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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

L. James

(b ?Constantinople, c. ad 461–3; d Constantinople, c. 527–9). Byzantine patron. As the great-granddaughter of Galla Placidia and daughter of Flavius Anicius Olybrius (Emperor of the West, reg 472) she was the last major figure of the Theodosian house. In 512, during a popular uprising against Emperor Anastasius I (reg 491–518), the imperial crown was pressed on her husband Flavius Areobindus Dagalaifus, an honour he avoided by flight. Her imperial connections and social standing gave her an important status at court and she was an active patron. She is chiefly remembered for the Dioskurides codex (Vienna, Österreich. Nbib., med. gr. 1), which was produced in Constantinople c. 512 (see Early Christian and Byzantine art, §I, 2, (ii)). The inscription around her portrait (fol. 6v) indicates that the manuscript was commissioned for her by the people of Onoratou, a suburb of Constantinople, in gratitude for a church she built for them....

Article

Mark Whittow

[Turk.: ‘The Thousand and One Churches’]

Group of late Roman and Byzantine sites on the Karadağ, an isolated mountain in the plain north of the Taurus Mountains in the modern province of Karaman in south-central Turkey (Roman and Byzantine Lykaonia). The mountain has been convincingly identified as the site of Barata, a minor city attested as a bishopric from the 4th century ad to the 12th. On the mountain there are the remains of over 40 churches and associated buildings. These are concentrated in two groups: a lower settlement now known as Maden Șehir and an upper settlement called Değler. There are also numerous other remains on the Karadağ, including some Hittite rock carvings, several churches built on the peaks of the mountain and several medieval fortifications.

Although known to scholars since 1826, the first and only survey of the Karadağ was that carried out by Sir William Ramsay (1851–1939) and Gertrude Bell in ...

Article

Butrint  

T. F. C. Blagg

[It. Butrinto; anc. Gr. Bouthroton; Lat. Buthrotum]

Site in southern Albania, set on a hill beside a coastal lagoon connected to the sea by a natural channel. The city flourished in Greek, Roman, and Byzantine times. Excavation and display of its extensive and deserted remains, begun by the Italians in 1928, have been continued by Albanian archaeologists; finds are displayed in the site museum (renovated 1988) and in the National Historical Museum, Tiranë. It was probably a colony of Kerkyra (Corfu), from which its site is visible. Earliest occupation on the hilltop is shown by Corinthian pottery of the 7th–6th centuries bc and a wall of polygonal masonry, rebuilt in the 5th century bc. By the following century the expanding city required new walls, which survive up to 9 m high and include the Lion Gate, named after the Archaic relief reused as its lintel (6th century bc). Butrint became a centre for the surrounding Epirot people, the ...

Article

In the 20th century, discussion of the relationship between Byzantine art and the art of the Latin West evolved in tandem with scholarship on Byzantine art itself. Identified as the religious imagery and visual and material culture of the Greek Orthodox Empire based at Constantinople between ad 330 and 1453, studies of Byzantine art often encompassed Post-Byzantine art and that of culturally allied states such as Armenian Cilicia, Macedonia, and portions of Italy. As such fields as Palaiologan family manuscripts and wall paintings, Armenian manuscripts, and Crusader manuscripts and icons emerged, scholars identified new intersections between Western medieval and Byzantine art. Subtle comparisons emerged with the recognition that Byzantine art was not static but changed over time in style and meaning, although most analyses identified Byzantine art as an accessible reservoir of the naturalistic, classicizing styles of antiquity. Scholars considering the 7th-century frescoes at S Maria Antiqua and mosaics at S Maria in Cosmedin, both in Rome, and the 8th-century frescoes at Castelseprio and Carolingian manuscripts such as the Coronation Gospels of Charlemagne (Vienna, Schatzkam. SCHK XIII) used formal comparisons with works such as pre-iconoclastic icons at St Catherine’s Monastery on Sinai, along with the history of Byzantine iconoclasm, to argue for the presence of Greek painters in the West. Similarly, Ottonian and Romanesque painting and luxury arts, such as ivories, provided examples of the appropriation of Byzantine imperial imagery. Yet the study of works such as the great 12th-century ...

Article

Susan Pinto Madigan

[Tsaritsin Grad, Tzaritchingrad; LatJustiniana Prima]

Site of an early Byzantine city located 30 km south-west of Leskovac in Serbia. The name means ‘the emperor’s fortress’, and it can almost certainly be identified with Justiniana Prima, which, according to Prokopios (b c. ad 500), Justinian I founded c. ad 525–50 in honour of his birthplace, Tauresium. The site occupies a high plateau between the rivers Svinjarica to the west and Caričina to the east; an aqueduct also brought water from the Petrova Gora, 17 km to the south, and entered the city at the south-west corner. Fortifications strengthened with towers and wide ditches surround the city (c. 500 m north–south by c. 215 m east–west), which is divided into two parts: an upper city area that contains a polygonal acropolis and a lower city to the south-east. Excavations, first undertaken in 1912 and continued from the 1940s, have shown that the city was destroyed within a century of its foundation, probably by the Avaro-Slavs, but it was briefly revived in the 9th and 10th centuries. Many of the finds are in the National Museum at Leskovac....

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

John Lowden

Byzantine illuminated manuscript (Moscow, Hist. Mus. MS. D.29). It is a small Marginal Psalter (195×150 mm) of 169 folios, in which broad spaces were left blank on the outer edges of the pages to be filled with numerous unframed illustrations, glossing the biblical text in various ways (see Early Christian and Byzantine art, §V, 2, (iv), (f)). The original text and captions to the illustrations were elegantly written in a small uncial script around the mid-9th century ad. In the 12th century, however, most of the text was crudely overwritten in minuscule, giving the book a messy appearance. This evidence of continued use over a long period is also reflected in the state of the miniatures, many of which are heavily worn and flaked, yet the manuscript is still more complete than two other roughly contemporary Psalters (Paris, Bib. N., MS. grec 20; Mt Athos, Pantokrator Monastery, MS. 61)....

Article

Eirene  

L. James

(b Athens, c. 752; reg 797–802; d Lesbos, 803). Byzantine empress and patron. On the death of her husband, Emperor Leo IV (reg 775–80), she acted as regent for their son Constantine VI (reg 780–97). In 796 she had him blinded and took sole power as the first woman in recorded European history to be acknowledged as a sovereign monarch. Her proposed marriage with Charlemagne would have united the two empires. She was responsible for the restoration of images in Orthodox worship after their destruction and removal during the first wave of iconoclasm (726–87; see Christianity §III 2., (i)). On her own initiative and against the hostility of the iconoclast church and imperial administration, in 787 she convened the Seventh Ecumenical Council at Nicaea (now Iznik), which suppressed iconoclasm, although it was to break out again in 814.

Despite Eirene’s patronage of monasteries and churches, there seems to have been little artistic activity during her reign. She was, however, probably responsible for reinstating the image of Christ above the Chalke Gate of the Great Palace at Constantinople (...

Article

Dimitris Plantzos

[Satra]

Greek city situated on the island of Crete, by the north-west foothills of mount Psiloritis (anc. Ida), 30 km south-east of the present-day city of Rethymnon. It was a centre for Aegean and Greek culture from the Prehistoric to the Byzantine periods (4th millennium bc–7th century bc).

Ancient Eleutherna is a typical example of a Cretan polis (city) inhabited continuously from at least from the 9th century bc (the so-called ‘Dark Age’ of Greek history) to the late Roman and Byzantine period (6th–7th century bc). Even before that, archaeological finds suggest the existence of a continuous presence on the site from the late Neolithic (4th millennium bc) through to a flourishing Minoan site of the 3rd to 2nd millennia bc. Although later construction all but eliminated traces of prehistoric architecture, there is still significant evidence to confirm unbroken habitation. In historical times (9th century...

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Florentine Mütherich

The manuscript (Munich, Bayer. Staatsbib., Clm. 4453) comprises 276 pages measuring 334×242 mm; it has been preserved with its original front cover, in the centre of which is a 10th-century Byzantine ivory representing the Dormition of the Virgin. It was produced on the island of Reichenau c. 1000. The text is embellished with 12 canon tables magnificently arranged in arcades (fols 11v–22r), a double-page picture of the Emperor (fols 23v–24r), portraits of the Four Evangelists paired with incipit pages (fols 25v–26r, 94v–95r, 139v–140r, 206v–207r), and 29 full-page miniatures illustrating scenes from the New Testament, which are interspersed throughout the text (see fig.). The Emperor is shown enthroned amid the secular and spiritual representatives of his realm; figures of the four provinces, Roma, Gallia, Germania, and Sclavinia, approach from the left with gifts to offer their allegiance. The subject-matter suggests that the Emperor should be identified as Otto III in his final years when Rome was central to his policy, a dating that accords with the style of the painting. Described as ‘Visionary Evangelists’, the portraits of the ...

Article

Thomas E. Russo

(b c. ad 575; reg 610–41; d Constantinople [now Istanbul], 11 Feb 641). Byzantine emperor and patron. Although it is sometimes claimed that Heraklios was of Armenian descent, contemporary sources record his family origins in Cappadocia. His father was the exarch of Carthage. In 610 Heraklios usurped the imperial throne from the tyrant Phokas (reg 602–10) and thus initiated the rule of the Heraklian dynasty which lasted until 711. He and his first wife Eudoxia (d 612) had two children, Epiphania and Heraklios, the latter of whom later became Constantine III (reg 641). After the death of Eudoxia, Heraklios married his niece Martina, who bore him ten children.

A competent military leader, Heraklios defeated the Persians at Nineveh in 627. He is often credited with the reorganization of the provinces into administrative units called themes, but whether or not this institution originated under Heraklios is debatable. References in contemporary sources to scientific treatises on chemistry and astrology by Heraklios suggest that he was well educated....

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

John Lowden

Byzantine illuminated manuscript (Rome, Vatican, Bib. Apostolica, MS. palat. gr. 431). It consists of 15 separate sheets of parchment, which were originally pasted together to form a roll 315 mm high and 10.42 m long. Although its manufacture is now dated to the mid-10th century (Weitzmann), a wide range of earlier dates were proposed in the older literature. On one side of the parchment is a continuous picture frieze, illustrating events from Joshua 2:15–10:27, with brief biblical excerpts in a contemporary hand below; the versos of some of the sheets have various texts added, perhaps in the 13th century. The manuscript is damaged and incomplete at both ends, and Weitzmann proposed that it originally covered the narrative of the conquest of the Promised Land (Joshua 1–12). The picture frieze is the work of a highly accomplished artist working in a technique of thin washes of colour, unusual in a Byzantine manuscript....

Article

Kara Hattersley-Smith

(reg 565–78; d Constantinople [now Istanbul], 4–5 Oct 578).

Byzantine ruler and patron. He was a nephew of Justinian I and his successor; his wife Sophia (before 530–after 600) was the niece of Justinian’s wife Theodora (d 548). Sophia had considerable influence over Justin and with the onset of his attacks of insanity persuaded him to appoint his successor, Tiberios I (reg 578–82). Although few datable works survive from his reign, literary sources indicate that Justin commissioned numerous buildings, sculptures and smaller objects. Sophia was influential in most of these projects and was the first empress to appear on Byzantine coins with the emperor. Among the small objects attributed to the couple are the cross of Justin II (Rome, Vatican, Mus. Stor. A. Tesoro S Pietro; see Cross §III 1., (i)) and a reliquary of the True Cross, which was sent to Radegund, Queen of France (d 587); it has been identified by some with an enamelled plaque framing a Byzantine cross (Poitiers, Ste Radegonde). Statuary and buildings (largely destr.) erected by Justin in Constantinople included a group of statues placed at the harbour of Sophia depicting ...

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[Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Justinianus]

(b Tauresium, nr Naissus [now Nish, Serbia], c. ad 482; reg 527–65; d Constantinople, Nov 15, 565).

Byzantine ruler and patron. He was a nephew of Emperor Justin I (reg 518–27), upon whose accession he was brought to Constantinople. He was prepared for political power by receiving the rank of comes illustris and according to contemporary sources he was the real power behind the throne during Justin’s reign. In 521 he became consul and in 523 he married Theodora (d 548), who was to exercise considerable influence over him. He became Emperor on 4 April 527. Among his most lasting achievements was the codification of laws in the Corpus juris civilis, which he issued in 534. The most closely analysed aspect of his reign, however, is his artistic and architectural contribution during what has become known as the first golden age of Byzantine art.

Justinian aimed at the restoration and revival of the empire by re-establishing its political and religious unity. His imperial triumphs included the reconquests of Africa and eastern Spain from the Vandals (534) and Italy from the Ostrogoths (535). These events were recorded in two works of art (both lost): the ceiling mosaic in the Chalke Gate of the Great Palace (...