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Cultural Studies I

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  1. Cultural Studies I Byzantium – Chapter 10 November 2010

  2. Byzantium becomes Constantinople • The city of Byzantium was a relatively unimportant harbor city before the arrival of Constantine, the first Christian ruler of the Roman Empire • Emperor Constantine shifted his capital from Rome to Byzantium in 325 CE, which he renamed Constantinople • Why was the capital relocated? • 330 CE, Roman Empire in severe economic and political decline, Rome was disease-ridden • The city was so weakened that it was sacked several times (first for 800 years) • Strategic military location and central, surrounded by water

  3. Constantine’s capital • Constantine’s empire focused on the eastern Mediterranean (modern-day Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria) but its influence extended as far west as Spain, across north Africa, large parts of Italy and all of Greece • Constantinople had two roles: capital of the empire and center of the Christian church. How did these two roles affect the city itself? • As the capital of the empire, it was a city every bit as opulent as Rome: magnificent forums, elaborate baths, massive walls for defense, Roman palace and senate, Roman hippodrome – all but the basilicas decorated with pagan art taken from all Roman provinces and moved to the new capital. How did Christians in Constantinople respond to the presence of pagan art and sculpture? How did this change over time? (page 315) • Great basilicas were built to signify the city’s role as the center of Christian culture in the early Middle Ages • During the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe’s largest and wealthiest city • Constantinople lasted as the capital until 1453 when the Ottoman Turks conquered the city

  4. The walls of Constantinople • Built in 412 CE, the walls of Constantinople were impregnable against enemy attack until the 15th century, when Turkish Ottomans invaded using modern cannons • The walls are one of the most complex and elaborate systems ever built • Initially built by Constantine, the walls surrounded the city on all sides, protecting it against attack from both sea and land • They saved the city from many medieval attacks but when gunpowder and cannons began to be used, the walls became vulnerable

  5. Justinian and Theodora: Byzantine power couple • As a young emperor, Justinian and his wife Theodora launched a massive construction campaign to divert attention from domestic turmoil (warring gangs, riots, destruction in Constantinople) • Justinian asserted his political leadership but also ruled as a spiritual authority with a direct connection to god • Theodora was originally an actress but became a powerful queen – she did not fit a conventional understanding of women’s place in society, which she sought to improve: she shut down brothels, defended wronged women and influenced the passage of many laws to improve the status of women in the empire • The couple enjoyed a union of mutual respect and apparently equal status

  6. Byzantine art: a new standard of beauty • A new standard of beauty replaced the physical ideal of Classical art with the representation of spiritual power • What does the above statement mean? How did the focus and purpose of art change during the Byzantine Empire?

  7. Byzantine art: a new standard of beauty • A new standard of beauty replaced the physical ideal of Classical art with the representation of spiritual power • What does the above statement mean? How did the focus and purpose of art change during the Byzantine Empire? • The validity and morality of representing the body was questioned during this time, resulting in the abandonment of the naturalism of Classical art • As the Empire gained control of territories in the west that had succumbed to Germanic invasion, the Byzantine style spread into the rest of Europe • The Byzantine style would endure for 1,000 years in Europe

  8. Constantinople -once fortified by walls that withstood attacks until the Turks captured it in 1453, after which it became a Muslim city -Constantinople was one of the richest and most cosmopolitan and sophisticated in the world – entertainment included chariot races, theatre productions -Justinian and Theodora, the notorious Empress and Emperor, constructed the Church of the Holy Wisdom, or Hagia Sophia

  9. Hagia Sophia, 532-37, Istanbul – built for Justinian and Theodora -masterpiece in Byzantine architecture -central dome is buttressed by smaller half domes -appears solid from the exterior -unlike the Roman Pantheon, which sits on a circular base, the dome of the Hagia Sophia sits on a square base supported by four large piers

  10. Hagia Sophia -while domed, it is not a centrally planned church due to the oval nave -single focus of attention as well as a great open space – combined the advantages of the longitudinal basilica plan with those of the domes central plan

  11. -lofty interior -dome seems to float -transition from circle to square supported by pendentives, pieces of triangular supporting masonry -the dome that rises from these pendentives has 40 windows, creating a circle of light that makes the dome appear to float -the dome is 184 feet high (41 feet higher than the Pantheon)

  12. Beneath the arches are ‘conch domes’ (half domes), semi-circular structures that spread out from a central dome, extending the space • The succession of curving spaces draws the visitor’s eye both upward to the symbolically heavenly space of the dome and forward to the sanctuary apse where the altar is • The domes are believed to have been covered with gold mosaics – creating a magical celestial light

  13. San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy, 526-47 CE -typically plain, unadorned exterior

  14. Two centrally planned churches in early Christianity: Santa Costanza: Circular plan San Vitale: octagonal plan

  15. Minarets were added to the Hagia Sophia by Ottomans when they converted it into a mosque http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WW8zUDI27pU

  16. Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome – visitor’s eye drawn towards the altar

  17. Ravenna Constantinople

  18. San Vitale: -complex interior space -advantage of a central dome – creates a large covered space Disadvantage: visitor’s eye attracted up into the dome rather than toward the altar -Light enters on three levels -polished marble surfaces, glittering mosaics -why is there such a contrast between the interior and exterior?

  19. San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy – How can we characterize the depictions of people?

  20. Empress Theodora • -typically Byzantine features: • Larges eyes • Small mouth • Long nose • Slender and weightless body • Drapery of dress gives no idea of the body underneath • Appears frozen • Lack of concern for realism

  21. Capitals of columns in Ravenna were designed to appear lace-like – masks the solidity and strength of the material

  22. Byzantine Mural Mosaics • Byzantine mosaics are made by embedding into soft cement or plaster squares of naturally colored stone with squares of opaque (as opposed to clear) glass, which offer a variety of vivid colors • The squares are called tesserae, from the Greek word meaning ‘squares’ • Gold tesserae were widely used in Byzantine mosaics – made by sandwiching gold leaf between two layers of glass • Artists first outlined the images on the wall, then covered areas with cement of plaster and adding the tesserae while each section was wet • Each tessera was set at a slight angle to the one adjacent to it so the light striking the squares would produce a shimmering, heavenly radiance

  23. Greek and Roman tesserae were set flat on a perfectly even surface – the materials were usually limited to pebble, stone and shell Byzantine tesserae set at angles produce a shimmering effect

  24. Greek and Roman tesserae were set flat on a perfectly even surface – the materials were usually limited to pebble, stone and shell Byzantine tesserae set at angles produce a shimmering effect

  25. Perspective and reverse perspective Reverse perspective, also called ‘Byzantine perspective’, is a convention of perspective drawing where the further the objects are, the larger they are drawn. The lines diverge against the horizon, rather than converge as in linear perspective.

  26. Justinian and Theodora had never actually set foot in San Vitale or even Ravenna. So why were they depicted in the mosaics in San Vitale?

  27. Justinian and Theodora had never actually set foot in San Vitale or even Ravenna. So why were they depicted in the mosaics in San Vitale? -a symbol of the relations between church and state in the Byzantine Empire

  28. The Later Byzantine Empire • In the 150 years following Justinian’s rule, there were multiple political and military setbacks for the Byzantines: • Germanic tribes overran Italy and the Balkans • Persian forces sacked Jerusalem in 614 • Most importantly, Islam emerged after the death of Muhammed in 632 • Byzantines re-captured Jerusalem in 620 only to lose it again to Muslim Arabs in 638 • Within two years, Muslim Arabs had conquered Syria, Palestine, and Iraq • In 542, the Byzantine army abandoned Alexandria • Muslims now controlled all of what was once Byzantine Asia Minor • Constantinople, still the center of the Byzantine Empire, was besieged twice but its invincible walls kept Muslim invaders out.

  29. The Byzantine Empire when Justinian became emperor (527), at his death (565) and later in 1355

  30. The Iconoclast Controversy • The rise of Islam as a powerful military and religious force had a powerful influence on Byzantine art. • As the Muslims gained power and converts, the Byzantine Emperor Leo III began to oppose the use of holy images. Why do you think he adopted this stance? • Muslims forbid images from mosques, and so the logic went, their military success against the Byzantine Empire was a sign of God’s approval of their religious practices a sign of God’s disapproval of Byzantium’s • Like Muslims, Leo argued that God had prohibited religious images in the Ten Commandments: • “Thou shalt not make any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth….”

  31. The era of iconoclasm • Iconoclasm comes from the Greek eikon (“icon” or “image”) and klao (to “break” or “destroy”) and was the practice of destroying religious images • 726 –Emperor Leo III ordered all icons in the Byzantine Empire destroyed – wall paintings were painted over, books burned, mosaics destroyed and reconstituted as crosses, sculptures smashed • What is happening in this image? • What were some reactions to the iconoclasts by the ‘iconophiles’ (literally ‘lovers of icons’)? The Crucifixion and Iconoclasts, Chludov Psalter, 870-75

  32. 843 – icons are restored to Orthodox worship • Iconoclasm would reappear several hundred years later during the Renaissance • The controversy affirmed the centrality of visual imagery in Western culture • The controversy also contributed to the radical division, or schism, between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church • The Great Schism of 1054 CE – the church split into two branches: 1) Eastern Church, based in Constantinople and lead by the patriarch 2) Roman church, lead by the pope Pope Benedict XVI, leader of the Catholic church Patriarch of Eastern Orthodox church, Bartholamew I

  33. Cultural differences between the churches: • Few in the west spoke Greek • Few in the east spoke Latin • Most Roman Catholics believed that images of God the Father, Christ, and the Virgin served to inspire reverence and piety, while most in the Eastern Orthodox church did not • Eastern Orthodox Church discouraged innovation to the point that its art remained remarkably consistent to modern times • In contrast, the church in the west was open to new artistic innovation, as we will see in later chapters

  34. Where are these Greek Orthodox churches?

  35. Where are these Greek Orthodox churches? (from bottom left: London, Tennessee, Alabama) What features make these churches recognizably Eastern Orthodox churches?

  36. The Icon in the Second Golden Age • After the Iconoclast Controversy, Macedonians headed by Basil I, gained power in the Byzantine Empire (867-1056) • The empire enjoyed a rebirth of art and architecture, often referred to as the Second Golden Age The empire was rather reduced (Turkey, Greece, southern Italy) and exerted influence over Russia, Ukraine, and Venice).

  37. The artists of the Byzantine Empire’s Macedonian era turned to classical and Justinian art for their church decoration – as a result, the traditional icon took on a more naturalistic air and an almost Hellenistic emotional appeal • Images of Christ on the cross had appeared occasionally in earlier centuries but after the iconoclast controversy, they appeared with greater frequency • The crucifixion found in the Church of Dormition at Daphni (near Athens, Greece) is a good example Second Golden Age Byzantine art • Traditional in its use of reverse perspective and its unrealistic spatial setting – uses gold tiles to create a ‘spiritual space’ • The nudity of Christ and the graceful gestures of the Virgin Mary and St. John and the draperies of their clothing are clearly inspired by classical Roman and Greek art (very different from the stiff folds of Justinian and Theodora mosaics in San Vitale) • Also, the human emotion displayed is also Classical rather than Byzantine

  38. Christ the Pantocrator Another innovation of the Byzantine Empire’s Second Golden Age is the icon of Christ the Pantocrator, literally means Lord or Master of Everything (the universe) A bearded Christ appeared earlier in Byzantine art (see figure 10.7, Transfiguration of Christ), the inspiration of this figure is the bearded Zeus of Classical art

  39. 2) What are the characteristics of the new Byzantine style of art? Why did Byzantine artists abandon the naturalism of classical Greek and Roman art? 3) What is the iconoclast controversy? How did it affect the arts, especially with regard to the differing attitudes toward the arts in the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches? 1) What is going on in this image?