1-10 of 32 results  for:

  • Art of the Middle East/North Africa x
  • Christian Art x
  • Architecture and Urban Planning x
Clear all

Article

Peter Grossmann

[Abū Mīnā]

Site of a Christian city and pilgrimage centre in the Maryūt Desert, c. 45 km south-west of Alexandria, Egypt. It grew up around the shrine of St Menas, who was martyred during the persecution of the Christians instigated by Diocletian (reg 285–305). The ancient name of the site is not known, and the position of the saint’s grave had been long forgotten until, according to legend, several miracle cures led to its rediscovery. The place then quickly developed into an increasingly major centre of pilgrimage where, among other things, the so-called Menas ampules were manufactured as pilgrim flasks and achieved particular renown. The first excavations of the site were undertaken by Kaufmann in 1905–7. Further excavations have been directed successively by the Coptic Museum in Cairo (1951), Schläger (1963 and 1964), Wolfgang Müller-Wiener (1965–7) and Peter Grossmann (since 1969).

The earliest archaeological remains date to the late 4th century, although the grave itself was in an older hypogeum. The first martyrium basilica erected over the grave dates to the first half of the 5th century and was rapidly enlarged by various reconstructions and extensions. Around the turn of the 5th and 6th centuries, the Great Basilica was added to the east in the form of a transept-basilica, making it the largest church in Egypt (...

Article

Lucy Der Manuelian

Island on Lake Van in south-eastern Turkey. It is the site of the church of the Holy Cross (Sourb Khatch), which was built in ad 915–21 as the palatine church of the Ardsruni king Gagik (reg 908–c. 943) of the Armenian kingdom of Vaspurakan. The church is of singular importance for the history of medieval art because of the form, content and iconography of its sculptural reliefs and wall paintings. It is the oldest surviving church almost entirely covered on the exterior with figural relief in stone (see Armenia, fig.).

According to information in a text of the late 18th century or early 19th and an inscription on the building’s façade now hidden by a gavit’ or assembly hall (1793; see Armenia, Republic of, §II), the church was built by the King’s Armenian architect Manuel (Lalayan, 1910). An anonymous continuator of the 10th-century ...

Article

Mary Gough

[Koca Kalesi]

Early Christian monastery on the southern slopes of the Taurus Mountains in Isauria, part of the Roman province of Cilicia in south-western Turkey. It is some 300 m above the main road between Silifke (anc. Seleucia) and Konya (anc. Iconium), 21 km north of Mut (anc. Claudiopolis). From two funerary inscriptions, pottery and coins, the monastery may be securely dated to the reigns of two Isaurian emperors, Leo (reg ad 457–74) and Zeno (reg 474–91).

The monastery was originally founded in a series of caves in a limestone outcrop at the west end of a narrow mountain ledge. The largest of these caves contained two rock-cut churches. The ledge was later enlarged by quarrying to the north and by the construction of a retaining wall to the south. The earliest building, immediately to the east of the caves, was the three-aisled Basilica. It was originally lavishly decorated, both inside and out, with architectural sculpture in a flowing naturalistic style, including plant forms, birds and fishes; figures occur only on the jambs and lintel of the main doorway between the narthex and the central aisle. On the west side of the lintel is a head of Christ set in a circle supported by angels, and at each end of the lintel and on the doorposts are four busts in high relief, possibly of the Evangelists. On the inner faces of the jambs are full-length figures of the archangels Michael and Gabriel in flat relief, while on the underside of the lintel is a remarkable relief of the four ...

Article

Lucy Der Manuelian and Armen Zarian

Town on the banks of the K‘asagh River, 20 km north-west of Erevan, Armenia. It is the site of several churches (5th–19th centuries) and a cemetery with khatchk‘ars (see Armenia, Republic of §IV 1.; Cross, §II, 4) of the 12th to the 14th century.

The earliest church is the three-aisled basilica of Tsiranavor, which was built in the 5th century and partially reconstructed in the 6th, probably by Catholicos Nerses II (reg 538–57), a native of Bagravand. It subsequently underwent numerous alterations and was finally left a ruin in 1815. Restoration work in 1963 revealed that the exterior walls, the apse area, the north pier bases and the south aisle and nave arcade have survived. Traces of the beginnings of the main vault can be seen at the west end.

The walls are of tufa ashlars, facing a rubble core. The plan was defined by three pairs of T-shaped piers, a characteristic of 5th-century Armenian architecture (...

Article

Asinou  

Susan Young

[Gr. Panagia Phorbiotissa: ‘Our Lady of the Pastures’]

Byzantine church in Cyprus, situated on the west side of the island, 4 km south-west of the village of Vizakia. The church was originally part of the monastery of the Phorbia (destr.), and a marginal note in a synaxarion copied in Cyprus or Palestine in 1063 indicates that the manuscript once belonged to this monastery. The church is renowned for its well-preserved cycles of wall paintings and painted inscriptions, two of which attribute the foundation and decoration of the church to Nicephoros Ischyrios, the Magistros, in 1105–6. A third, damaged inscription mentions a certain ‘Theophilos’ and ‘the people’, who were probably responsible for a programme of redecoration in 1332–3. The wall paintings were cleaned and restored in 1965–8 by Ernest Hawkins and David Winfield under the auspices of the Center for Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC.

The church is a single-aisle structure with a semicircular apse and barrel-vaulted nave supported by transverse ribs and engaged piers, forming three blind niches in the north and south walls. In plan it resembles the parekklesion of the Cypriot monastery of St John Chrysosthomos, but it does not have a dome. Although the original walls were of stone mortared with mud, probably in the late 12th century, yellow sandstone of better quality was used for the construction of a domed narthex with north and south absidioles; this arrangement is found elsewhere in Cyprus, at the monasteries of St John Chrysosthomos, and the Panagia Apsinthiotissa. The church was later given a secondary steeply pitched wooden roof of a type common among the Cypriot mountain churches....

Article

Sophie Page

Astrology is the art of predicting events on earth as well as human character and disposition from the movements of the planets and fixed stars. Medieval astrology encompassed both general concepts of celestial influence, and the technical art of making predictions with horoscopes, symbolic maps of the heavens at particular moments and places constructed from astronomical information. The scientific foundations of the art were developed in ancient Greece, largely lost in early medieval Europe and recovered by the Latin West from Arabic sources in the 12th and 13th centuries. Late medieval astrological images were successfully Christianized and were adapted to particular contexts, acquired local meanings and changed over time.

Astrology developed into a scientific branch of learning in ancient Greece, but because of the opposition of the Church Fathers it was transmitted to early medieval Europe in only fragmentary form in technically unsophisticated textbooks and popular divinatory genres. Literary and scientific texts provided more general ideas about the nature and attributes of the planets which were influential on later iconography. The first significant astrological images appear in 11th-century illustrated astronomical texts (e.g. London, BL, Cotton MS. Tiberius BV), which were acquired and produced by monasteries to aid with time-keeping and the construction of the Christian calendar....

Article

Ateni  

Oxana Cleminson

Village on the River Tana, 12 km from Gori in Georgia. It is known for Sioni Cathedral (7th century ad), dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin, which, together with one other small church, is all that remains of the monastery founded there at the beginning of the 7th century. The small domed tetraconch church was built of undressed stone during the reign of King Stephanos II (reg c. 640–50) and rebuilt in the 10th century. In size and plan Sioni Cathedral is very similar to the Jvari Church at Mtskheta. The core of the spatial conception is the dome (diam. c. 10 m), which, together with the church’s other architectural elements, forms a spatial hierarchy corresponding to the descent from heaven to earth. Like the Jvari and the more provincial Dzveli Shuamta in Kakheti, Sioni Cathedral is an example of the pilgrims’ churches that were to become, in the period following the Iconoclastic Controversy (...

Article

Tania Velmans

Monastery situated on a wooded hill 11 km south of Asenovgrad in Bulgaria. It was founded in 1081 ad by the Georgian donors Grigori and Apazi Pakuriani after they had been granted control over extensive lands in the Rodopi Planina mountains by the Byzantine emperor Alexios Komnenos (reg 1081–1118). The two buildings of art-historical interest are the church of the Holy Archangels and the charnel-house, which lies 400 m east of and below the monastery. The church of the Holy Archangels is a single-nave structure with a dome and an elaborately divided interior. The walls are built of alternating bands of brick and stone, articulated with single-step niches, and there is an elaborate frieze of brickwork meander around the top of the dome’s drum. Numerous restorations have obliterated the original plan of the charnel-house (18×7 m), which has two storeys of single naves with eastern apses and western narthexes. Inside is a series of paintings mostly dated to the late 11th century and signed by ...

Article

Bawit  

C. Walters

Site on the west bank of the River Nile, c. 16 km west of Daryūt in the province of Asyūt, Egypt. A large monastery with rich sculptural and painted decoration originally lay in the desert 1 km to the west. According to tradition it was founded by the monk Apollo in the late 4th century ad and was inhabited until the late 12th century. The site was excavated intermittently between 1901 and 1913 by the French Archaeological Institute in Cairo; most of the structural finds were removed to the Coptic Museum in Cairo and the Louvre in Paris. The monastery consisted of an enclosed nucleus with other buildings outside the walls, although it is not known how much of the site was occupied at any given time. Within the enclosed area were two churches. A number of two-storey structures were excavated, of which the ground floors were probably chapels and the upper floors served as living quarters, as in the monastery of Apa Jeremiah at Saqqara (...

Article

Denys Pringle

[Coquet Castle; Arab. Kawkab al-Hawā, Kaukab el Hawā; now Heb. Kôkhov ha-Yardēn, Kokhav Hayarden]

Crusader castle in Israel built by the Knights Hospitaller c. 1168 and occupied until 1219. It is situated c. 12 km south of the Sea of Galilee, on the eastern edge of a plateau from where it overlooks the Jordan Valley and the site of what in the 12th century would have been the principal river crossings between the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and its Muslim neighbours. Some form of castle already occupied the site before April 1168, when it was sold to the Hospital of St John. All trace of this early structure, however, seems to have been removed by the Hospitallers, who almost at once began to build there the ‘very strong and spacious castle’ recorded by the pilgrim Theodoric in his Libellus de locis sanctis around 1172, and which William of Tyre described in 1182 in his Chronicon as a ‘new castle, whose name today is Belueir’....