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Article

Ahenny  

Roger Stalley

Site of an obscure Early Christian settlement formerly known as Kilclispeen (St Crispin’s Church) in Co. Tipperary, Ireland. The only remains are two outstanding stone crosses and the base of a third (c. 750–900), which are situated in a graveyard below the village. The crosses belong to a well-defined regional group and were constructed of three characteristic elements: a square base with sloping sides, a shaft with an unusually wide ring and a peculiar, rather ill-fitting, conical cap (the latter missing on the south cross). With its capstone, the north cross measures 3.7 m in height. The form of the Ahenny crosses is emphasized by a bold cable ornament along the outer contours. Projecting from the main faces are sculpted bosses, the most prominent feature of the ‘Ahenny school’. The ring and shaft of the crosses are covered with dense patterns of carved ornament, including interlace, spirals, frets, entangled beasts and interlocking men. Much of this decoration can be compared with the metalwork and manuscript illumination of the period, and it appears that the sculptors were in effect transposing altar or processional crosses into stone. With the addition of pigment, the analogy with metalwork would have been complete. In contrast to the shafts and rings, the bases bear figure sculpture in low relief. That on the north cross is best preserved and represents Adam and Eve with the animals in the Garden of Eden, a chariot procession (a theme repeated on other Irish crosses), seven ecclesiastics (possibly symbolizing Christ’s mission to the Apostles) and an enigmatic funeral procession with a headless corpse....

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

Franz Rickert

Roman and Early Christian city at the east end of the plain of the Veneto, c. 90 km north-east of Venice and 5 km from the Adriatic coast. Founded as a Roman colony in 181 bc, it received full town status in 89 bc and became the regional capital of Venetia et Histria. It was strategically sited on the River Natissa, which was navigable to the sea, and at the intersection of routes leading north-west over the Alps and north-east to the Balkans. Written sources indicate that several emperors, including Constantine the Great, had a residence in Aquileia; from ad 294 to the 5th century it also had its own mint. In 313 it became a bishopric and in 381 it was the venue of a council before which followers of Arianism were tried. Civil wars and the invasions of the Huns (452) and the Lombards (568) led to the migration of most of the population and the transference of the see to Grado....

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

Berende  

Tania Velmans

Village c. 40 km north of Sofia in Bulgaria. It is famous for its Byzantine church dedicated to St Peter. Built on the edge of the River Nishava, the church has a single nave (4.50×8.50 m) and contains on the west façade fragments of a donor inscription referring to King John Asen II (reg 1218–41), during whose reign it may have been built. There is some controversy regarding the date of its paintings, which have been assigned to both the 13th and the 14th centuries. In the apse all has been lost apart from Four Bishop–Saints Officiating at the Liturgy Accompanied by Two Deacons. The Mandylion was painted on the eastern wall above the apse, between the Virgin and the Archangel of the Annunciation. The Ever-seeing Eye occupies the western niche in the prothesis, and a large bust of St Peter near the iconostasis is surrounded by a masonry frame imitating the appearance of an icon. The scenes and figures painted on the vaulting have disappeared, but part of the ...

Article

Boyana  

Tania Velmans

Village 8 km south of Sofia in Bulgaria, famous for its two Byzantine churches. The earlier of the pair, which stand side by side, is dedicated to the Virgin; various building dates have been proposed, including the 10th century, the 11th and the early 12th. It is a small cruciform structure with a dome over a high drum and an apse pierced with arched windows. Several badly damaged frescoes survive inside, depicting the Fathers of the Church Officiating at a Service, the Dormition of the Virgin and the Crucifixion.

The second church is dedicated to SS Nicholas and Panteleimon, and according to an inscription its construction and decoration were funded by Sebastokrator Kaloyan in 1259. It has two storeys: the ground floor was used for burials and the upper floor as a chapel. Its cruciform plan is surmounted by a dome supported by pendentives. The wall paintings were executed in tempera and are often thought to derive from the Komnenian style of painting found in several churches at ...

Article

Marco Carminati

[anc. Sibrium]

Italian village in Lombardy, 14 km south of Varese, with a population of c. 1000. It was an important town from the Early Christian period to the late Middle Ages and its architectural and artistic remains were rediscovered, excavated and studied after World War II following centuries of dereliction. In the 4th or 5th century a fortified settlement called Sibrium was established in the hilly area between present-day Milan and Varese. It played an important military and strategic role and was soon granted a parish church, with jurisdiction over a vast territory stretching from Lake Lugano to the gates of Milan. Under the Lombards (569–774) it became the regional administrative centre. During the Carolingian period the surrounding region of Seprio experienced substantial prosperity and independence. Around the year 1000, however, its fortunes turned owing to the desire of the increasingly powerful cities of Como and Milan to extend their influence over this rich and strategically significant territory. Castelseprio sided with Frederick Barbarossa in his conflict with the ...

Article

James Stevens Curl

Place, usually a ground but sometimes a structure, used for the entombment of the dead. The term derives from the Latin coemeterium, an adaptation of koimetrion (Gr: ‘dormitory’). It was employed by Early Christian writers to describe underground burial-places, also known as catacombs or hypogea (see Catacomb §1), and it was later applied to the consecrated enclosure attached to a church or even extended to the church building itself. The term has since come to denote a burial-ground, especially a large public park or land laid out for the interment of the dead, and in this form it has become distinguished from the ‘yard’ of a church. This article is confined to cemeteries in the Western Christian tradition; for further discussion see Cemetery.

During the Middle Ages the parish graveyard and church were closely associated. In many cities arcaded, cloistered walks lined the perimeters of churchyards; one of the largest of these burial-grounds was the ...

Article

M. Guardia

Early Christian mausoleum in Catalonia, Spain, with an outstanding 4th-century mosaic cycle. It is situated 5 km north of Tarragona, which, as Tarraco, was the capital of the Hispano-Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis. Excavations between 1959 and 1970 by Schlunk and Hauschild revealed that it was built within the living quarters of a Roman suburban villa, which was extensively remodelled during the 4th century. An adjacent room may also have been a mausoleum. Its ground-plan comprises a double-shell design, consisting of a circular core (diam. 10.7 m) and a quadrangular outer shell with an apse at each corner. A stairway leads down from the mausoleum’s centre to a barrel-vaulted burial crypt and sub-crypt or chamber, which insulated the crypt from the damp subsoil. The mausoleum is built in brick and concrete and has a domed roof 13.6 m high; the construction of the dome has parallels in eastern Roman architecture. It is lit by two windows in the mausoleum’s north and south sides and by the main northern entrance....

Article

G. van Hemeldonck

Monumental structure of wood, stone, or metal consisting of four or more columns supporting an ornamented roof; this is sometimes a cupola, as in the Byzantine tradition, or it may be pyramidal or a crossover pitched roof. The term is often used synonymously with baldacchino, although, strictly speaking, a ciborium is fixed, frequently on a raised base, while a baldacchino is movable (the most famous example—the Baldacchino built by Gianlorenzo Bernini and others in St Peter’s, Rome, in 1623–34 (see §2, (ii) below)—is in fact a fixed ciborium). Ciboria in a church were placed above altars and tabernacles portraying the throne of Christ, above the ambo where the Gospel was promulgated and above baptismal fonts and atrium springs where holy water was revered. Much later they were also placed above reliquaries and martyrs’ graves and, outside the church, above thrones, statues of the saints and above the cross of Golgotha. The purpose of the ciborium was to concentrate attention on the object of veneration or to protect this object either symbolically or actually. Small portable altars were sometimes placed under a ciborium of this type. Reigning monarchs were portrayed enthroned under a ciborium; this was intended to suggest that their secular power was received from God....

Article

Roger Stalley

[Gael. Cluain Moccu Nóis]

Monastery in Co. Offaly, Ireland. Clonmacnois was one of the most celebrated Early Christian monasteries in Ireland, famed for its learning and artistic patronage and best known today for an outstanding collection of monuments and stone carvings. The monastery was founded by St Ciaran in 548 (or 545 according to some authorities) on a commanding site above a bend in the River Shannon. Located in the heart of the country, it enjoyed the patronage of a number of Irish dynasties and benefited particularly from the O’Conor kings of Connaught, several of whom were buried there. What started as a small religious community became the core of a monastic city, with much commercial activity and hundreds of lay inhabitants (in one incident in 1179 no fewer than 105 houses were burnt). Associated with the monastic workshops are such major items of Irish metalwork as the shrine of the Stowe Missal (...

Article

Dafni  

Ioanna Bitha

Middle Byzantine monastery in Greece, 10 km west of Athens on the former Sacred Way to Eleusis. It is dedicated to the Theotokos and famous for the late 11th-century mosaics in its church. According to Pausanias (Guide to Greece I.xxxvii.6) a Temple of Apollo once stood at the site. The earliest remains date to the 5th or 6th century ad and include an Early Christian basilica, uncovered to the west of the present church; the side and the east and west gates of the monastery’s fortified enclosure wall; a bath with hypocaust; the foundations of cells; and some sculptural pieces that are displayed in the monastery.

The first written reference to the monastery is in the Typikon (1048) of a Naupaktos religious fraternity (Confraternity of the Virgin Naupaktitissa), in which the abbot of Dafni heads the list of signatories. The monastery is also known from the seal of Abbot Paul (11th or 12th century; Athens, Numi. Mus.). The monastery was restored in the late 11th century when the present church was built and decorated, as was the refectory, of which only foundations survive. The opulence of this restoration suggests that the patrons were important people. The ...

Article

Roger Stalley

Site of an early Christian monastery in Co. Wicklow, Ireland. Set in a steep valley on the eastern edge of the Wicklow Mountains, the monastery owed its origin to St Kevin (d ad 618), who chose this wild, lonely spot as the site of a hermitage. A century later it had become a flourishing monastery, teeming with pilgrims and students; it retained its vitality until the end of the 12th century despite the sequence of fires, plunderings, and other disasters mentioned in the annals. The chief relics of the ancient monastery are an impressive round tower and the ruins of at least nine Romanesque or pre-Romanesque churches scattered for about 2 km along the valley. The intractable archaeological and chronological problems associated with the monuments are compounded by the restorations and rebuildings carried out by the Board of Works in 1875–9.

It is generally agreed that St Kevin’s original hermitage lay to the west, beside the upper lake; some interesting structures on the cliff side include the foundations of a ...

Article

Slobodan Ćurčić

Byzantine monastery in the Kosovo region between Montenegro and Macedonia, 8 km south of Priština. It was founded by the Serbian king Stephen Uroš II Milutin (reg 1282–1321). The church of the Dormition (originally Annunciation; 1311–21) is all that survives and is one of the outstanding achievements of Late Byzantine architecture (see Early Christian and Byzantine art, §II, 2, (iv), (c)). It was built on the site of two earlier churches. The dismantling of the second church—a small single-aisled 13th-century structure—is described in the monastery’s charter, as recorded on the west wall of the south chapel, and has been confirmed by excavations. Gračanica also served as the seat of the bishops of Lipljan, the probable heirs to the bishopric of Ulpiana, a Roman and Early Christian city c. 1 km to the west. Milutin may also have intended Gračanica’s church as his mausoleum.

Gračanica was a product of the political and cultural circumstances that prevailed in Serbia following Milutin’s marriage in ...

Article

Carolyn L. Connor

Byzantine monastery 8 km east of Dhistomo in the foothills of Mt Helikon (nr anc. Stiris), Phokis, central Greece. Founded in the mid-10th century by the monk Loukas the younger (d ad 953), a healer and miracle-worker, the monastery has two unusually well-preserved churches, the Panagia or Theotokos (church of the Virgin) and the adjoining katholikon or main monastery church. The latter is famous for its lavish mosaics and wall paintings, which remain intact. Other monastic buildings of various periods survive.

The Life of Loukas, written after 961 by an anonymous monk, is the only record of the monastery’s foundation and first building period. According to the Life, a church, dedicated to St Barbara, was built during Loukas’ lifetime. A cruciform oratory was later erected over his grave and acted as a shrine. The translation of the saint’s relics into a ‘new church’, which is attested by commemorative hymns, occurred under the auspices of Abbot Philotheos, the dates of whose abbacy are unknown. Although the Theotokos church has been shown to be older than the katholikon (Stikas, ...

Article

Susan Young

[St John Lampadistis]

Byzantine monastery in Cyprus, c. 50 km west of Nicosia. The only information concerning its foundation is that which can be gleaned from the three adjoining churches of the katholikon and their decoration. All are of different date with a narthex common to the central and southern churches. A massive, pitched, timber roof, of a type common among the Cypriot mountain churches, covers the complex.

The south church, dedicated to St Herakleidius, has a conventional cross-in-square plan, and probably dates from the 11th century. A painting, possibly of the 12th century, on the dado of the central apse, depicts two monks, possibly donors, in proskenesis; there are traces of an earlier painting beneath. A particularly interesting group of paintings (c. 1250–1300) comprises the Pantokrator, the Sacrifice of Isaac, the Entry into Jerusalem, the Raising of Lazarus, the Crucifixion, the Ascension, individual figures of Christ and the Virgin, prophets and saints. The ...

Article

Liliana Mavrodinova

Village in Bulgaria c. 40 km east of Vratsa. Painted caves on the banks of the adjacent River Iskar were in Byzantine times used as chapels or inhabited by hermits. Two of these chapels are particularly noteworthy: that of St Nicholas, also known as ‘Gligora’, which was built rather than carved from the rock, and the rock-cut chapel (5.50×3.90 m) consecrated to St Marina, which has one façade built in masonry. Both date from the 14th century and are now in poor condition; both have had their murals partly repainted.

The principal images painted in the chapel of St Marina include one in the conch of the apse showing the Virgin Greater than the Heavens (Platytera) holding Christ to her breast, and another lower down of the Eucharist, represented by Two Officiating Bishop-saints and the Holy Lamb placed on the paten; the scene of the Annunciation is divided between the two sides of the apse, while the figure of ...

Article

Kildare  

Roger Stalley

Monastic site in Co. Kildare, Ireland. Kildare was one of the great monastic cities of early Christian Ireland and the principal church of the kings of Leinster. Founded by St Brigid (d between 524 and 528), it was unusual in being a double monastery, served by both nuns and monks. In the 12th century it was chosen as a bishopric, and, following the Anglo-Norman conquest of Ireland, a Gothic cathedral was constructed, probably by Bishop Ralph of Bristol (reg 1223–32). The joint monastery possessed many fine treasures, including an iconostasis with painted images, hanging curtains, crowns of gold and silver suspended above the shrines of both St Brigid and St Conlaedh (the first abbot and bishop, d 520) and a sumptuously illuminated Gospel book, the equal, evidently, of the Book of Kells.

The only remnant of the early monastery is a round tower, 32.6 m high, to the north-west of the cathedral. Largely 12th-century in date, it has a decayed Romanesque doorway and incongruous battlements added in the 1730s. More important is a description by Cogitosus (see Connolly and Picard) of the church as it was in the 7th century, a unique account of a major Irish building when timber architecture was the norm. A complex structure ‘of menacing height’, it was divided into three sections, comprising a sanctuary and separate oratories for the monks and nuns. References to ‘panels in relief’ and a ‘decorated doorway’ suggest the use of wood-carving, long before the appearance of sculpture in stone....

Article

Byzantine monastery founded c. 1090 in the Kyrenia district of Cyprus, c. 7 km north-west of Kythrea. Its katholikon, which was demolished in 1891 except for its east and north walls, was originally an inscribed octagon and had a narthex with projecting absidioles. (This arrangement was also adopted for the monastery church of Panagia Apsinthiotissa, 3.5 km north-west of Koutsoventis.) The frescoes of the parekklesion (see Cyprus §III), which lies to the north and which is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, were restored by Hawkins in 1963. The plan of the parekklesion has been described as an ‘inscribed-cross in embryo, lacking both the corner compartments and the lateral arms of the cross, but carrying a cruciform superstructure’ (Megaw). This plan did not originate in Cyprus, but it found favour there, as demonstrated by 12th-century churches of Trikomo and Lagoudera (see Lagoudera, Panagia tou Arakou). Its largely brick construction, with arcading around the central dome, also suggests influences from outside....

Article

Byzantine church c. 40 km south-west of Nicosia, Cyprus. It is decorated with a nearly complete programme of outstanding frescoes, which were restored by Winfield between 1968 and 1973; an inscribed painting of the Holy Tile above the door bears the date December 1192. The church may have been built originally as a private chapel, for its distance from the village suggests that it did not serve as the community church. The monastery buildings that enclose it were added later at an unrecorded date and were still occupied when a Russian pilgrim, Basil Barsky, sketched the site in 1735.

Traces of earlier paintings indicate that the church was constructed some time before the decoration of 1192. Architecturally it belongs to a type popular in Cyprus, the inscribed cross in embryo (see Koutsoventis, St John Chrysostomos); it is a domed, single-aisle structure with three arched recesses in both the north and south walls and an eastern apse. The west wall was later demolished to make room for a vestibule. In the 18th century the whole building was covered by a protective, tiled roof extending to a latticed enclosure....