Characteristics Of Byzantine And Paleochristian Art

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Characteristics of Byzantine and Paleochristian art


Paleochristian art includes from the end of the second century to the sevent. It arises during the decline of the Roman Empire, in which Christianity begins to introduce and develop. Paleochristian art reaches its maximum splendor phase from the year 313, date of the Edict of Milan. It goes through two stages: the clandestine stage of the second century to III (catacombs). The stage marked by the edict of Milan, in which Constantine gives freedom of worship, becoming the first Roman Christian emperor. 

It is a religious art that is introduced into the Roman world, going from being persecuted and being in hiding to become an allied force with power. Christian expressionism replaces classical realism that we had known. Perspective and modeling are introduced as a substitution of flat figures without funds. The new religions began to spread through the lowest classes, thus they had to use clearer and understandable language. The essence of divinity is impossible to represent. The variety of colors was quite limited. 


The most outstanding characteristics are symbolism and iconographic simplicity. Catacombs arise in the clandestinity stage due to the need for Christian communities in a place to do cults in addition to serving as burial. They are the result of a labyrinth of passage. Catacumba de Via Appia (Rome). 

When Christianity becomes official religion with the promulgation by Constantine of the Edict of Milan (313) and can stop hiding and, therefore, leave the catacombs, thus they must look for a new place where to perform the cults. The chosen site was the basilica, since they could not take advantage of the pagan temples. This is how Christianization of the Basilica takes place, chosen for being the building that best adapted to its needs. Composed of three ships, the highest being the center being.

These ships were separated by a row of columns, with the altar to the background that gives access to the apse. After a short time the Christians leave the Pagan Basilicas to build others with a new plant and that adapt fully to their needs. Santa Sabina (Rome 422-432) is a good example of Christianized basilica. Basilicas are usually accompanied by other circular building buildings, such as baptisteria, which are buildings sustained by columns, with rich ornamentation and organized around the pool where baptisms were performed. 

Also martyria who were the evolution of the mausoleums, who were used as graves and also for cult. We did not find round bulk sculpture until the fourth century, since the representation of divinity was prohibited. Regarding painting, catacombs painters decide. We find the antecedent of this representation in the Greek Moscophorous, replacing the calf with a sheep. 

Another was that of the teacher, later the Virgin was painted as a mother with the child in her lap, the church as prayer and other symbology like the fish. Byzantine art;Historical context Byzantium was an Eastern Greek colony, located in the Bosphorus Strait, restored by Constantine as Constantinople eleven centuries later. When Constantino converted the ancient city of Byzantium into the capital of the Eastern Empire in 330, a process culminates that ensured the survival of the Eastern Empire to the fall of the Western sector and its pagan capital Rome.

The separation of both parts of the Empire will take place with the death of Theodosius in 395, the western part for Honorio and the Eastern for Arcadio thus born the Byzantine Empire. This consists of three stages: the first stage that goes from 395 to 850, in this highlightof Byzantine gold ”but never reached the greatness of Rome. He tried to rebuild the Roman Empire, although his conquests in the Mediterranean only remained a short time.

The second stage includes from 850 to 1050, this is a stage of military triumphs of expansion and splendor. ✢ The third stage goes from 1050 to 1453 and is a long phase of decline where the feudalization process and the increase in the landowner is undermining the power of the monarch. The architecture;The dome was the main protagonist of Byzantine architecture, going beyond architecture, becoming a symbol of heaven and eternal bond that wanted to be established between God and men. The support of the domes overcoming the Roman solutions.

They combine square spaces with curved vaults through pechinas (spherical triangles), against large domes with half domes, with buttresses and thick walls. The multiplication of domes on pechinas seems to be sometimes the fundamental end of buildings. The plant becomes Greek Cruz. The Byzantine capitel has two bodies, the lower one with vegetable decoration and that is properly called capitel and the superior or cimacio that can be smooth or decorated with biblical themes. The interiors of the buildings are careful with a decoration based on mosaics and paintings. 

In addition to Christian themes (Byzantine art will serve as a model to the western medieval), plant reasons and zoomorphs abound, since the Church aspires to become a microcosm, a small -scale reflection of beauty and harmony of creation of creation. Abroad we must differentiate between the constructions of the 1st Golden Age. Sofia, s. Vital, s. Apolinar) with sober exteriors in which the aesthetic effect focuses on the structure of the building itself and on the gradation of volumes in height;of the buildings of the 2nd gold age in which the mosaics appear.

Ornaments and alternation of materials (stone/brick) to achieve chromatic effects. This tendency to the plastic valuation of the building is exacerbated in the 3rd golden age, with colored facades, golden domes, glazed tiles etc. (S. Basilio de Moscow). Sta. Sofia de Costantinople (1st Golden Age, Justiniano era, S. Vi) Raised between 527-565 by the architects Artemio de Tralles and Isidoro de Mileto and dedicated by Justinian to divine wisdom (Hagia Sofía), it is the most unique example of the Byzantine architecture of the 1st golden age and a very very modelimitated throughout the eastern architecture both Byzantine (STA. Irene of Constantinople) as Islamic (Ahmed Mosque).

The building is of the central plan organized around an impressive dome of 31 meters in diameter whose thrusts counteract four large exterior buttresses and two semi -uples located in the longitudinal axis of the church. These, in turn, carry their thrusts to the ground through other small coupulillas. Inside (5) a careful decoration based on mosaics, paintings, marble reliefs, and luxuriously illuminated by the sun’s rays that penetrate through the forty windows of the dome, which contrasts with the sobriety of the exterior from the outside.

Another very important construction is San Vital de Ravenna, this church contains the most impressive collection of mosaics of all Byzantium. Byzantine art adopted the mosaic as mural coating. The mosaic turns the interior space of the temple into a reflection of the order of the cosmos, where the Christian faith and the dignification of imperial power are joined. This despite having its origin in Rome, never reached an artistic level as high as in Byzantium. This technique consisted of placing small stone marble tiles or vitreous pasta on a cement surface composing scenes and images. Sometimes they used gold and silver. 


They used to decorate domes and walls. The Imperial Workshop set an official iconography, and designated a specific place of the temple for each sacred matter, thus the apse reserved Christ in Majesty, sitting in the globe of the universe (cosmocrador). In 726 the iconoclast revolution began that consisted of prohibiting churches that had religious figures, therefore, many already existing were destroyed and destroyed. 

During this revolution only bare crosses were represented, an empty throne with the sacred writings and fields with flowers. The most important mosaics that are preserved are found in Santa Sofia (the portrait of Emperor Miguel VI) in Constantinople and San Vital in Ravenna (Mosaics of Emperor Justinian and Empress Teodora). In addition, Christ Mosaic Pantocrador of the dome, Martorana Church, are also of great importance. Palermo, Italy. And virgin Hodegetria (11th century). Apse mosaic. Torcello Cathedral. Venice Italy.

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