Secluded on Mt. Helicon in Greece, just south of Delphi, is the Monastery of Hosios Loukas (Holy Luke). A triumph of Byzantine art and architecture, it is no surprise that this church is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Decorated with a combination of mosaics and frescoes, I made certain to stop at this church. While its difficult to capture the feeling of being in such an amazing place, hopefully the images and music in this post will help transport you that beautiful place of marble and holy Byzantine faces.
Posts tagged ‘Byzantine’
So many European cities are jumbles of art and architecture, a testament to the evolving history of the urban area. Beneath these modern cities are fractured layers of a Renaissance, Gothic and Ancient past, but you have to try hard to imagine how things looked during any one period. It’s truly amazing to find a city that retains its character from one specific age. The abandoned Byzantine city of Mystras in the mountains just above Sparta in the Southern Peloponnese, is one such frozen city. You can walk through the ruined streets and largely intact religious buildings of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and be right back in 1350 AD.
The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. The dome upon dome design creates an immense open space, but things are not exactly as harmonious as they seem. To cover up the huge support structure, trompe l’oeil murals were added in the 19th century so that gallery would appear more uniform. Finding these panels while you take in the breath-taking sight is an odd touch of reality in an otherwise divine architecture.
While this practice seems unthinkable today, across the Mediterranean, ancient Greek and Roman structures were salvaged for building materials in subsequent centuries. Given the prevalence of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, pagan buildings were at best a curiosity. The Parthenon in Rome is said to have only survived because it was converted into a church.
The Pentelic marble used to construct ancient Athens proved to be too alluring for Byzantine builders. You can see blatant example of stone theft in the piece-meal construction of the 13th century Panagia Gorgoepikoos Church in Athens. While the materials were stolen, the care with which pieces were selected and incorporated suggests some appreciation for classical art.
On November 11th, the Art Institute of Chicago opens its Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Art. I have to give the AIC a lot of credit for the best museum construction sign ever! I saw this while visiting in August:
Greek art, get it?
Anyways, these galleries sit awkwardly in the hallway to the Chagall windows making it a difficult space for a curator to work with. The remodeling construction this summer consisted of numerous, single item sized, free standing display cases. From the few mockup images I’ve seen, the galleries will be a lot less crowded and more focused. (Click here for a panorama of one of the former Roman galleries). I presume fewer items will be displayed making for a more focused collection. If anyone stops soon, I’d appreciate a report back on the new space!