Posted: May 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

The Byzantine Empire continues classical Roman and Early Christian traditions, blending them into a distictive church architecture and secoration that reflects an imperial, princely Christ and saints at the head of a theocratic society.



Include images of Christ, Mary, the apostles , rulers and various saints, Foliage, frets, waves, geometric designs, guilloches, lozenges, rosettes, and animals.


Early Byzantine architecture continues Late Roman and Early Christian forms, becoming distinctive by the 6th century with the building of Hagia Sophia (meaning “devine wisdome”). Innovations include the pendentive (a triangular carving form that allows construction of a circular dome over a square or rectangular base). Combined centralized and basilica plans in churches, and the skillful use of light as a mystical element.

Hagia Sofia, Istanbul

Public Buildings


Churches are most common, but Roman forms compatible with Byzantine culture continues, such as Baths and hippodromes.

St. Marks, Venice

Floor Plans

Church plans are symmetrical, ordered and often complex. Centralized plans with circular and polygonal forms are most common.

Hagia Sofia plan


Brick, which permits more plastic elevations, supersedes Roman concrete. Vaultes and domes are brick to eliminate centering. Iron tie0rods reinforce arches and vaults. Brick usually is covered with stucco, marble, stone, or mosaics.


Earlier churches are smooth, plain, and unadorned. Later ones are articulated with architectural elements. As time passes, they grow more complex in form following interior spaces movement in and out; circular or polygonal forms; and the repitition of walls, windows, arches, and other elements creates a lively, rhythmic pattern in middle and late Byzantine examples.

Palantine Chapel, Palermo


Usually unfluted with an inverted pyramidal impost block (which seperates the capital from the springing of the arch). Both impost block and capitals have simple profiles, but are covered with complex, elaborate, and pierced lacy undercut foliage or geometric shapes.


Round tops punctuate walls and domes, often placed in the drums of domes so the dome appears to float.


Sloped and gabled rooflines are complicated. Domes over plan centers or crossings are universal. Small chaples may be domed or simidomed.

Later russian interpretations


Church interiors are opulant, formal, and sumptuous. Surface decorations in rich colors and materials are typical. Paintings, mosaics, and/or marble panels that build on Early Christian forms cover floors, walls, and ceilings.

Public and Private Buildings


Incorperates various shades of gold, red, green, and blue.


Patterns of marble, stone, or mosaics. Often in geometric forms.


Articulated with columns, pilasters, and cornices and/or are coverd with frescos, mosaics, marble panels, or hangings. Images of  devine persons, geometric forms, foliage, and christian symbols are common.

Palantine Chapel


Churches are noted for their mosaics that continue and develop further Early Christian forms and images. Have more gold and reflective surfaces as a symbol of christ as the light of the world.


Often numerous and made of glass or alabaster.


Iron, Bronze, or wood.


Centers or crossings of churches have domes surrounded by smaller domed and half-domed spaces. Central domes are supported by Pendentives. Almost all ceilings feature painted and mosaic decorations.

Hagia Sofia



Wood, metal, and ivory using simple construction. some pieces are jeweled or have gold and silver inlay.


Architectonic thrones and chairs are often illustrated in manuscripts, and the Maximus throne.  Some chairs, stoolsm and benches are X-shaped and often metal.


Silk and velvet are common materials, designs featuring animals, geometric, patterns, and Persian influences.

Decorative Arts

Elaborately decorated reliquaries hold religious objects of veneration. The richness of the details, jewel-encrusted surface treatments, and complex geometric carvings. Icons become increasingly important and feature stylized images of devine persons set against gold backgrounds. Ivory carvings often decorates book covers, plaques, and reliquaries.



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