Christianity appeared in the first century CE in the land of Israel as a cult trying to reform Judaism. The Apostle Paul opened it to non-Jews, gave it a Greek character, and thus enabled its expansion into Eastern Mediterranean. The belief in one God incarnating in a human body, and that his sacrifice would bring salvation to the world, outraged the Romans who believed in many gods.
The controversy associated with Arius began in 318 CE in Alexandria. The Arians whose approach has gained in popularity, stressed the distinction between God and Jesus. According to their faith, God existed before Jesus and therefore Jesus is not eternal like God. The council of Nicaea condemned the Arian approach and declared it as heresy. It was decided to see God and Jesus as one entity. The writings of Arius were burned and the distribution of his opinions was banned. In spite of the council's resolutions and despite the prohibition on distributing Arius' views, controversies continued.
The eastern part of the empire continued to exist in the Byzantine Empire with its capital in Constantinople. Byzantine Romans inherited the idea that the emperor was close to a deity and had a broad religious authority. Byzantine rule was only in the hands of the emperor, who was a single authority over all his subjects. Every citizen could appeal directly to the emperor to seek justice. There was a constant gap between the Byzantine government system and government system in the West, which was hierarchical. Another gap between the Eastern and Western empire was due to different attitudes toward trade. While the Eastern empire became more urban and commercial, trade in the Western empire was considered an inferior occupation and cities were fading.
The term Byzantine Empire was coined by French scholars such as Montesquieu (1689-1755), who was an influential intellectual in the 18th century. He used this term with connotations of notorious corruption and decadence in the Byzantine period. The Byzantines themselves had never used the term "Byzantine".
German tribes replaced the collapsed Western Empire. During the years 489-493 Theodoric and the Ostrogoths took over Italy and established the Kingdom of Goths (493-526) , which included Gallia, Italy and Spain. Until his death in 526, Theodoric ruled from Ravenna, built Arian churches and allowed full religious freedom. His daughter (Amalasuntha) ruled after him as the regent of his son.
Ravenna became the seat of the Byzantine rule in 540 during the reign of Emperor Justinian (483-565), which lasted from 527 to 565. His desire to return to the glorious days of Rome led him to build many churches including the Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and the Church of St. Vitale in Ravenna. Until his death, he had recaptured almost all the territories held by the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean basin. Especially well known is the code of laws, which were systematically collected and edited under his rule, and were designed to create order and unity of the empire. One of the new laws, according to which church property was declared non-transferable, contributed to its wealth.
In the year 622 a new religious force appeared. The age of Islam began and spread in the Near East and Southern Mediterranean in amazing speed. This was a rival religion to Christianity and also had an impact on it. Under the influence of Islam, which banned the worship of visual images, in 725 byzantine iconoclasm (literally breaking pictures) i.e. opposing any visual representation of God, started. Pope Leo III issued a decree prohibiting the display of icons and religious paintings in churches and public buildings. The prohibition lasted until 843. Worship of images and icons was perceived as pagan, and this led to the destruction of figurative artworks.
Out of the medieval Christian empires, the Byzantine Empire was the richest and its period of reign was the longest. It survived until it was conquered by the Muslims in 1453.
Materials and Construction
The preferred building material of the Byzantines was bricks. They formed a kind of brick, which served a variety of purposes: military needs, building churches and homes. Bricks were laid on thick layers of cement composed of limestone, sand, shards of terracotta and brick fragments. For building pillars in churches brick was used, or marble from the quarries on the Marmara Island. This marble also served for building the columns in the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna. More rarely precious porphyry stone was used for building columns. Another option was to reuse the columns of ancient buildings.
The choice of wood for the construction of the ceiling was influenced by considerations of speed of construction, and was probably related to the will of the emperor to move economic resources to building his capital, Constantinople. Although wood construction was cheaper, it did not detract from the sense of monumentality conveyed by the structures.
1. Using pendentives, which are curved triangles built on the corners of the square, supporting a dome. In this case the curved triangles are part of the dome.
2. Using squinches, which are built on each corner of the square on which the dome is build. These are small vaults that turn the square base on which the dome is built, into an octagonal base. The shape of the dome located on this basis is not necessarily a perfect circle. The dome above the squinches often has an octagonal base.
While the squinches are adjusted to the dome, and are not part of it, the pendeives are part of the dome.
Domes and vaults were built of large flat bricks. Researchers believe that they were built without temporary support in the center. Windows were placed at the bottom of the dome, or on the drum carrying the dome.
Byzantine mosaics reached significant achievements in art, which the Byzantines inherited from the Romans and Hellenists. To create mosaics they used glass, which became opaque in a process of oxidation of tin. This invention has already been in use in early Christian churches.
Byzantine architecture was largely religious. The church inherited from the Roman Empire the awareness to art and architecture as a propaganda tool. Since Christianity has become a state religion, church architecture became official, and its role, as the role the other arts, was to glorify God and the emperor, who was considered his representative on earth.
Gradually, a new original style was created combining classical features inspired by Greek and Roman architecture, with oriental elements such as multiple vaults and walls adorned with marble slabs. From the Hellenists the Byzantines inherited colorful decoration, white walls coated with precious metals, ivory, stucco, woven tapestries, and mosaics, which were seen by the Church Fathers as a means for guiding the believers.
Byzantine architecture concept was different from the classical in determining the relation between mass and space, and between light and shadow. The result was an atmosphere of mystery inside the structure, fitting the demands of religious worship. While in the classical temple, the emphasis was on the outside, in Byzantine church architecture, the focus was inside.
Compared to the Greeks whose approach to art was naturalistic, and compared to the Romans who emphasized the functional aspect, the Byzantines preferred symbolic expression using numbers, shapes, and colors. Symbolic expression of numbers was found in 12 columns which were associated with the 12 Apostles, number 4 which was associated with the four arms of the cross, the four Gospel writers, the four winds of heaven and others. Pure lines and simplicity were abandoned in favor of colorful ornaments. Gold symbolizing the divine light was a key element of decoration. Frequently precious stones, silk and woven tapestries were used as well.
Three types of religious structures developed: one, lengthy, inspired by the Roman basilica, second, round, and third, combining the first two.
In the mosaics of churches can be seen the passage from naturalistic descriptions influenced by classical ideals (such as the mosaics in mausoleum Galla Placidia), to stylized depictions in a symbolic hierarchy. Hierarchy here means that Jesus was at the top, below were the Gospel writers or other saints, and below them - the believers. The tendency to symbolism could also be found in monograms, Greek crosses, and symbolic figures that were part of church design.
By the end of the Middle Ages, most of the resources were directed to building great monuments of religious worship. Church architecture was official and mostly financed by the ruler.
The Byzantine style was adopted by the Venetians who built the Church of San Marco in Venice, and by the Russians who turned the Byzantine domes into onion domes.
The early Christian believers were meeting in private homes. In the East, they would meet in the attics of homes, and in Rome they would gather in the dining rooms of the rich. The bathroom (piscina) served for baptizing. Since the second century on, Christians have contributed their homes to be used only for religious worship. When persecuted, they would meet in the catacombs, the underground burial chambers.
With the recognition of Christianity as state religion, it was possible to devote a special building for worship - the church.
Image - A ground plan of a typical basilica church
The elongated shape of the nave leading to the apse enabled leading the believer through the pictures on the walls of the nave, which presented a chronological story that culminated in the apse. Alternatively, the believer could walk along the nave and see the saints and martyrs depicted on the walls walking with him toward the apse, as seen in the church of St. Apollinare Nuovo (see below). At a time when literacy was limited to an elite few, this was an effective way to convey the Christian dogma to the believers.
In front of a typical basilica church in early Christianity there was an atrium, an open courtyard, usually square, which was surrounded by colonnade. The atrium was usually located to the west of the entrance of the basilica church and its center, there was a well of purity, from which the holy water basin developed later. In the mystical view of the church, this well symbolized the blood of Christ, which washed away the sins of the world. Similar courtyards can be found today in Muslim shrines.
Churches in the Eastern Empire were built with galleries over the aisles for women or believers who were not yet been baptized to Christianity. In Italy, however, galleries were absent from churches, indicating that the builders were apparently Italian rather than Byzantine.
The transepts of early Christian church were associated with the cult of remains of saints because many basilica churches were built near the tombs of saints (St. Sebastian, St. Agnes, etc.).
The most sacred place in the church, is the choir, where the altar (the table on which the Eucharist ceremony takes place) is usually found, in the intersection where the nave and the transept meet. In front of the altar stood the choirboys, hence the name choir.
The choir, where decoration was concentrated, was separated from the nave by the triumphal arch that symbolized the fighting and triumphant character of Christianity, which after being a persecuted religion became a persecuting one, and the victory of Christ over death.
In churches without transept, the altar was located directly under the arch of the apse. The altar itself was a simple marble table decorated with pigeons, sheep, etc., and above it was the ciborium, the most luxurious and ornate structure in the church, which was supported by four columns. Below, in subterranean room, there was a crypt where the holy body (or remains) of the saint to whom the church was dedicated was buried.
The construction of the Basilica Church adopted the Roman basilica plan, but not in every detail. The church of the basilica is only symmetrical on both sides of the longitudinal axis and has only one apse, while the Roman basilica was generally symmetrical on either side of its longitudinal and transverse axes - colonnade facing colonnade, and apse facing apse. Unlike the Roman basilica, the church of the basilica had only one entrance and one clear direction. Unlike the Roman basilica, where heavy concrete vaults were built, the ceiling of the church of the basilica is flat and compared to the church of the basilica looks lighter. Its walls are relatively thin, as well as the columns, which do not support but a wooden ceiling.
A Greek element, which was adopted by the Byzantine Church was the gable which was associated with paganism. From the Romans, the church borrowed the triumphal arch, which is located between the nave and the choir. The Roman triumphal arch was intended to glorify the ruler, while in the church it had a religious significance.
During the fifth and sixth centuries, in addition to the basilica plan, developed a central plan and a combination of a basilica plan with a central plan. These became the basis for a tradition of church design, which continues to this day.
The central church was shaped like a circle, an octagon or a Greek cross (a cross with four equal sides) with a dome in its center. Although the central look has no apparent preferred direction, the central-planned church was oriented toward the apse.
The church that combines basilica plan with a central plan unifies longitudinal structure with a domed one. Sometimes the central-planned structure is found at the center of the structure and sometimes at its end.
Rome was the center of the empire, and naturally, the first churches were built there. The power of the Roman Empire was replaced by the spiritual power of the church, and magnificent churches were built instead of the catacombs, which had served as places of worship for Christians who had been persecuted before Christianity became a state religion.
Construction sites designated for building the early churches were selected according to ritual criteria. Sacred ground beside the grave of a saint or martyr, or over the Roman catacomb where bones of the martyrs were buried, was considered suitable to building a church. At first the churches were built outside the city walls, where the catacombs were found, making it difficult to visit them every day. To facilitate the believers to congregate, new churches were built within the city and the bones of the martyrs were transferred to them for burial.
The church of Saint Peter (324-335) in Rome was built by Constantine at the place where the torture of the saint took place, and where he died and was buried, on the site of the circus of Nero, which was demolished to enable the construction of the church.
Image - St. Peter's basilica church - a drawing and ground plan
In early 16th century, St. Peter's Church was destroyed, and a new church by the same name replaced it. We know Constantine's basilica church from surviving sketches and its descriptions in literature. A book titled Mirabilia, which was written as a guide for scholars visiting Rome (c.1143), tells that the basilica was coated with lively mosaics and its ceiling was decorated with gold and glass.
The church of Saint Peter served as a model for the churches built after it. The Basilica with a nave, four side aisles, atrium and a transept, was adopted by the other churches in Rome, including the church of San Paolo Fuori Le Mura, (literally: Saint Paul outside the walls) from the fourth Century. Saint Peter's orientation is toward the west, as opposed to the churches built later with orientation toward the east, from where the sun is rising.
The Church of San Paolo Fuori le Mura
Throughout the empire, the notion of a church was associated with basilica structure. The first church dedicated to Saint Paul in Rome in 324 was built by Constantine. Larger church was founded in 386 in the same place and same name by Valentinian the second, and construction continued during the reign of Theodosius and then by Arcadius, ending in 440. Its structure resembled that of the church of St. Peter. The church of San Paolo Fuori Le Mura was destroyed in a fire in 1823, but was rebuilt according to the original design.
Image - Church of St. Paolo Fuori le Mura, ground plan ,
The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore was first built by Pope Liberius (served 352-366) after seeing visions of the Virgin Mary. She instructed him to build a church where it would snow the next day. It was August, and snow fell over the top of the Esquiline Hill. According to her instructions he built the church on the summit of this hill.
In 432 CE the church was expanded by Pope Sixtus the third (served 432-440), who dedicated it to Mary after the declaration of the conference in Ephesus from 431, according to which Mary was the mother of God (until then she had been considered the mother of Jesus the man). This is the largest church, which has survived since the second quarter of the fifth century.
built it with his own private capital.
In the 13th century, the transept of the church was built, and in the 16th century, several chapels were added. The mosaic in the apse is the work of Jacopo Toritti from the years 1292-1295.
The Church of Santa Sabina in Rome (422-432) is a relatively small basilica church. Sabina, after whom the church was named, was, according to legend, a rich woman who lived at the time when the church was built. According to another version she was a saint who was running with a sword in her hand during the rule of Hadrian.
The mosaics in the apse are from the ninth century. Although often modified, the church has kept its original character.
Image - The chuch of Sta. Sabina, Rome
Constantine built churches in the Holy Land with a basilica structure combined with central structure. In early Christianity, basilica churches of the East resemble those in the West, with their five aisles, and differ form then in the absence of apse and transept. The church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem are unusual in the history of architecture of churches, being devoted to events directly related to Christ. Most of the churches since the advent of Christianity to the present are devoted to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and to other saints.
The Church of the Nativity in
The church of the Nativity was built during the years 326-333, in the period of Constantine's reign, by his mother, St. Helena, where, according to tradition, Jesus was born. During the construction of the church, the Holy Land became a center of pilgrimage.
The church combines a basilica with five aisles and a central octagonal domed structure, at its end. In the center of the octagonal structure is found the cave of Christ's birth. The entire church has survived since the fourth century, with the exception of the ceiling, which was replaced, and the eastern part, which was rebuilt by Justinian in the sixth century in the shape of a clover leaf.
Image- The church of the Nativity, ground plan
Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
The church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, also known as the church of Anastasis, was built during the years 325-335 and was inaugurated in 336. It was built by Zenobius and Eustathios from Constantinople, who were probably the architects. The church was damaged and destroyed by the Persians, and was rebuilt by the Crusaders. Later, it has often been restored.
On the holiest site in Christendom, where the church was built, there had been formerly the temple of Aphrodite built by Emperor Hadrian and the statue of Jupiter Capitolinus after whom Hadrian gave the new name of Jerusalem - Aelia Capitolina. Here was discovered the cave of the Resurrection, and the rock of Golgotha, where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected (although in the New Testament it is not written that he was buried in the place of the crucifixion). According to that tradition, St. Helena, mother of Constantine, found the Cross, on which Jesus was crucified.
Constantine wrote in a letter to Macarius, the bishop of Jerusalem, that a basilica had to be built on the site, which would be the most beautiful of all churches. He presented the plan that he wanted for the church and made it clear that he would pay for the materials and transportation. He also noted special features for the ceiling, which was to be built of very expensive wood. The general plan and execution were left in the hands of the local authorities and architects.
The burial structures in early Christian era are characterized by the central shape inspired by ancient burial structures such as Hadrian's mausoleum and tomb of Diocletian in Split. While during the Roman Empire burial structures were usually built by the rulers for themselves and their families, during early Christianity, they were built for the saints.
Most of the burial structures were shaped like a circle, but there were also Greek cross-shaped structures (cross with four arms of equal length).
Constantine established a rotunda-shaped (circular shape) mausoleum adjacent to the church of the Holy Apostles in the fourth century, on the highest hill of his new capital.
The dynasty of Theodosius (since the fourth century) continued the tradition of construction of Imperial family burial structures near the church of St. Peter in Rome. These structures, rotunda-shaped, were destroyed, but their drawings have survived.
From the period of Constantine the burial structure which has survived in the best condition, while the basilica churches were destroyed or rebuilt, is the mausoleum of Santa Costanza.
The Mausoleum of Santa Constanza (330 CE) is considered an architectural masterpiece. It was built in Rome by Constantine for his daughter Constance. The Mausoleum has survived intact except for some internal decoration. This means that high quality of construction was possible in early Christianity.
Image - The mausoleum of Sta. Constanza , ground plan and side section
the main hall, as an analogy to the side aisles in the basilica church. Being composed of a central space taller than the space surrounding it, and allowing light to penetrate through the clerestory, this mausoleum resembles the basilica.
The central shape of the mausoleum of Santa Costanza continues the tradition of Roman burial structures. A narthex leads into the mausoleum which is a domed structure where the tomb is found. 12 pairs of granite columns with identical composite capitals support the annular barrel vault surrounding the central space. This creates a kind of ambulatory (resembling the passage around the apse in churches) enabling a walk around the tomb. The barrel vault above the ambulatory is decorated with mosaics from the fourth century, presenting grape harvest and a portrait of a woman (probably Constanza). A polygonal wall with windows, which is the clerestory, absorbs the pressure from the dome.
In 1256, the mausoleum became a church.
Following Constantine, the strong tyrannical ruler, appeared rulers who were too weak to impose their authority. At the end of the fifth century, and in the sixth century, the Byzantine Empire enjoyed relative peace and prosperity. When Justinian came to power in 527, the empire was flourishing and culture has been revived. It seemed that the ancient Roman Empire came to life.
The great emperor wanted to perpetuate his fame. As a great patron of architecture, he was responsible for the reconstruction of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and the construction of many magnificent churches in Mesopotamia, Syria and Israel. Classic, oriental, and Christian elements, which were part of Byzantine culture, appeared in architecture.
The historian Procopius, by order of Emperor Justinian wrote a book called "buildings" in which he describes the buildings built by the emperor, among them thousands of churches, monasteries, homes, hospitals, palaces, bridges and forts, which were built throughout the empire.
Justinian recovered North Africa from the Vandals, and established many churches there. He conquered Ravenna in Italy from the Goths and completed the construction of the church of San Vitale. In Byzantium itself he built the church of the Holy Apostles, the Church of Sergius and Bacchus and the church of Hagia Sofia. Byzantitne construction spread to the west towards Venice, and in the 12th century, it reached Sicily. In the East, it spread to toward Russia. In the 13th and 14th centuries, Byzantine architecture spread toward Serbia and Bulgaria.
The church of Vladimir in Russia (built in 989), which was Greek Orthodox, was influenced by Byzantine art. In Novgorod and Vladimir Russian architects built the churches in the shape of Greek cross and presented their own original innovations. Emphasis was put on a vertical rather than horizontal line. The domes are rising out of the "drums" in the shape of onions pointed at the top.
Compared with the Russians who belonged to the Greek Orthodox church, the peoples of Poland and Bohemia, who belonged to the Catholic Church, developed their architecture under the influence of Western styles.
The turning point in the history of Western architecture, began when Honorius (384-423), first Western emperor of the divided empire, made Ravenna the capital of the Western Roman empire in 402 CE. Ravenna was chosen because it was naturally protected by the sea, and by marshes, which hindered access. Since it was the capital, an accelerated construction began, and had Byzantine characteristics. Another impetus for building the city was when Ravenna became the bishop's seat in 438 CE.
In the early fifth century Ravenna fell in the hands of Visigoth tribes, and at the end of the fifth century, the Ostrogoths with their king Theodoric (454-526), conquered Italy, where they established a kingdom and made Ravenna their capital in 493 CE. Theodoric (King of Italy between the years 493-526) was an Arian and opposed the bishop of Rome who considered him heretic. The Arians perceived the nature of Jesus as human rather than divine. Arius, their spiritual teacher, saw a clear distinction between God and Jesus Christ who had a lesser status.
Unlike other German occupiers, Theodoric was cultured and open-minded ruler. As a man of culture, he was brought up in Constantinople. His rule was a Roman revival rather than a barbarian victory. He wrote to Maximilian that if the Romans would embellish their city, they would get support from him and his men. In another letter he wrote that he was sending workers to build, and requested that they would use the rubble from the ruined walls. In the same letter, he asks to use only stones that had fallen from public buildings, and avoid taking private property, not even to beautify the city.
A series of monuments, including churches magnificent inside, glorified Ravenna. Mosaics appear in the apse, the triumphal arch leading to the apse, between the clerestory windows, and sometimes, all over the walls. Many buildings rich in mosaics have survived, such as the mausoleum of Santa Costanza, the church of St. Apollinare Nuovo, St. Apollinare in classe, San Vitale, the mausoleum of Galla Placidia and more. The mosaics created a non-material atmosphere that suited Christianity.
Two types of structures developed in Ravenna. One type is basilica churches, and the second type is central structures - mausoleums, baptisteries and central churches.
Since the fifth century, the shape of the basilica churches became simpler than its shape during the rule of Constantine, and included one nave and two side aisles as seen in basilica churches in Ravenna. These churches were built with bricks and were characterized by simple external appearance and magnificent elegant internal look conveying a sense of passage into another world, away from the physical world. These churches are not Byzantine in structure, but in details of decoration using mosaics. This tendency, finds its expression in the basilica churches of St. Apollinare in Classe and St. Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna.
St. Apollinare in Classe
St. Apollinare in classe was built (535-538 CE), in the port city Classis, located about five kilometers from Ravenna, when Ravenna was still under Gothic rule. The man who financed the construction was Giuliano Argentario. The church was inaugurated in 549, after the reconquest by the Byzantines. Saint Apollinare (died in 392 CE), to whom the church was dedicated, brought the message of Christianity to Ravenna and was the first bishop of the city. As a vigorous opponent of Arianism, he stressed the divine nature of Jesus.
Image - The church of St. Apollinare in Classe
Byzantine artisans were engaged in construction work and their influence on church design is evident in the apse, which has the shape of a shell inside the church and a polygonal shape outside. On either side of the apse there is a square chamber: the prothasis and diakonikon, each with an apse that outward appears polygonal. In the diakonikon were stored the sacred tools, and in the prothasis the Mass would be prepared for the arrival of the faithful. Originally, there was an atrium in the church, but it disappeared and a narthex was left leading into the church.
Inside the church, there is a rich decoration. Column capitals in the nave are of the type "leaves carried by the wind." Above the arcade of the nave we find the portraits of the bishops of Ravenna in mosaic medallions.
The mosaics in the apse (dated to the sixth and seventh centuries) are the most eye-catching when entering the church, and are among the most beautiful in Ravenna. Under the apse there is a crypt above which there is a high altar with ciborium.
In this iconographic plan can be seen an expression of the hierarchical order typical to medieval descriptions. The most important figure is presented higher than the others, on a larger scale, closer to the center and with larger space around it.
The shell of the apse, besides being the focus of attention due to the wealth of depiction, creates a high acoustic quality.
The front of the church as it looks today, is thoroughly modern. The bell tower is from the tenth century.
St. Apollinare Nuovo was built during the years 493-525 by Theodoric, alongside his palace, as an Arian structure of prayer named "the basilica of Our Lord Jesus the messiah." Its history is directly related to political events. Some forty years later it passed to the Catholics led by the Catholic Bishop Angelus (served 557-570). Justinian issued a decree in 561, twenty-one years after the conquest of the city by the Byzantines, according to which, all Arian property would pass to the Holy Mother Church of Ravenna, the real orthodox mother. Then, the church was renamed St. Martino and was inaugurated again as a Catholic church.
Image - St. Apollinare Nuovo, ground plan
The mosaics of the nave from the time of Theodoric, have mostly survived. A row of martyrs headed by St. Martin in the southern wall, and a series of women martyrs in the northern wall, are walking towards the apse. Above the windows, a series of mosaics show pictures from the life of Jesus, thirteen on each side, with a motif of ornament between two such images. On the northern wall is depicted the story of Jesus' public life, and on the southern wall – the story of the Passion. Jesus' public life expresses his divine nature, while the Passion expresses his human nature. The believer who looks at these pictures on his way toward the apse acquires in this way the Arian creed that emphasizes the human nature of Jesus.
Under these mosaics can be seen a mosaic showing the palace of Theodoric near the port of Classis.
We must remember that the church went through changes since its building: the portico preceding the church is from the 16th century, and its apse, as stated, is modern. The bell tower was built in the eighth or ninth centuries, and its top around 1000 CE.
Churches in central plan were less customary. The reason probably lies in the fact that it does not suit a large audience.
The central structures in Ravenna are domed or vaulted. In the mausoleum of Galla Placidia and the church of San Vitale, the dome is semicircular inside, and pyramidal with a square base on the outside.
The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna
Mausoleum Galla Placidia (425-433 CE) was the burial structure that Galla Placidia, the queen of the Vizigoths, built for herself. Galla Placidia had many titles. She was the daughter of Theodosius I who ruled the western empire, and niece, from her mother's side, of the emperors Valentianus I , Graziano and Valentianus II. In 410 CE she was captivated by the vizigoths when Rome was sacked, and married their king Atawulf. After returning to Rome, she married Emperor Constantius who ruled briefly in partnership with her brother, Emperor Honorius, who ruled the western empire. She was also the sister of Emperor Arcadius, who ruled the eastern empire. After the death of her brother Honorius in 423, she ruled as regent replacing her son Valentnianus III who was then six year old. Thus, she won the title Queen of Visigoths. then, she moved from Constantinople to Ravenna, and ruled the empire for 25 years.
Galla Placidia had contact with great theologians like St. Ambrogio in Milan, Augustine of Hippo and Pietro Cristologo from Ravenna, who certainly inspired the religious significance of her mausoleum, which was dedicated to St. Lorenzo and probably served as a small preaching church less official than Sta. Croce, which was originally attached to it.
The plan of the mausoleum originated in Eastern tradition. Its shape is a Greek cross with one arm slightly longer than the others are. Over the intersection there is a square tower topped by a pyramidal dome. Inside the mausoleum, above the intersection area, there is a dome coated with mosaics presenting the sky with stylized stars and a large cross glowing at its center. The symbols of the evangelists appear in the pendentives. Here we are introduced to one of the first examples where pendentives serve to create the connection between a square base and a dome.
Compared with the inner heavenly look, the external appearance of the intersection area is angular, and on the outer wall of the mausoleum there are blind arches. The interior walls of the mausoleum, like the dome, are covered with mosaics. Each arm of the cross, on the inside of the mausoleum, is designed in a shape of barrel vault.
The angular appearance of the mausoleum's exterior is associated with earthly character, while the rounded internal forms, are associated with heavenly nature. The connection between the square in the intersection (earth) and the dome (heaven), is carried out, architecturally, by the pendentives, which represent the four gospel writers, creating a link between the believer and his God.
While the plan of the mausoleum draws inspiration from the East, the chiseling technique, like in other buildings from Galla Placidia's period, is Western. Coarse and broad bricks are placed in a bed of cement, instead of the quadratic narrow bricks with thick cement joints, which were used in the fifth century in Constantinople.
Theodoric's mausoleum was built in 530 CE, as a burial structure for Theodoric the king of the Ostrogoths, who died in 526. The burial structure probably stood in the center of a gothic cemetery outside the city. This is a monumental structure two stories in height. The first floor is decagonal (a ten-sided polygon of equal sides), and the second floor is cylindrical in shape.
Image - The mausoleum of Theodoric in Ravenna
In each of the two floors of the mausoleum, there is one room. The room downstairs is cross-shaped, while the room in the upper floor is circular. In the floor downstairs, there was probably an altar for funeral ceremony, while in the upper floor there was the tomb of the ruler, whose remains were removed during the Byzantine rule.
In Ravenna there were built two baptisteries famous due to their mosaics: the Orthodox Baptistery and and the Arian Baptistery.
The Orthodox Baptistry
The Orthodox Baptistery (400-452) which was originally named (San Giovanni in Fonte), was built by Bishop Honorius. Construction began in 400 CE, but the dome was built by Bishop Neon in 450 CE, after the defeat of the Goths. Then was added the decoration to the dome and to the upper part of the walls.
Image - The Orthodox Baptistery , inside
Image - The Orthodox Baptistery , the dome , inside.
In the ground plan of the baptistery, we can see a general external square structure, with rounded corners. In the center there is an octagonal space defined by two internal arcades, one atop the other. The upper arcade is subdivided into three arches under one main arch. In the center of this octagonal space is the font mirrored in the mosaic above, which represents the baptism of Jesus. Thus, there is a connection between the baptism of the believer and the baptism of Jesus.
The Arian Baptistery (now Church of Santo Spirito) was founded in c.500 by Theodoric who was, as mentioned earlier, an Arian. According to Arian doctrine, Jesus was the Son of God, but kept his human nature.
Baptism had a special meaning for the Arians because only in the ceremony of baptism, was expressed the divine nature of Jesus. Apart from their belief in the merge of human nature with the divine nature in Christ, and apart from the obvious separation between Jesus the man and Jesus Christ the God, in the worship itself, Arian Christians, and Orthodox Christians were similar. The Arian Baptistery is a modest imitation of the Orthodox Baptistery. It is smaller than the Orthodox Baptistery, but both baptisteries are similar in shape.
Image - Baptism of Christ , mosaic in the dome of the Arian Baptistery
In the dome of the Arian Baptistery, like in the dome of the Orthodox one, Jesus' baptism is described in mosaics. The human nature of Jesus is highlighted showing his naked body. Here, as in the Orthodox baptistery, Christ is surrounded by apostles located below. In contrast to the Orthodox baptism where the young Jesus came from the East, in the Arian Baptistery Jesus moves toward the east. He becomes God only at the moment of baptism, according to the Arian perception.
The Church of San Vitale in Ravenna (525-547) was built in the name of Saint Vitalus (in Italian: Vitale) who was a Roman slave and Christian Martyr. The construction began under the rule of Amalasuntha, who followed her father, Theodoric and adopted the policy of tolerance towards Catholics. The construction was done under the supervision of Bishop Ecclesius and financed by the rich banker Giuliano Argentario, who also financed the construction of St. Apollinare in classe. All churches in Ravenna whose construction was financed by Argentario, were built in Byzantine building techniques, using long rectangular and thin bricks with thick cement connections.
Image - The church of San Vitale in Ravenna
An atrium led to the church which was octagonal with two spaces (an internal octagon about 15 m in diameter, and an outer octagon about 33.5 m in diameter). The internal space has a shape of a flower. Although the shape of the building is circular, there is an orientation toward the apse in the east. In front of the entrance to the church there was an atrium which has not survived. It led to a nartex whose axis was not perpendicular to the longiturnal axis leading to the apse. While horizontal axis is a prominent characteristic of the basilica churches, in San Vitale the vertical axis is prominent.
The construction of San Vitale drew inspiration from the temple of Minerva Medica in Rome (built in 263-268 CE), whose shape was decagonal. In this temple, the structure supporting the dome is made of ten pillars linking together ten arches. High and large windows were built between the pillars, over the nine apses and the entrance.
The church is majestic and emphasizes the glory of God and the need for intermediaries between him and the believers. One of these mediators is the emperor whose seat in the church is located in the gallery facing the apse. As the messenger of God on earth, he is located between heaven and earth, and links between the sacred and profane. This is reflected also in the mosaics facing the apse, where Constantine and Theodora his wife, are depicted with their entourages, between the believers who go to church and Jesus who is presented in the apse. The shape of the apse is rounded inside and angular from the outside.
Artists were sent from Constantinople to create mosaic description of Justinian and Theodora participating in the Eucharist, in which, according to Christian belief, the bread and wine become Christ's body and blood, and renew his sacrifice on the cross to save humanity from the original sin. Looking toward the apse, on the left, Justinian is shown, accompanied by his entourage, bringing the bread, and on the right - Theodora accompanied by her entourage, bringing the wine. In fact, the feet of Justinian and Theodore never stepped on the soil of Ravenna.
Justinian wanted to make the Church of San Vitale in Italy a symbol of his legal rule and the Christian Empire deposited in his hands by God. The octagonal shape on which the plan of the church is based symbolizes the eighth day when Christ rose from the dead. Among pagans, the number 8 was the number of the musical octave, representing cosmic harmony. Here it alludes to the universal peace and unity achieved under the rule of Justinian, a unity fulfilling the divine order on earth.
San Vitale had a great influence on Western architecture. We will see its influence on the plan of the Palatine Chapel in Aachen, two hundred fifty years later, when Charlemagne invited Byzantine artists persecuted by iconoclasts in Constantinople, to do the work.
Of all the building projects of Emperor Justinian, the most important was the construction of the Church of Hagia Sophia (literally in Greek: sacred wisdom), dedicated to the Holy Wisdom, the wisdom of Jesus. This was the world's largest church of its time. It was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The first church of Hagia Sophia was a basilica church with a wooden roof, built by Constantine, and dedicated in 360 CE. This church was burned in 404 CE and rebuilt in 532 CE by Anthemius of Trales who was a known mathematician, and Isidorus of Milletus. These two architects came from areas where there was a tradition of building vaults and domes.
Image - The church of Hagia Sophia , ground plan
Image - Hagia Sophia , inside
Its beauty, size and the harmony of its dimensions marked the church, according to the historian Procopius, who described it shortly after its completion in 537. There is no exaggeration or derogation. You could say, so he writes, that the place was lit not by the sun outside, but by rays of light generating from within. Procopius also wrote about Hagia Sophia, that every time you go to church to pray, you understand at once that it was not designed by the talent of a man, but under the influence of God. Therefore, the visitor's soul is carried to God and floats over, thinking that he may not be far away, but loves to live in this place, where he himself chose. As for the dome of the church, Procopius wrote that it was hung in the sky on a gold chain.
The structure of the church of Hagia Sophia was inspired by Roman tradition and especially by the basilica of Constantine, the Temple of Minerva Medica and the Pantheon. The Pantheon provided the main structural model for Justinian and his architects, who translated the Roman concrete to the Byzantine bricks. The church of Hagia Sophia displays a perfect quality by incorporating the structure of the basilica with a central structure. The church was seen as a microcosm with heaven and earth, and as the embodiment of Jesus' life on earth.
The Byzantine emperors wanted to create an earthly copy of the heavenly Jerusalem. The main part of the church, which includes the nave and the aisles, has a shape close to a square (70X 71.7 m). The dome (35 m in diameter) rises 60 m above the floor at the nave's main central square, and creates the illusion of the sky. The dome inside, according to Procopius, was coated with pure gold, and added splendor and beauty to the church. As for the exterior of the church, wrote Procopius, it perched high above its surroundings and decorated the city.
On each corner of the central square stands a massive pillar. These pillars support the arches bearing the large dome, using pendentives. The dome here is a new element in architecture of churches. It lies exactly in the center of the nave and its size is huge. The light penetrates into the interior of the church through forty windows under the base of the dome, creating the illusion that the dome floats mysteriously over the interior of the church. The contrast between the bright central space, and the dim side aisles adds an aura of mystery to the church. The original shape of the original windows remains unknown, but it can be assumed that their structure was similar.
The interior of the church was filled with the splendor of Byzantine art. Pillars were covered with precious marble, porphyry and ancient green marble (Verde Antique). The walls were lined with marble in various colors. The domes, vaults and arches were decorated with colored glass mosaics which presented Jesus, six cherubs, saints, apostles and angels on a gold background. The sacred altar was coated with gold and precious stones. Marble slabs were brought from Greece and the Atlantic coast in France. Justinian often supervised the work, and Anthemius explained the designs to him.
Detailed study of the construction of Hagia Sophia reveals original and innovative solutions, and scientific depth of genius architects. The vastness of the church reflects a trend toward the Roman and Asian monumental construction alike, and matches the enormity of the empire of Justinian.
Recent studies, found that the ring of the windows beneath the dome, which creates an impression of "hanging", is a good way to prevent longitudinal cracks.
The abundance of gold in the Byzantine churches has not survived. Evidence from the Byzantine period, shows that the rulers at the beginning of the seventh century, used the silver and gold from the church to cast coins in order to pay for repelling the Persians who invaded Asia Minor. Such phenomena, reappeared in the 11th and 13th centuries.
Hagia Sophia introduced many architectural innovations. While the dome of the Pantheon is based on continuous walls with niches inside them, in Hagia Sophia there are four large arches, four pendentives with four massive pillars, tympana (plural of tympanum) walls and half-domes which support the dome. The combination of the drilled tympana, with the many windows under the the dome (which were, originally, larger than the current windows) enabling the penetration of direct light into the interior of the church, had never been tried before, and is one of the greatest achievements of architecture of the period . The support to the north and south of the central dome, predicts the future style that would dominate the Gothic architecture.
The church of Hagia Sophia, which indicates a high point in Byzantine art, became a model for Byzantine churches built later. It is considered one of the masterpieces in the history of architecture.
The Church of San Mark in Venice (from 1063) was originally a chapel of the Duke's palace, and became the town's main building. This is a great and glorious church, combining elements from different sources and periods, in perfect harmony.
Image - St. Mark's Church in Venice
The ground plan of St. Mark's Church is Greek cross shaped. Domes are rising above each arm of the cross, and above the square of the intersection. The dome above the square of the intersection is the largest. The great interior, which is famous for its mosaics, testifies that it was not meant for a small community, but for a large crowd of people. The choir has three apses in each of which, there are internal niches. The central dome is separated from the other domes by a narrow barrel vault to which are connected the pillars of the dome. Under the vault is found the gallery floor. The church's floor is made of marble mosaic. The walls, in their lower part, show also colorful marble.
The church's bell tower, built between the years 874-1150, reached a height of 91 meters, and was rebuilt after its collapse in 1902.
After the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, caused by pressure from invaders in the fifth century, the Eastern Empire rule passed to the Greeks, and Greek was the official language. Due to its military and economic power, Constantinople survived for a thousand years despite revolutions, wars and religious disputes. In the west part of the empire ruled German kings who were commanders in the army in the service of emperors of the East Empire. This was the theoretical situation, but in fact, the lands of the Roman Empire moved to a series of German kingdoms: Franks ruled in France, Visigoths in Spain, Vandals in North - Africa, and Ostrogoths in Italy.
After the marriage of Clovis with Clotilde who was Christian and after he accepted her religion, and was baptized to Christianity, he founded churches and monasteries and imposed the Christian religion in the occupied territories in France, Belgium and Spain. His acceptance of the Roman Christian religion strengthened the power of the Church against the Arians who were considered heretics.
Pepin the short united the lands of France and built the center of his kingdom in Belgium and the Rhineland. Before he died in 768, he divided his kingdom between his sons, Carloman and Carl, as was the custom among the Franks. Carloman died in 771, and the entire kingdom passed to Carl, who is better known as Charlemagne.
Charlemagne (742-814) who reigned from 768 to 814 was one of the most important rulers of medieval history. Europe was united and Rome and Aachen (Aix-la- Chapelle, in French), which was was considered "Rome of the North ", became the official capitals of his empire that included much of central Europe and the north of Italy. In the empire that he founded, he saw the revival of the Roman Empire (Renovatio Imperio Romanorum). He promoted education in monasteries (he himself could not read or write) that were centers of culture and encouraged literature and art.
In 800 CE, the pope crowned Charlemagne emperor of the Romans. The secular power of the Merovingians became a theocracy, and the emperor became a defender of Christianity. Cooperation between the church and the state intensified.
The Carolingian rulers expanded the Frankish kingdom westward in Europe (not including Muslim Spain), and brought peace and security after a long period of insecurity resulting from the invasions of Germanic tribes in the fifth century.
Carolingian Architectural Concept
When talking about Carolingian architecture, it means architecture in the kingdom of Charlemagne during the years 750-850. During this period we do not refer to German or French architecture, but to common Carolingian architecture. Both these nations were not separated then.
Carolingian architecture was influenced by Roman architecture, but has also developed its own characteristics, which marked the origin of Romanesque architecture and the beginning of a medieval tradition of Western architecture.
Carolingian churches had very thick walls. The windows were small, and some light penetrated through them. A striking innovation in Carolingian architecture was the westwerk (or westwork) (literally: the work of the west) – a monumental façade with a pair of towers, usually on the west side of the church. In the late Carolingian period there were sometimes four towers as an integral part of the church, two in the front and two in the corners of the transept. In Germany, the dimensions of these towers, which were round, tended to be smaller than elsewhere.
During this period, as in early Christian architecture, great importance was attributed to symbols, which were intended to glorify God and the emperor, as seen in the Palatine Chapel in Aachen.
Two phenomena, monasteries based on the rules of St. Benedict, and the cult of the saints expressed by the pilgrimage, greatly influenced the church architecture in the Carolingian period and subsequent periods. To understand the development of architecture from the Carolingian period on, it is important to be familiar with these phenomena, which I will address in detail later.
People were sent by Charlemagne to Monte Cassino, to copy the rules of the Benedictine monastery and bring them to him in Aachen. This explains the plans for the Carolingian monasteries which matched the Benedictine rules.
. Our knowledge of the Carolingian architecture is limited because most of its monuments were destroyed. Unfortunately, most of the Carolingian churches have not survived. The Cathedrals of St. Denis and Reims in France, now stand on the remains of Carolingian churches.
The Palatine Chapel in Aachen
The Palatine Chapel (789-794), which was part of the palace of Charlemagne in Aachen, was designed by Odo of Metz, to serve as the palace and mausoleum. Einhard, the dwarf biographer of Charlemagne, supervised the construction work at the palace since the year 791. The chapel was dedicated in 805 by Pope Leo the third, to the messiah and the Mother of God.
Einhard, in his book "The Life of Charlemagne" (Vita Caroli Magni), from c.820, and Notker Balbulus, in his book on the life of Charlemagne (c.980), emphasize the importance of the palace in Aachen for the period, although it was one of the 14 palaces built by Carl the Great. Of the three palaces preferred by Charlemagne, the palace in Ingelheim was the favorite.
The structure of the Palatine chapel in Aachen combines new and original look with imperial architecture rooted in the Roman Empire dating from Constantine and Justinian. To carry out the construction work, artisans were brought from all over the empire.
The Palatine Chapel was part of layout of structures including audience hall that also served as a dining hall, a gateway, an overpass that connected these elements, and baths. The palace was called at the time Lateran – a name, which is associated with the complex of the buildings of the papacy in Rome.
San Vitale was not the only source of inspiration for the chapel in Aachen. Another source of inspiration was the Church of Sergius and Bacchus in Constantinople which was built by Emperor Justinian in c.520 CE as part of the his residential compound before he became an emperor. In the Church of Sergius and Bacchus, we also find an octagonal structure with eight corners, but the octagon inside the square, around which there are cloisters semicircular and rectangular alternately, creates an ambulatory very different from that in the Palatine Chapel in Aachen. Above the first floor, there is a gallery floor.
The massive walls of the Palatine Chapel in Aachen were built in stone, with small windows, to support the heavy stone dome. The aesthetics and structure of the Palatine Chapel in Aachen is reminiscent of Roman precedents, but instead of using concrete for construction, here were used large massive stones, which were the precursor of Romanesque architecture.
The beautiful columns in the galleries of the Palatine Chapel were originated in the palace of Theodoric in Ravenna. By the order of Charlemagne, they were removed from their place and brought to Aachen.
During the Gothic period, the choir was replaced by a Gothic building and several chapels were added to the royal chapel. The mosaics on gold backgrounds were made in 1882. In 1902 marble coatings and mosaics were added.
The Gate of Lorsch Monastery
In the construction of the gate of Lorsch which has survived, united three styles: the classic, Byzantine and Nordic styles. The structure of the gate (from 800 CE) looks like a triumphal arch for King Carl the Great (before he became emperor). Pillars support large arcades. Although the building reminds of triumphal arch, it differs from the Roman triumphal arches. Unlike the ancient monuments that emphasized the central arch, in Lorsch the three arches are of equal height and length.
The surface of the wall, covered with colored plates, are of Byzantine origin. The frieze upstairs with triangular patterns and the inverted V shaped arches, originate in Nordic tradition. Ancient elements, which can be detected in the gate of Lorsch monastery, beside the triumphal arch and opus reticulatum, are the pillars supporting colonnade, the pilasters, the shape of the bases of columns and their capitals.
Image - Ther gate in Lorsch
The gate in Lorsch was built entirely in stone. This is a significant fact in a region where almost all the buildings were built in wood.
The gate is reminiscent of the propilaea - the gate leading to the classic Greek sacred compound.
All the classical elements that we find in the gate in Lorsch reflect the Carolingian Renaissance, the Translatio and Renovatio - transfer of power and the revival of the Roman Empire.
Inside the gate structure, in the upper part, a large hall 10 m in length and 7 m in width, was probably used for the reception of the emperor. The monastery's founder may have been living in the gate as was customary. It is known that the Bishop of Rheims lived above one of the gates of the city.
The Benedictine Monasteries
The first Christian monk was St. Anthony (251-356) who retired to the desert at 15 and lived in solitude and seclusion. At 20, he founded the institution of ascetics when he organized the life of the monks who settled around him. Already during this period were developed rules of monastic life, which were written by Pachomius (290-346). According to his rules, the monks had to live in isolated huts, gather to eat together, but avoid talking. Monasteries appeared sporadically in Provence, France and remote areas, such as Ireland and Scotland.
Benedictine monks were mainly working and studying. They were writing and copying scriptures. Copying books was considered a sacred ritual and a means of preaching the word of God. Here were the only libraries, and here were the only schools as well. In the schools of the monasteries there were children whose parents intended them to live as monks. The culture of antiquity, which continued to exist, can be attributed to the monks.
The authority of the monasteries constituted a threat to the authority of the bishop who was their natural rival. We should distinguish between a monastery church and a cathedral. Cathedral (literally in Latin: "chair") is a church where the bishop's throne is found.
Monasteries often served as institutions spreading Christianity, and sometimes they served as banks for deposits, hostels for wayfarers and educational, teaching and art centers. Knowledge of the Middle Ages came to us from chronicles written by monks.
The layout of the monastery included lodgings for the monks, dining room, kitchens and basements, room for important visitors and a place to stay for guests. The last two were separated from the monastery building itself so that the monks would not be disturbed. Likewise, in the compound of the monastery there were hospital, library and school.
Another important element in the monastery was the cloister, a courtyard surrounded by porticos designed for retirement and solitude. In the cloister the monks would walk back and forth and think, free of interference from the outside world. To keep them away from everyday life, the monasteries were supposed to be surrounded by walls.
The Benedictine Order took root throughout western Europe, and included also monasteries of nuns. Within a short period, the monasteries were highly regarded among the communities, which flooded them with gifts. Thus, the monasteries became rich landowners who employed vassals, as did the lords. Although the original Benedictine rules ordered the monks to perform manual labor themselves, the revised rules of orders such as Cluny, created a division according to which the monks focused on school and religious functions, while vassals did the manual labor. The monastery became a kind of fief.
Being defenseless, many monasteries were destroyed by bandit invaders. To prevent such effects, monasteries were often built in areas naturally protected. Thus, they attracted people, who built cities around them, and took care to protect them.
One religious phenomena, which strongly influenced the shape of church architecture in the Carolingian period was the cult of relics. During the early Christian basilica churches were built over the graves of martyrs. The tendency to worship remains of saints began in the early Middle Ages and became madness. The relics were body parts of saints and their hair. In addition, the relics were also objects such as a part of the Holy Cross, a fragment of the stone on which Jesus' blood was spilled, parts of Aaron's rod, a piece of cloth from the gown of Mary, and part of the window, through which angel Gabriel entered when he came to tell Mary the message of the annunciation. Such remains were collected from anywhere and sometimes it was very costly. They were expensive marketable commodity, which led to the development of advanced manufacturing of fake relics.
The desire for the remains of saints has resulted sometimes in ridiculous phenomena such as occurred in the fifth century when two heads of John the Baptist were "discovered". In the 11th century, his two heads "were" in Constantinople, while his third head was "discovered" at St. Angeli church in central France. Guibert Nogent (died in 1124) wrote that the citizens of Constantinople claimed that they possessed the head of John the Baptist, while the monks of St. Angeli believed that it was in their hands. He went on, asking if there was something more stupid than assuming the saint was two-headed.
There was no way to verify the authenticity of the relics and thus, absurd situations were created such as finding three heads of the same saint. During the middle ages holy remains were required in order to sanctify the church. They were already in use in the dedication of the first Roman churches.
During the period of much pilgrimage, the strengthening of worship of holy remains found its expression in architecture. The innovation as the result of relics' worship was the addition of side chapels to the central apse, where the remains of saints were stored. Another solution was to store the remains of saints was found in the Carolingian churches in the apse, which was added in the western end of the church, opposite the eastern main apse. An early such example is found in the plan of the apse in the monastery of San Gallen.
The Plan of St. Gallen Monastery
Image - Plan of San Gallen monastery
The organization of the church of the monastery and all the buildings and facilities, which provide the community with its own needs, reflect the rules of St. Benedict who combined worship with manual labor. An array of structures were designed keeping in mind the fact that the monks were isolated from workers who were not monks, as well as from the public around them, and yet were in contact with their environment.
In the layout of the monastery of St. Gallen, the abbey church is the most magnificent structure. It has the shape of a basilica, with a westwerk as a main entrance and with a pair of round towers. There are many entrances to the church, which has two apses, one at the eastern end, and the other at the western end. Over the square of the intersection there is a bell tower. Additional elements, which can be seen in the church of St Gallen monastery are chapels radiating from the apse and an ambulatory which is the continuation of the side aisles, as mentioned in the chapter dealing with the phenomenon of holy relics.
Beside the church, the San Gallen Monastery plan includes an array of structures: the cloister, chapter house, abbot's quarters, monks' quarters, house of accommodations, schools, library, bakery, brewery, kitchen, basement storage, workshop blacksmith, goldsmith workshops of other artisans , fish pond, gardens, fruit and vegetable gardens, grain grinder and more.
The plan of the monastery of St. Gallen is an ideal plan for a large monastery, given to changes according to the local needs and conditions. In the plan is reflected the fact that in the Middle Ages, in the ninth century, monasteries were not built in cities. The community of the monastery was an autarkic unit economically independent, as a small country.
The most important source by which we can learn about architecture in the Carolingian monasteries is the monastery of St. Riquier) (790-799). This monastery was built in northeastern France by Angilbert (the lover of one of the daughters of Charlemagne), and was dedicated in 799 in the presence of the emperor himself.
Image - St. Riquier , etching
The main church dedicated to Jesus, Mary and St.Riquier, was built by workers brought from Italy especially for this purpose. This is a basilica church with many towers, a nave, a transept and an apse in the east. On the western front of the church is found the novelty of the Carolingian church – the westwerk creating another sacred place. The magnificent gate suited the entrance of the emperor to the church. Here was also built a special place where the emperor, on the second floor, could watch the ceremony held in the East. Thus, he could also manage his own ceremony in the west. The balcony enabled him to watch the believers in the atrium.
The main function of the westwerk was to focus the attention to the emperor or the ruler, even if he was not present in person. The westwerk expressed the power of the state and the most sacred nature of the ruler. It represented the emperor as the defender of the church. This explains the large number of westwerks in Saxony which was conquered by Charlemagne. The westwerks declare the emperor's right to control the region.
On the site where originally stood the monastery of St. Riquier, was built a structure in the late Gothic style. Today there is no sign of Carolingian work.
After Charlemagne's death, his son Louis the Pious (840-778), who inherited the kingdom, ascended the throne. As his nickname indicates, Louis the Pious was more interested in religion than in the empire, which he passed to his sons. Civil wars during his rule undermined the unity of Western Europe, which was created by his predecessors. Under the successors of Charlemagne, the Frankish empire split into three parts: the western, central and eastern. The emperor's power weakened, and a dark period filled with wars appeared.
The disintegration of the empire of Charlemagne and the invasion of the Vikings led to the development of feudalism, which was intended to protect the residents of the estates. The king's influence declined, and the influence of the nobles within the kingdom increased. Feudalism spread throughout France, and from France to the rest of Western Europe. The state split into districts, which were almost completely independent. The noble would give the knight a manor - "Faodom", hence the word "feudalism".
During the ninth and tenth centuries much of Western Europe was politically divided into fiefs. The King was, in theory, a landowner, and the bishop or nobleman who conducted the work as a lodger, who was obliged to protect the crown with noble knights who were professional warriors.
In France, the great feudal centers were the Duchy of Burgundy, Aquitaine, Bretagne, Normandy, Flanders, Campania, Anjou, and more. During this period, at least half the size of Europe was covered by forests. The centers of life were the castle, cathedral and monastery. Settlements called cities were nothing more than the government's building surrounded by houses encircled by a wall.
The state, in the sense familiar to us today did not exist. The few hospitals and schools that existed were built and managed by the church. The ruler built as he wished. For pleasure, he usually built palaces from which he went to hunt. When a church was built, he had different motives, including: to be pardoned, to express religious sentiments, to present his wealth and make propaganda for his regime.
The Ottonian period is associated with Germany under Saxonian rulers who were crowned as emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. In 911 died the last emperor of the Carolingian dynasty. In this year Conrad, the duke of Franconia was chosen to be the king in Germany. Unlike what happened in France, this choice did not result in a long line of kings.
In 962 Otto was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and identified himself with the German church. Although his authority was limited, his successors continued to hold the title of emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. These emperors had never succeeded to unite Germany, which actually consisted of many independent duchies.
Otto II (ruled 973-983) wanted to unite the Germans and Italians in a crusade against the Muslims, but did not succeed in carrying out these plans. Otto III (ruled 983-1002), who came to power at the age of three years, died at a young age. His uncle, King Heinrich II (ruled 1002-1024) was his successor, who strengthened the royal power in Germany. After his death, Conrad II (1024-1039) was elected. Actually, with the Ottonian dynasty began the German history.
The first quarter of the 11th century marked a turning point in European history. The Norwegian King Olaf II (c.995 - 1030) who reigned from 1016 to 1028, Christianized the majority of Scandinavians, and thus ended the Viking threat. The Magyar tribes too, accepted the Christian religion.
Ottonian architecture appeared in Germany and in Lombardy during the Ottonian dynasty. Germany was at this time the leading country in Europe in politics and art. Cologne was associated with the imperial family through its archbishop, Bruno, brother of Otto I who founded the Benedictine monastery there (in 955 CE) and left his mark in the city through the many churches that he built, and rebuilt. His favorite church St. Pantaleon, which was devoted to the Greek martyr St. Pantaleon, was built starting in 964 and dedicated in 980. This church was the burial place of Bruno and the wife of Otto II. The only remains of this church that kept the original form to this day are the westwerk, which was inspired by the Carolingian westwerk and the tower over the square of the intersection.
The Church of St. Michael in Hildesheim
The Ottonian architecture reached its peak at the Benedictine monastery Church of the St. Michael in Hildesheim (1001-1033). Bishop Bernward, statesman, artist and teacher of Otto III, established it and probably participated in its planning. After a fire broke out in the church in 1162, restoration work was required. Then, changed the shape of the columns and capitals, and the church was dedicated anew in 1189. After the many changes that the church went through, it was very much damaged by air raid in 1945. The Church of St. Michael today, is a replica as faithful as possible to the original church.
Image - St Michael in Hildesheim, side section and ground plan
The architecture of the church reflects a tendency to a complex ground plan. The church is divided into a series of individual units, division which appeared later in the Romanesque style. The plan of the church with its two apses, the traditional apse and the apse added in the west, and side entrances, reminds of St. Gallen monastery. Here the symmetry of the building is far reaching. The two transepts are identical and have a tower in the square of intersection. The proportions are harmonious inside and out. The width of the nave equals the width of the transepts, and the shape of the intersection is square. The corners of this quare are marked by pillars joined together by round arches. In the arcades of the nave, between each two pillars there are two columns. Thus, a pillar and a pair of columns appear in alternation. This use of alternation was favored in Saxony during the Romanesque period.
Image - St Michael in Hildesheim
The church exteriors have massive appearance, and the interior is refined. Bernward who visited France and Italy, ordered an imitation of Trajan's column, and the bronze doors for the church. He visited Rome in 1001 with Otto III, lived some time in the palace, near the church of Santa Sabina, where there were still the wooden doors with reliefs, which probably served as an inspiration to the bronze doors of Hildesheim's church. In Rome, Bernward was apparently also inspired to build the imitation to Trajan's column.
In the church of St. Michael in Hildesheim began the combination of architecture with sculpture heralding the Romanesque church. In this period faith was permeated among the believers and there was no fear of statues which would be destroyed before the 11th century, as representing pagan faith.