. BYZANTINE ARCHITECTURE - ArchiCrew India | Architectural Case Studies Library | आर्किटेक्चर ब्लॉग -->


( 330 – 1453 & LATER )

·         Byzantium , renamed Constantinople after Constantine the Great, its imperial founder
·         Also called New Rome , was the capital of the Roman empire in 330
·         It stood at the junction o Bosporus and the Sea of Marmora, where Europe and Asia are divided by only a narrow strip o water
·         It was also at the intersection of two great highways of commerce
o   The water highway between Black Sea and Mediterranean
o   The trade route between Asia and Europe
·         Constantinople had no good building stone and local materials such as clay or bricks and rubble or concrete were imported
·         Other materials more monumental in character had therefore be imported
-          Marble was brought from the quarries in the islands and along the shores of Constantinople
·         Byzantine architecture was further considerably influenced by multitude of monolithic columns of such sizes as were obtainable from the different quarries
·         The Romans adopted their methods of building to suit the need of the new Eastern capital and to those of life which had already created traditional forms o art
-          Flat roofs for summer resort were combined with dome
-          Small windows often high up in otherwise unbroken walls formed chief feature of this style
·         Christianity for a time was the chief religion of Constantinople
-          New churches for this new religion came under the influence of their environment and so the Early Christian type of church was merged in the domical Byzantine type which had originated further in the east
·         Disputes and differences soon sprung up in the church and became so rife that  the Council of Nicea was only the first of the series called to suppress heresies
·         The political division between East and West was followed by  a division of Churches due to the “Filioque” controversy which rose in AD 589 and eventually culminated in the “Great Schism” in AD 1014
-          The Western Church held that the Spirit proceeded from the Father and Son, while the Eastern Church maintained that the Spirit proceeded from the Father only
·         The Eastern and Western churches had been further divided by the “Iconoclastic Movement” which resulted from the decree of the Eastern Emperor Leo III who, fearing that paganism would be fostered by the use of sculpture, proscribed all representations of human or animal forms
-          Many Greek artist thereupon left Constantinople or Italy
-          Movement resulted in the admission of painted figures in the decoration of the churches, but all sculptured statues were still excluded
·         Byzantine architecture devoid of statues, has always been and still remains the official style of the Greek or Orthodox Church of Eastern Europe which has conserved unchanged its doctrines and ritual, and therefore the architecture also became stereotype
·         Byzantine architecture is characterized by the novel development of the dome to cover either polygonal or square plans for churches, tombs and monasteries
·         The practice of using a domical system of roof construction is in contrast to the Early Christian timber trusses and the Romanesque system of stone vaults
·         The domed, “centralized “ plan belongs to the Byzantine in contrast  to the basilican type of plan of the Early Christians
·         The system of construction in “ hand laid concrete” introduced by the Romans was adopted by the Byzantines
·         The Byzantines took great pains in the manufacture of bricks which were employed alike military, ecclesiastical and domestic architecture
-          The ordinary bricks were like the Romans, about 38 mm ( 1 ½” ) in depth, and were laid on thick bed of mortar
-          Composed of lime and sand with crushed pottery, tiles or bricks and much of it remains as hard as that in the best buildings in Rome
-          Were not always laid horizontally, but sometimes in the form of meander fret, sometimes in the chevron or herring bone pattern and in many other similar designs
-          Rough brick exteriors were used on decorative arches and stone blocks ·         The dome which had been the traditional feature in the east became the prevailing motif of Byzantine Architecture
-          The fusion of the domical construction with the classical columnar style
-          Domes on various types were placed over square compartments by means of pendentives whereas in Roman architecture domes were only used over circular or polygonal structures
-          Usually constructed of bricks or of some light porous stones such as pumice or even of pottery
·         Windows were formed in the lower portion of the dome, a feature which was further developed in the Western Renaissance
·         The grouping of small domes or semi domes round large central dome was one of the characteristic feature o f Byzantine Architecture
·         Vaults and domes were visible externally, undisguised by any timber roof, thus in the Byzantine architecture the exterior closely resembles/corresponds with the exterior
·         The Byzantine capital ( dosseret block ) was shaped to form a simple transition from the square abacus to the circular shaft
·         Monolithic shafts which were lengthy had to be supported by bronze annulets to protect from splitting and prevent lead “seating”  from being forced out by the superincumbent weight
·         The interiors were beautified by pavements in “opus sectile” and” opus alexandrinum “
·         Domes and apses are decorated by colored mosaics which were rendered opaque by “oxide of tin “
·         Mouldings are replaced by “decorative bands” form in the mosaics
·         In the late examples fresco paintings were often used instead of mosaic. Pictures were arranged in a special order
a. The Bust of Christ – occupied the domeb. Four Evangelist – set in the pendentivesc. Virgin and the Child – located in the apsed. Saints and incident in the life of Jesus – all around walls  ·         The character of Byzantine Architecture shows development in its three main periods
1. 330-850 – including the reign of Justinian2. 850-1200 – including the Macedonian and Comnenian Dynasty3. 1200 to present

·         Byzantine churches are distinguished by the “centralized” type of plan, having a dome over the nave which is sometimes supported by semi domes
·         There is usually the narthex or entrance porch at the west and the east end is cut off from the nave by an “iconostas” or screen of pictures
·         Was built for Justinian by Architects Anthemius of Tralles and Isodorus of Miletus
·         The most important church in Constantinople
·         The noble atrium forming the approach of the church led through the great triple portal to the outer narthex, beyond is the main imposing main narthex, 61.00 m x 9.00 m, which is in two storeys, the lower of which is used by catachumens and penitents, while the upper forms part of the church gallery
·         The plan consist of a central space 32.60 m2 with four (4) massive stone piers, 7.60 m x 18.3 m, supporting four (4) semi circular arches upon which rest the dome, 32.6 m in diameter and 54.80 m above the ground
·         East and west of this central area are hemicycle, crowned with semi domes, the space thus enclosed forming a great oval 68.60 m x 32.60 m
·         The great hemi cycles are flanked by “exedrae” with semi domes and at the extreme east is the apse
·         North and south of the nave are two storeyed aisles over 15.20 m wide, the upper storey being the “gynaeceum” or women’s gallery
·         The main building is approximately square which, excluding the eastern apse and narthex measures 76.20m x 67.00 m
·         The two principal semi domes, east and west, abut the great supporting arches and thus act as buttress to central dome
·         The monumental interior gives an impression of one vast dome space, with the great hemi cycles and exedrae is one of extreme intricacy, in spite of the simplicity o the general scheme
·         Gigantic pendentives to the central dome overhang about 7.60 m and are themselves over 18.30 m high, above which the dome rises only 15.20 m
·         The dome is constructed of bricks about 686mm (27 in ) square in the lower part and 610 mm ( 24 in ) square at the crown
·         Walls and piers are sheeted with marbles of : Phrygian white, Laconian Green, Libyan Blue, Celtic black besides Thessalian and Bosporus marbles all fixed with metal clips     ·         It is the supreme monument of Byzantine architecture and provided the model for many great mosque which were built after the Turkish capture
·         The building is now a museum
·         Was commissioned during the Episcopate of  Ecclesius at the time when Ravenna was under Ostro-Gothic domination
·         Was founded by Justinian to commemorate his recovery of Ravenna and was designed on the model of the “ Minerva Medica” of Rome
·         An inner octagon of 16.60 m is enclosed by outer octagon o 35.00 m
·         It resembles “Aix La Chapelle” in appearance which probably derive from it
·         Similar in plan with SS. Bachus and Sergius in plan, but consist of an octagon enclosed in a square
·         The dome is constructed of earthen pots fitted into each other, those in the upper part being laid horizontally , thus producing a lightness of structure which did not require arches and buttresses 
·         Reflects the art of Byzantium which was so largely influenced the architecture of Venice, situated midway between East and West
·         The glittering, resplendent west façade of the narthex faces the great Piazza of San Marco which like the Forum of the ancient Rome was the center of city life
·         This famous edifice stand on the site of the basilican church which was founded in 830 to receive the body of S. Mark and partially burnt down in 976
·         Between 1063 and 1085 the plan was completely transformed to resemble that of the Church o the Apostles, Constantinople
-          Transepts were added
-          The sanctuary was extended
-          The narthex was continued round the aisles
-          The interior altered from the basilican to the Byzantine plan of the Greek cross surmounted by domes
-          The plan has central dome, 12.80 m (42.00 ft ) in diameter over each arm of the cross
·         The interior is gorgeous in coloured marbles and brilliant glass mosaic which extending in one continuous surface over the vault and dome depict the following themes:
a)       Story of creation
b)       The fall of Man
c)       The Redemption
d)       The miracles of Christ
e)       The legends of the saints
·         The exterior dating mostly from the twelfth century with its five portals has remarkable coloured mosaic panels in the and spandrels o the great semi circular arches
·         The exterior has a character peculiar of its own, for it is a marvelous blending into one homogenous whole of a variety of features from many foreign lands:
a)       Bronze horses from the triumphal arch of Nero
b)       Columns of porphyry, alabaster and verde antico from Constantinople and Alexandria
c)       Coloured marble facing from  Eastern cities  ·         In the thirteenth century a crown of gold was given to the building by the unique timber domes and finally in the fifteenth century, the façade was further embellished by Gothic canopied niches, ogee arches and crocketed pinnacles   
·         Founded by Constantine the Great
·         Was rebuilt by Justinian and destroyed in 1463 to make way or the mosque of Sultan Mohammed II
·         Has five domes that are said to be prototype of S. Mark, Venice and S. Front, Perigeux
·         The smallest cathedral in the world
·         It measures only 11.60 m x 7.60 m ( 38 ft x 25 ft )
·         The dome is supported on a high octagonal drum is only 2.70 m ( 9 ft ) in diameter
·         Its façade is largely made up of miscellaneous marbles from old Greek buildings
6. S. FRONT, PERIGEUX·         Almost identical in plan of S. Mark, Venice
·         An interesting product of Byzantine influence carried west along trade routes by Venetian merchants
·         Now known as the Kilisse mosque is a perfect specimen of a typical small Byzantine church
·         Has double narthex crowned with domes leading into the nave 9.00 m square
·         Has central dome formed with flutings and set on a drum 4.00 m in diameter
·         The plan is what commonly known as “cross in square” and is the characteristic of the later development of the style
1. Pendentive – the term applied to the triangular curved overhanging surface by means of which a circular dome is supported over a square or polygonal compartment2. Drum – the upright part below the dome or cupola, in which window might be placed to light the central area of the building3. Transept – the part of the cruciform church, projecting at right angles to the main building4. Iconastasis – a decorative screen inside the Byzantine church5. Opus alexandrinum – a mosaic of relatively small pieces of marble or stone cut to shape and arranged in geometric patterns, usually a mosaic pavement consisting of geometrical figures in black and red tesserae on white ground6. Opus sectile – a kind of pavement form of slabs or tiles of glass or other material, the pieces having a uniform size and being either plain colored or mottled and veined
1. Simple dome – dome and pendentive are on the same sphere2. Compound dome – (has two varieties )                2.1 Dome is not part of the same sphere as pendentives but rises independently above them                2.2 Dome is raised on a high ground pierced by windows3. Melon shaped dome – is characterized by the use of flutting treatment on its outer surface   

A. Plans·         The domical method of construction governs the plan of Byzantine churches , which are all distinguished by central space covered with a dome on pendentives
·         Short arms on each side form a Greek cross, and filling in of the angles brings the plan nearly to a square
·         The opposite the entrance was the apse or the altar in the sanctuary, which was screened off by the characteristic “Iconostasis” with its three doors , and there was also lateral ritual chapels
·         The essential difference in plan between a Byzantine and Early Christian churches may be summed up as follows
-          Byzantine churches , unlike Early Christian churches with their campanili had no bell towers
-          The Byzantine church, because of the grouping of subsidiary domes round a central dome, gives a vertical impression; for the eye is gradually drawn upwards towards the central culminating dome
-          Early Christian church because of the vista of columns, entablatures, and simple timber roof gives a horizontal impression; for the eye is led along these horizontal lines to the apsidal sanctuary which is the important feature
B. Walls
·         Walls were usually constructed of brick and internally encrusted with rich colored marbles and shining glass mosaic, which swept from wall to arch and arch to vault almost to the exclusion of moldings and sculptured ornament
·         External walls were comparatively plain and depended largely for effect on the brilliant oriental sunshine which clothed them with garment of glowing colors
C. Openings
·         Arcades of semi circular arches were employed in churches to support galleries
·         Doors are usually spanned by semicircular arches, but flat, segmental and horse shoe arches were also used
·         Windows similarly spanned, are small and grouped together while sometimes they are arranged in tiers within the semicircular arch beneath the dome.
·         Windows are small, as to make the interior restful and cool , in contrast to the external glare of the Eastern sun
D. Roofs
·         The method of roofing was by domes of brick, stone or concrete , often with no further covering
·         The Byzantines practiced the system of placing the dome over a square or octagon by means of pendentives which had only been employed tentatively by the Romans as in Minerva Medica, Rome
E. Columns
·         Columns were used constructively but were always subordinate features and generally introduced to support galleries as massive piers and walls supported the superstructure
·         In the first instance, columns were taken from ancient buildings, but these were not so numerous in the East and therefore  the supply was sooner exhausted and that provided opportunity to design monolithic shafts
·         For capitals, the Roman Ionic, Corinthian and Composite types were sometimes used
·         The “dosseret block” was designed to carry a rising arch, a new invention which performed the function of enlarging the surface of the capital to support the wide voussoirs of the arch or a thick wall
·         Bird and basket capital was also a popular type
                                                                                                                               F. Mouldings
·         Mouldings were little used because the marble and mosaic wall lining ran continuously over the surface wall and arches
·         Internally, decorative panels o marble and mosaic were sometimes framed in billet mouldings
·         Flat stone bandings lush with the wall surface were used instead of string courses and cornices
G. Ornament
·         Scheme of ornamentation was elaborate
·         Internal walls were lined with costly marbles with veining carefully arranged to form patterns
·         Vaults and upper walls were sheathed with glass mosaic pictures o symbolic figures, group of saints, the peacock as the emblem o immortal life, endless knot as the emblem of eternity, and the sacred monogram of Christ – all forming a striking contrast to the less permanent fresco paintings of Romanesque churches
·         Byzantine pavements of many colored marbles and mosaics were carried out in great variety such as opus sectile and opus alexandrinum
·         The great characteristic of Byzantine ornament as compared with classical is that the pattern is incised instead of raised and was cut into the surface without breaking the general outline
·         Figure sculpture was not allowed by the Greek church, as it was held to savour of idolatry, and so this was an additional reason for the Byzantine type of decoration which expressed itself in flat coloured pictures and not in raised sculptured figures.  


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