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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Byzantine Art: Heaven on Earth

Noon Lecture/Seminar

Tuesday, June 15, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0599
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Materials for this program

  1. Byzantine Art: Heaven on Earth Handout

Boyana Church interior frescoes (Interact-Bulgaria)

In the jewel-like mosaics of Ravenna, the dazzling domed interior of Hagia Sophia, the penetrating stare of holy figures in Orthodox icons, we come face-to-face with the visual splendor and spiritual power of Byzantine art. Created in the thousand-year period between 330—when Constantine, the first Christian emperor, moved the capital from Rome to Constantinople—and the conquest of that city by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, Byzantine art flourished as it transformed Roman classical traditions.

According to art historian Judy Scott Feldman, the human figure lost its corporeality and became more stylized, inhabiting not the world of the here and now but the eternal realm of Heaven and the spiritual. The church building itself was a microcosm of the universe. At the apex, its lofty dome was reserved for images of Christ. Following in descending order were Biblical scenes, then Christian saints, and lower still the realm of the living.

While we call the people who dwelled in and around Constantinople Byzantines, they called themselves Romans. Their legacy originated in early Christian art and lives on in the art and architecture of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*

Patron Information

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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.

This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.