San Vitale (525-547) in Ravenna known for its interior of brilliant mosaics made of coloured glass tessarae pressed into wet plaster. The irregular surface glitters as candles pass by.
Emperor Justinian and His Attendants – 547ad
This is an enlargement of the mosaic of Emperor Justinian. He is shown with a halo to imply that he is God’s holy representative on earth and he is holy himself.
527 Justinian ascended throne - Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire)
Capital = Constantinople
politician and general recaptured most of southern Italy and established Ravenna as new center of power.
Justinian’s reign began the Golden Age of Byzantine culture and art.
Built large number of churches in Ravenna.
plain brick exterior, brilliant mosaics on the inside.
Series of small mosaics from San Vitale in Ravenna
Mosaic detail of Saint Andrew and fisherman, before 526 A.D. Also from the top row, but reflects more of the traditional lively narrative than the previous mosaic. Here a colorful simple design with a sober rendering of masses.
Head of the Empress Theodora. Originally a north African actress, Theodora was considered no better than a prostitute, and yet she was apparently the real brains and power behind the imperial throne. Mother of pearl is used here as tesserae. The goal of hieratic decorative pattern overcomes naturalism.
Theodora’s Lady in Waiting
Hagia Sophia – Byzantine basilica built 532-537
A plan of the original architecture of Hagia Sophia
The Pantheon, Rome. 118 - 25 AD .
The dome of the Pantheon rested on a drum-like structure, but supporting all of the parts of a circle by a square had not been solve aesthetically by this time.
Dome is supported by 4 pendentives which are themselves supported by 4 piers. A continual circle is created on which the dome rests. A row of arched windows creates a window wall giving the illusion of the dome floating above.
The pendentives support the circular base of the huge central dome.
Interior space is overpowering – 80 meters long, 40 meters wide, with the dome rising 50 meters above the floor. Interiors were covered with Byzantine mosaics in brilliant colours & gold and light filtered down through many windows.
U.S Capital Building
In 1453, the Turkish Moslems conquered Constantinople and changed the church into a mosque. Minarets or thin bell towers were erected. The mosaics were either scraped off or plastered over. In 1933 it became a museum and the mosaics were rediscovered underneath.
Christ is shown holding a closed Book of the Gospels and making the sign of the benediction. He has a compassionate and loving look.
In the year 843 – 2 nd Golden Age of Byzantium. St. Mark’s in Venice begun 1063 was largest and most decorated of this age. It was built to hold the body of St. Mark brought from Alexandria. It has the typical Greek / Eastern European central cross plan but each arm has a dome of its own as well as the usual central dome.
San Marco di Venezia, as seen from the Piazza San Marco
Interior of St. Mark’s in Venice
Cathedral of St. Basil in Moscow an example of Byzantine architecture embellished by Eastern Europe. The interior is filled with icons : mosaics and paintings of saints and apostles. Icons were often painted on wooden panels.
Byzantine artists used egg tempera as their medium often mixing it with gold. The faces and hands are fairly realistic but poses are symbolic. The robes appear flat with graphic bold lines to give the impression of folds. The perspective was not correct but in Byzantine tradition, the meaning is more important than the realistic rendition. The Madonna Enthroned