on the vaults, they give character to the design and an extremely picturesque effect. The same principle is observed in the doorways and windows, to which importance is given by accentuating their constructivefeatures. The arches, always in brick, are of two orders or rings of arches set one behind the other, and the voussoirs, alternately in brick and stone, have the most pleasing effect. The same simple treatment is given to the walls by the horizontal courses of bricks or tiles, alternating with the stone courses. In the apse of the church of the Apostles at Salonica, variety is given by the interlacing of brick patterns. This elaboration of the surface decoration is carried still further in the palace of Hebdomon at Blachernae, in Constantinople, built by Constantine Porphyrogenitus (913-949), where the spandrils of the arches are inlaid with a mosaic of bricks in various colours arranged in various patterns. There would seem to have been a revival in the 11th century, possibly a reflex of that which was taking place in Europe, and it is to this period we owe the churches of St Luke in Phocis, the church at Daphne, and the churches of St Nicodemus and St Theodore in Athens. The finest example of brick patterns is that which is found in the church of St Luke of Stiris, attached to the monastery in the province of Phocis, north of the Gulf of Corinth, of which an admirable monograph was published in 1901 by the committee of the British School at Athens, illustrated by measured drawings of the plans, elevations, sections and mosaics by Messrs Schultz and Barnsley, with a detailed description. The church of St Luke of Stiris is one of those already referred to, where a second church dedicated to the Holy Virgin has been added, but in this case, according to Messrs Schultz and Barnsley, on the site of a more ancient church of which the narthex alone was retained. The plan of the great church differs from the ordinary Greek cross in that the arms of the cross are of much less width than the central domed square, and arches being thrown across the angles carry eight pendentives instead of four. On the east side the Diaconicon and Prothesis are included in the width of the domed portion instead of forming the eastern termination of the aisles. The churches at Daphne in Attica and of St Nicodemus at Athens have a similar plan. The decoration of the smaller church of St Luke of Stiris is of the most elaborate character, bright patterns of infinite variety alternating with the brick courses, and as blocks of marble, removed from the site of the old city near, were available, they have been utilized in various parts of the structure and richly carved. The church at Mistra in the Peloponnesus, 13th century, built in the side of a hill, is one of the most picturesque examples, and is almost the only example in which a tower is to be found. Armenia.—One other phase of the Byzantine style has still to be mentioned, the development of church architecture in Armenia, which follows very much on the same lines as that of the Greek church, with a central dome on the crossing, a narthex at the west end and a triapsal east end. In two churches at Echmiadzin and Kutais there are transeptal apses in addition to those at the east end. One of the differences to he noted is that the domes and roofs are generally in stone externally, and this has led to another change; the domes, though hemispherical inside, have conical roofs over them. There is also a greater admixture of styles, the Persian, Byzantine and Romanesque phases entering into the design; the last was probably derived from the churches of central Syria, as the Armenians were the only race who seem to have Penetrated there, and the finest example, at Kalat Seman, was at one time in their possession. The church at Dighur near Ani, of the 7th century, also probably owes its classical details to the work in central Syria. The most important example of the Armenian style is found in the cathedral at Ani, the capital of Armenia, dating from A.D. 1010. In this church pointed arches and coupled piers are found, with all the characteristics of a complete pointed-arch style, which, as Fergusson remarks, " might be found in Italy or Sicily in the 12th or 14th century." Externally the walls are decorated with lofty blind arcades similar to those in the cathedral at Pisa and other churches in the same town, which are Probably fifty years later. The elaborate fret carving of the window dressings and hcod moulds are probably borrowed from the tile decoration found in Persia. Russia.—The architecture of Russia is only a somewhat degraded version of the style of the Byzantine empire. The earliest buildings of importance are the cathedrals of Kiev and Novgorod, 1019-1054. The original church of Kiev consisted of nave, with triple aisles each side, the piers in which are of enormous size, a transept and square bays of the choir beyond, each with deep apsidal chapels. Externally the chief features are the bulbous domes adopted from the Tatars, which sometimes assume great dimensions. Internally, the chief feature is the Iconostasis, which corresponds to the English rood screen, except that in Russia it forms a complete separation between the church and the sanctuary with its altar. One of the most remarkable churches is that of St Basil at Moscow (1534-1584), which in plan looks like a central hall, surrounded by eight other halls of smaller dimensions, all separated one from the other by vaulted corridors; this arrangement is not intelligible until one sees the exterior view, which accounts for the plan; each one of these halls is crowned by lofty towers with bulbous domes, the centre one rising above all the others and terminated with an octagonal roof, probably derived from the Armenian conical roof. "I he oldest and most interesting church in Moscow is the church of the Assumption (1479), where the tsars are always crowned; but as it measures only 74 ft. by 50 ft., it is virtually little more than a chapel; the plan is that of a Greek cross with central dome and four others over the angles. One other church deserves mention—at Curtea de Argesh, in Rumania. It was built in 1517–1526, and though small (90 by 5o ft.), is built entirely of stone, instead of brick covered with stucco, as is the case with the churches in Moscow. The interior has been entirely sacrificed to the exterior, the domes being raised to an extravagant height. The relative proportion of width of nave to height of dome in St Sophia at Constantinople is about one to two; in the church at Curtea de Argesh it is about one to five; and yet there can be little doubt the design was made by one of those Armenian architects who seem to have been always employed at Constantinople, and who presumably based their designs there on St Sophia as regards its principal features. Here, however, he was working for Tatar employers who attached more importance to display than to good proportion. In general design the church is based on Armenian work. The elaborately carved panels and disks are copied from the inlays in the mosques in Damascus and of Sultan Hassan at Cairo, and the stalactite cornices and capitals of the columns are transcripts of the Mahommedan style of Constantinople, which was derived from the style developed by the Seljuks. We were only able to point to a single example of a tower in the Byzantine style, but in Russia the towers not only constitute the principal accessory to the church but were necessary adjuncts, in order to provide accommodation for bells, the casting of which has at all times formed one of the most important crafts in Russia. The chief examples, all in Moscow, are the tower attached to the church of the Assumption; the tower of Boris, inside the Kremlin; and that erected over the sacred gate of the same. But they abound throughout Russia; and in some cases form important features in the principal elevations on either side of the narthex. (R. P. S.)
End of Article: BYZANTINE

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