Architecture as a product of culture, history, science, technology, economics, society, religion, and state




A journey through five thousand years of architecture and urban planning in the Western world



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Each generation writes its autobiography in the buildings it creates.

Louis Mumford

Friday, September 2, 2011


         Historical Background of the                    
                 Byzantine Empire          

          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.
   Although Christianity was a persecuted religion, and its congregation had to conduct its religious worship secretly, it became a very powerful social and political organization. As long as the persecutions continued, the worship was naturally modest.
  In the fourth century, Roman Emperor Constantine (ruled 306 – 337) understood the spiritual power of Christianity, although the Christians were only one-tenth the empire's population. After defeating Maxentius on the Milvian bridge in 312, Christianity became the state religion of Rome in 324 CE. Since then, the persecution of Christians stopped and was paved the way for the development of church architecture.
 Constantine was the first emperor who was a patron of large-scale commissions of art. The great churches built in Rome, Antioch and in the land of Israel, marked a new beginning in the development of Christian art.
      In order to strengthen the unity of the Christian Empire, which split into Arians (whose spiritual leader was a priest from Alexandria named Arius) (256-336) and Orthodox, the emperor ordered (in 325) to convene religious scholars from all over the Christian world in the city of Nicaea in Asia Minor. There they had to reach a unified position about the divinity of Jesus, which was controversial.
           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.     
       A pastor who agreed with the approach of Arius became an Arian missionary among the Gothic (Germanic) tribes, and under his influence, they accepted the Arian Christianity. The Orthodox Christians considered them heretics.
     The religious division was not the only reason for the lack of unity of the empire. In 395 the dead emperor Theodosius I (b. 345 CE) who had declared Christianity as the only state religion in the empire, left two sons, Arcadius who received the eastern empire, and Honorius, who received the western empire. During this period, the Ostrogoths ruled the court of Ravenna (Italy).
       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 Byzantines were residents of the Eastern Empire, while the Romans considered themselves the heirs of Hellenistic culture. They spoke Greek and forgot the Latin language. Along with their close ties with Greece, they had a closer connection to the East, which was then, as it is today, rich in ornaments and vibrant colors.    
Carpets, silks and jewels, were brought to the West from Persia, India and China through Constantinople. From this connection with the East the Byzantines drew the extraordinary love of colors of Eastern beauty, where gold, red and purple join the celebration of glory and luxury.
        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".
  Unlike the Eastern Byzantine Empire, which managed to fend off attempts to penetrate its borders, the Western Roman Empire was repeatedly attacked by invaders making the way to its fall.
  The Vizigoths with their leader Alaric, invaded Rome in 410 and looted it. The Vandals attacked Carthage in 428-9, destroyed the Roman outposts, and established an empire in North - Africa. Then, they made their way to Rome itself, which they ransacked in 455.
     The Huns led by Attila invaded western  Europe in 451-2 and destroyed cities one by one. Emperors continued to rule Ravenna until the last Roman emperor was removed in 476 and the Western Empire came to an end.
          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 theory, the Roman Empire was united under the emperor, but actually German kings ruled the empire as secondary to the emperor. In 568, just three years after the death of Justinian, areas of Italy fell to the hands of the German tribes called "long beards" – Lombards (Longobardi).
        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.
   Byzantine Christian religion spread to Russia since the year 988 or so, then the Russian ruler Vladimir accepted it. The Slavs in Russia adopted the Byzantine heritage and the Byzantine social structure.
       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 transfer of the capital from Rome to Constantinople in the fourth century led to a situation where there were no nearby sources of pozzuolana, the volcanic sand, which formed the Roman concrete. The builders in the new Roman capital had to adopt Roman techniques of building in pozzuolzna, using local building materials. One example is the city walls whose construction began in the fifth century, and which were expanded, and rebuilt over the years. The walls consist of cement and gravel, which are the heart of the structure, and layers of alternating brick and stone surround them. This construction method continued throughout the Mediterranean area until the Renaissance.
         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 decorative character of the outer wall depended on the way in which the bricks were placed in layers that was not always horizontal. Sometimes they were placed in zig-zag pattern, and sometimes meander or herringbone pattern.
  Most of the walls of monumental buildings were covered with stucco, marble coating or decorative coatings. While the Roman walls with the niches built into them are massive, most interior walls of Byzantine structures, even when heavy and massive, look light due to the rich patterns and veins of the marble, and due to the gilt and mosaics.
In churches, which had a gallery, massive pillars were needed in the nave in order to support it. On the other hand, churches without gallery, with ceiling built of wood, as was the basilica churches built in Rome by Constantine, spindly columns gave the church a light look. The columns were designed with capitals wide enough at their top to carry the arches or a thick wall.
      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.
In the Eastern Empire, the Byzantine architect would have to deal with a serious problem, which his friends in the West did not have to confront, which was the shortage of wood. He had to build a stone dome. The use of domes was common in the East, and the Byzantine architects were spellbound by them, but they did not copy. Instead, they were experimenting to find new construction methods, such as building a dome on a square basis. This has been performed in the following ways:
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.
The monumentality and intensity of expression of the Byzantine mosaic art was unprecedented. Mosaic covered domes, half - domes and other surfaces within the church.

Byzantine Architectural Perception
     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.
The structure inspired by the Roman basilica served as a church. The round structure usually was built as baptistery or burial structure, and sometimes as a church. A structure combining the round design with a longitudinal design served as a church.
The church was seen as a reflection of divine order. Domes and vaults symbolized the sky. During the rule of Justinian, in Byzantine churches the dominant shape of a dome, usually built over a cube shaped structure or above the square of the intersection on a Greek cross (cross with four equal arms) so that the structure in the intersection was tangent to an imaginary cube. Likewise, an octagonal-shaped plan developed. The main dome was often accompanied by smaller domes placed on the arms of the cross, creating the impression of magnificent majestic vast space.
The dome was the focus of all parts of the church and its spaces. It could be seen at least in part, from every corner of the church, which united all the participants in worship. The altar was sometimes placed under the dome, adding a sense of unity.
The appearance of the early Byzantine church was simple, and most of the artistic effort was made inside. The massive wall, which was common in the Roman basilica was gradually replaced by simple bricks. The exterior walls were devoid of ornament, symbolizing the Christian soul entirely directed inward. In contrast, within the church there was a splendor designated to stimulate in the heart of the believers a mystical sense of glowing in a heavenly space. This impression was achieved by marble columns, lacy-looking magnificent capitals, precious stones, and mosaics on a gold background.
         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.
In designing capitals in the church, classic orders were abandoned in favor of a flat look of capitals designed in a shape enabling the passage from a square abacus to a round column. Examples of such capitals are found in San Vitale in Ravenna and in Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. A capital called "basket capital" and capitals featured as leaves blown by the wind developed. 
Likewise, developed capitals with ornaments in very low relief with motifs of Roman acanthus leaves, egg and dart and others. In the design of these capitals is marked preference of abstract line and stylized shapes. Similarly, there are lace-like leaf-shaped capitals with drilled holes. The capitals design technique testifies to it being made by Byzantine artists. The shapes of capitals moved away from the classical capitals and received a new look where stylized forms expressed pure Christian content.

 Beside distancing from classic architectural elements, the architects were forced to abandon classical building types considered irrelevant when Christianity changed from a persecuted religion to an official one.
After the Council of Nicaea, Constantine forbade holding gladiatorial contests. This order was not popular because most Romans were particularly excited about these competitions. Roman amphitheaters and other buildings such as theaters and baths were functionally useless because the activity in these places contradicted the Christian lifestyle and many of them were considered obscene.
  The basilicas and temples of the ancient Romans became Christian churches. Thus, the temple of Antoninus and Faustina in Rome became the Church of San Lorenzo, and the Senate became St. Adrian's church.
        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.
During the 9th and 10th centuries, the Byzantine church was usually small in size and rich in decoration and mosaics. It was generally Greek cross-shaped (a cross with arms of equal length). Often there was a narthex (entrance hall) on one of the arms of the cross, and an apse in the opposite arm to create an orientation towards the sacred place. The most striking feature was the big dome placed over the center of the church. Churches on a Greek cross-shaped ground plan have been built without significant changes until the modern period.
        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 Byzantine Church
        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.
 Constantine wanted a new kind of architecture. Classical temples were unsuitable for Christian worship, neither in their pagan content, nor in their form. While the structure of the Greek temple was designed for worship outside the temple, Christian worship required a large space for the gathering in a structure. The church, as its Greek name (ecclesia meaning literally: "a gathering of people") implies, is a place of gathering.
 The type of structure most suitable for the needs of the worship of the new religion, was the basilica, the Roman building which served as a market and as the court, a structure which had nothing to do with pagan worship.    
  The internal layout of the Basilica was suitable for the ritual requirements of early Christianity, as a gathering place for people. The fact that the believers were familiar with the structure of the basilica, made it easier for them to adopt it as their place of worship. It seems that this model of church, once accepted, has never been abandoned.

Image - A ground plan of a typical basilica church 

Basilica Church structure consisted of a long rectangular hall with four colonnades (rows of columns) dividing the church into five parts, or two colonnades dividing the interior of the church into three parts: the main, in the center, known as the nave, and side aisles flanking it. The nave is taller and wider than the side aisles.
  The horizontal orientation of the church ending with triumphal arch and apse, kept the hierarchical character of the Roman basilica buildings, by separating between the believers found in the nave and those in the apse, where believers of the top of the religious hierarchy were found.  
In the apse of the ancient Roman basilica trials were held, and during early Christianity in the apse were conducted religious ceremonies, including the coronation of the bishop.
      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.
Most of the atriums and their colonnades of  churches from this period, have not survived. As time passed, this part disappeared from the plan of the church, but later reappeared during the Romanesque, in the form of the cloister, the courtyard surrounded by columns in the monasteries.
          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.).   
Referring to burial practices, the Western Latin approach was different from the Eastern Greek approach. Compared to the East, where octagonal or round separate mausoleum was built for the Saint, in the West, the early churches were built on the burial site of the saint and to his honor.
        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 apse in most Byzantine churches was located on the east side of the church, since this is the direction of the rising sun. The sun was perceived in earlier periods as representing truth and justice, as nothing is hidden from its eyes, when it makes its daily journey in the sky.
        Alberti, whom we will meet later as an important Renaissance architect, saw the connection between the basilica as a place of justice in ancient times, and the church of the basilica as a place where one gets the justice of God through prayer.
        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 comparison between the Greek temple and the early Christian church shows that the Greek temple put the emphasis on rich exterior, while its internal appearance is subdued, compared with the  simple exterior of the early Christian church, whose internal appearance was rich in decoration.
        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.
          When Christianity became a state religion, the paintings that adorned the walls of the catacombs (underground burial chambers), which preceded the churches as places of worship, were replaced by mosaics - "Paintings for eternity", which were rich and more durable. The background of these mosaics was painted in gold or blue. Capitals and ceilings were gilded. Eusebius (264-340), the bishop of Caesarea, wrote that the church in Antioch was shining with gold, bronze and other precious metals.
          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.  

                 Basilica Churches in Rome
           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 St. Peter
        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.  
  The general shape of the church was rectangular with orientation toward the west. There were five aisles (with the nave in the middle) separated by colonnades. The transept walls stood out a little from the walls of the nave.
The nave, which was taller than the side aisles had a clerestory with relatively small windows. The atrium of the church greeted the assembled believers who were not allowed to participate in worship within the church before being baptized,  The atrium also served as a separator between the church and the street buzz.

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
        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.
The inscription on the church wall indicates that a priest from Illyria named Peter,  
built it with his own private capital.
The church has three aisles and Ionic columns of marble. Over the entablature (broad beam supported by columns) are mosaics from the fifth century depicting the stories of the Old Testament and reach their peak in the triumphal arch which displays images from the life of Jesus. These pictures are arranged in registers. On the left side of the triumphal arch are described the adoration of magi, massacre of the innocent, and the heavenly Jerusalem.  On the right side: Christ in the temple, the flight to Egypt, Herod and the three kings and the city of Bethlehem. Marching toward the apse (built in late 13th century) is like walking through history.
        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
       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 church of Santa Sabina has a simple appearance. All the luxury is kept inside. The orientation is toward the apse, which was built later. 24 marble Corinthian columns support round arches, separating the nave and the side aisles. The tall and slender appearance of the columns conveys a light and elegant look. Relatively high central nave enabled flooding the church with light coming through the large windows of the clerestory.
The walls of the clerestory are simple and the wooden ceiling is simple as well.
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

Churches in the Holy Land
        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

In front of the church there is an atrium. The columns in the church are monolithic and they all have identical Corinthian capitals. On the walls of the nave, which are very high compared to the columns that appear very short below them, there are many large windows flooding the church with light. The mosaics between the windows were added later.

       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 wa
s 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 layout of the church combined  longitudinal structure with a central one at its end. The basilica has a nave flanked by side aisles. The gallery (second floor of the side aisle) probably served for liturgy. In front of the church on the east side, there is an atrium accessed through a street with colonnades. At the western end of the church, around the tomb of Jesus, there was a great apse-shaped like courtyard. Later (340-350) a large rotunda supported by 24 columns was built over the tomb. The number 24 is a multiple of 12, and has a symbolic meaning: 12 apostles, 12 tribes, 12 months etc. The church had an apse, but had no transept. Here, as in Saint Peter's in Rome, the orientation is toward the west.

         Burial Structures in Early Christianity
         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.
 Some people think that the altar and the sarcophagus of Constantine stood in the center of the church surrounded by 12 columns symbolizing the 12 apostles. Constantine prepared 12 empty boxes for the remains of the Holy Apostles. The burial structure remained unchanged after two hundred years, when the church was built anew by Justinian.
         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 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

     In the Mausoleum of Santa Costanza, to the type of circular temple known from antiquity was added another annular space surrounding the
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.
       Inside the mausoleum can be seen a game of space and mass, and a dialogue between light and shadow creating an atmosphere of mystery, typical of the Byzantine churches. Such a type of structure we will find later in the sixth century in the church of San Vitale in Ravenna. This is an innovative space concept, as opposed to Rome's Pantheon where the space is static, and perceived at first sight, with no light and shade passages.
        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.
          Like inside a basilica church, the interior is flooded with light, while the ambulatory is dim. Emphasis on the arch in the entrance which is larger than the other arches that surround the central space, creates a clear orientation, although in a circular shape, there is no clear direction.

         The round shape of the mausoleum has a  symbolic meaning. Being a perfect shape and closest to divinity, the circle symbolizes eternity. The dome rising above the central space, symbolizes the sky. Symbolic is also the number of the columns. The number 12 represents the 12 apostles, 12 tribes and the like. Mosaics originally covered the entire ceiling of the structure, but only the mosaics of the ambulatory have survived.
In 1256, the mausoleum became a church.

Byzantine Architecture Since the Time of Justinian
        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.
   As a political and administrative center, Ravenna became a powerful center of art. After the death of Theodoric, the Kingdom of Ostrogoths was attacked, and the new ruler was the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who continued the building project begun by Theodoric.
        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.
          Basilica churches in Ravenna
         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

  St. Apollinare in Classe was built in long and narrow bricks with thick cement joints, according to Byzantine construction technique. It is divided into one nave and two side aisles with neither a gallery nor transept. The ceiling is made of wood, as was the custom in Rome in the fourth and fifth centuries. Ten marble sarcophagi are placed along the wall in the side aisles.
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.
 The exterior walls, built of brick, decorated with blind arches in the clerestory, which, originally, were windows. The bell tower beside the church was built later.
        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.

      The top of the apse conch represents the sky, and below it, is described the story of the transfiguration of Christ according to the description in the New Testament (Matthew, 17 :1-8, Mark 9: 2-8, Luke 9: 28 - 30). Jesus, according to the description, mounted the Mount of Olives with the apostles Peter, James and John. His face changed and his clothing became brilliant white. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared before him and talked to him. Peter and his companions were asleep, and woke to see Jesus, Moses, and Elias with him. Then a cloud appeared above and out of it a voice saying: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" This story is depicted symbolically in the apse. The figure of Jesus appears in a huge cross inlaid with precious stones with 100 stars on the background. Flanking it are Moses and Elijah. At the bottom of the shell of the apes, under the cross, Saint Apollinare stands, and below him, flanking the cross are sheep symbolizing the Apostles Peter, James and John. Under these, flanking St. Apollinare are the sheep representing the faithful of the church in heaven.
        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.
In the 15th century the marble coating of the walls of the church was removed and reused by Alberti  to enrich the appearance of the church of San Francesco in Rimini, the church of the ruler  Malatesta. The mosaics on the floor of the church floor have survived in part.
            The front of the church as it looks today, is thoroughly modern. The bell tower is from the tenth century.
The Church of St. Apollinare Nuovo                         
         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.
       After the mid-ninth century, the church was dedicated to saint Apollinare whose remains were transferred to the church (or so it was told), and was given the name St. Apollinare Nuovo (literally: new) to distinguish it from St. Apollinare
Veclo and St. Apollinare in Classe.
Image - St. Apollinare Nuovo, ground plan

              The church has a nave and two side aisles separated by two rows of 12 Greek marble columns with simple Corinthian capitals. The nave ends in an apse, which was rebuilt in 1950. The proportions according to which the height of the church exceeds its width, enable the penetration of much light into the church and create a feeling of large space inside.
         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.
          Central Structures in Ravenna             Circular temples have already been built in Greece and Rome. The central plan during early Christianity was used primarily for mausoleums in the memory of martyrs – martyrium, usually built in  Greek cross plan with a dome. The combination of a dome with a Greek cross, was originated in the Near East. Another type of central structures were the baptisteries built usually in octagonal shape.
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.

            Burial Structures
        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.

       In 450 CE Galla Placidia died of a disease while in Rome, not fulfilling her dream to rest in peace next to her husband Constantius and beside her brother, in the mausoleum that she built. According to ancient texts, she was buried in San Nazario in Rome. Her husband and her brother too were not buried in the mausoleum that was designed for them.
       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 in Ravenna
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 

      An unusual feature of the mausoleum built by Theodoric is its being built of monolithic blocks. Its flat dome is made of monolith, one big stone from Istrie weighing 300 tons. The dome is  10 meters in diameter. The stones for building were hewn away from the construction site. A unique element in the dome is a row of square bumps on the dome, 12 handles, which were built on purpose, and were probably designed to facilitate the carrying of the dome through a long distance, and placing it over the structure. On the handles are engraved the names of eight of the apostles and the four Gospel writers. If the intention was to leave these handles in place from the beginning, ten of them would have been made, to match the number of the blind arches, or the ten-sided building.
         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.

      Baptisteries in Ravenna
           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.

Image - The Orthodox Baptistery , ground plan

The Baptistery is octagonal with a dome. The number eight is an important number in Christianity. Eight is the number of eternity, connecting the earth with the seven planets. This is the number of resurrection, since on the eighth day from the beginning of the Passion Christ rose again. The baptizing ceremony indicates the beginning of a new life, a kind of rebirth. Baptisteries were, therefore, octagonal in shape. The water of the baptistery, express the idea of ​​purification. The baptized relieves himself of his sins and is reborn.
          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 hierarchy is reflected in the location of Jesus and the Apostles. Baptized Jesus appears in the mosaic in the center of the dome, the highest point. The apostles surrounding him, are located underneath. They create the connection between Jesus and the believers. The priest who baptizes  the believer, is the mediator between him and his God, as the apostles of Jesus are the intermediaries between the believer and his God.

            The Arian Baptistery
      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.

Central Church - San Vitale in Ravenna
       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

The completion of the construction of the church was under the patronage of Emperor  Justinian whose general Belisarius conquered Ravenna in 540. Artists were probably brought from Constantinople to create the mosaics. The church was dedicated in 547.
Unlike previous churches in the Ostrogothic capital, which had the shape of a basilica, in the church of San Vitale the basilica plan was abandoned in favor of an octagonal structure that emphasizes the dome of heaven. Here is the first place where octagonal structure served as a church. Such a structure during this period usually served as Baptistery or burial structure, but not as a church.
       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.
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.
Eight massive pillars with semicircular niches between them surround the internal space of the church. Two floors with pairs of columns, and three arches in each niche create a sense of lightness. On the second floor there is a gallery. The central space is taller than the ambulatory, allowing direct lighting to it, through the clerestory. The choir preceding the apse, is domed.
The capitals of the columns are shaped like inverted truncated pyramid whose base is round, to fit the column. These capitals are not classical, but lace-like, and include stylized organic patterns.
Looking into the interior of the church, from the apse, one can see the pillars and both floors, including the gallery floor above the ambulatory. Between each pair of pillars is a pair of columns. In total, seven pairs of columns. On the ground floor the ambulatory creates a shape of a complete circle enabling walking around. However, in the gallery floor, one cannot create a full circle by walking around because the entrance to the apse blocks him.
         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.

             Hagia Sophia Church
         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.
According to tradition, ten thousand people under the supervision of hundred, were engaged in establishing the most magnificent structure in Byzantine architecture.

Image - The church of Hagia Sophia , ground plan

Image - Hagia Sophia , inside

In 537, at the consecration of the Church of Hagia Sophia, Justinian walked in a procession from the palace through the Augusteum (Market Square) to the gate of the church. With a cross in front of them, the emperor and the patriarch entered the vestibule of the church. The emperor walked into the building alone toward the pulpit where he spread his hands up and declared, looking at the dome of the church of Hagia Sophia: "Thank God that he found us worthy to complete the work. I beat you, Solomon!".
Worship in the church was incorporated into the imperial cult. This found its expression during the festival, when the emperor and patriarch met in the grand ceremony in the center of the church, under the dome.
        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.
In front of the church originally there was an atrium surrounded by a portico, and in its center there was a marble basin. The main door of the atrium was royal, and was kept for the imperial entourage. An outer narthex with five doors leads to an inner narthex, through which one entered to the church. Nine doors lead to the main part of the building. Great central door leads to the central oval-shaped nave, which is flanked by relatively very narrow side aisles. The side aisles have a gallery for women. The southern part of the gallery was designed for the empress and the women of the court.
          On each corne
r 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.
Beside the central dome there are half-domes, to its east and west, whose diameter is the same as that of the central dome. These half-domes provide partial support for the central dome. Each half of these domes, opens into three niches on a semicircular space, a motif borrowed from the Church of San Vitale. Support for the dome is also required from the north and south. It appears in the form of big arches carried over a colonnade of galleries that include tympanum with windows. The weight of the dome creates equal pressure in all directions. The resistance force of the supporting arches is smaller than that of the half-domes. To reduce the weight of the dome, it was built of a very light white and spongy soil, which was brought from Rhodes.
Researchers note that the speed of construction caused large distortions in the structure, resulting from the fact that there was not enough time for the cement to connect to the massive pillars, before loading them with the great arches. The main pillars, as noted, are not made of bricks and mortar, but of stone, at least until the gallery floor.     
    Deformities were found in the major pillars before the completion of the arches, and the frightened architects hurried to strengthen the heavy brick support outside the walls, to the north and south.
         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.
The main construction material is Hagia Sophia was brick, but the massive pillars supporting the dome were built in stone. There is a contrast between the massive outer appearance, and the sense of eliminating the material inside, an element appearing repeatedly in many churches from early Christianity.
The church was rebuilt in 558-562, after the dome had collapsed in December 557, as a result of an earthquake. The architect was Isidore the younger, nephew of Isidore of Milletus. He increased the size of the pillars supporting the dome, which enabled the church to remain intact to present day. According to the chronicles of Theophanes the Confessor (died in 818), the new pillars supporting the dome towered to height approximately 6.5 m higher than the original.
         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 served as a symbol of the strength of the rule of Justinian and his prestige in the capital. It reflected, as the Pantheon reflected at the time, an empire in its glory, and an Emperor (Justinian) who advanced the art of building to new achievements.
       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.
In 1453, the Turks conquered Constantinople, the church became a mosque, and then the minarets were added to it.

During the 11th century, Venice was a center of trade connecting East and West and had a very close relationship with the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople. As a result of its wealth and artistic ambitions, it developed an architectural  style combining Byzantine and Western styles. Venetian builders in this period were influenced more by the Byzantine builders than by the new construction in the West.

St. Mark's Church
      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

 In the plan of St. Mark's Church we can see the influence of the plan of the Church of Holy Apostles in Constantinople, which was established  by Justinian at the beginning of his reign (instead of a church built by Constantine) and whose plan was central, Greek cross-shaped with domes. Such influence seems evident already in the church which was built in c. 830 on the site of the current church of St. Mark, and served as the church of  the Duke's palace which is located to the south of the church.
         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 original domes of the church were built in brick, and were later covered with higher domes  with onion-shaped profile which gave the church an "exotic" look. The main building of the church, as we know it today, is mostly from the 11th century. The front and the portico of the church were added in the 15th century. The mosaics made of Venetian glass and Byzantine glass, were carried out at different times: some of them in the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries, and some in the 16th century.
        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.

    Carolingian Architecture
                     Historical Background
        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.
The strongest among these kingdoms was the   Frankish kingdom, which was established by Clovis (466-511), King of the Franks (years 481 -511) of the first Merovingian dynasty. In the Mid-fifth century, the Franks were separated Teutonic tribes who were settled on the banks of the Rhine. Clovis united them, and in 486 took over the territories between the rivers Seine and Loire in France, which had been under Roman rule. After the Barbarian invasions a Western society, with new nobility developed. The German conquests led to the passage from tribal culture to absolute monarchy.
         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.
  Clovis divided his kingdom among his four sons, and thus caused division and strife. The unity in France was maintained by the agents of the    Merovingian palace, who were the real governors of France. One of these agents was the king of the Franks, Charles Martel (literally: hammer) (ruled  714-741), who attacked Aquitania, Allemagne, and Bavaria, pushed the spread of Muslims from Spain in 732 near the city of Tour, and saved Western Europe from the rule of the Arabs who conquered Spain (711-713). Under his rule the Frankish kingdom was united and strong.
 The son of Charles Martel, Pepin III called "short" (ruled 741-768), renewed the Frankish unity and strengthened the relationship between Benedictine missionaries and the Frankish expansion. He was anointed king by the church in 751 and handed the pope the lands of the coast of Italy, including Ravenna. Since then, there was a constant claim of papal secular power.
         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.
With the advent of the Carolingian empire a new culture was born in the west, a culture known as the "Carolingian Renaissance", whose character reflects the political situation - Renovatio - rebirth of Roman culture with emphasis on Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor. Charlemagne was perceived as "the new Constantine".
            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.
Charlemagne wanted his chapel to resemble the imperial chapels, such as the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna from the sixth century, which no doubt inspired the builders of the chapel in Aachen. Eight massive pillars bearing a dome, which has eight corners, define the central space of the palace chapel. The ambulatory surrounding the main space with a gallery above it, has 16 equal sides. The three floors of the building are in fact two. The very high second floor looks like two stories. The impression is of aspiration to height, which is indeed enormous (30.9 m). For a long time the chapel was the tallest structure built in stone in Germany.

In the front of the Palatine Chapel was a westwerk and a large atrium (which survived) with a hall that could accommodate approximately 7,000 people. On both sides of the main chapel there were two small chapels forming a sort of transept. These chapels were not related to the central building.
Odo of Metz built the Chapel according to sacred dimensions. The height of the church, according to Carolingian measurements, was 48 feet. Its perimeter, 144 ft (12X12 ft), is based on the Apocalypse of John, where the perimeter of heavenly Jerusalem is described as 144. The octagonal shape of the chapel, in the symbolism of numbers, links the circle representing the divine, with the square representing earth. The number eight, as we have seen in churches and baptisteries of early Christianity, symbolizes eternity.
Like the church of San Vitale, the ambulatory in the Palatine Chapel in Aachen is angular, with two floors of which the upper is a gallery floor. While in San Vitale in Ravenna the pillars are thinner, and therefore convey a sense of lightness, the pillars in the Palatine Chapel are massive. The church of San Vitale is tiny in scale compared to the Palatine Chapel in Aachen. Likewise, the chapel in Aachen is dark, and missing the light which characterizes the Byzantine churches.
        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 most important point that connects the Church of Sergius and Bacchus in Constantinople and the chapel in Aachen, is the fact that both these churches are palatine chapels.
           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.
Carolingian kings considered themselves heirs of kings David and Solomon. Looking from the east toward the west apse of the church, one could see the marble throne on which sat Charlemagne. Sitting in the gallery, the emperor took part in the religious worship, like the Roman emperors in whom he saw role model. The throne, which was built according to the throne of King Solomon, with six steps (Kings I, 10:19), served for crowning 32 emperors during the years 936-1531.
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
Another monument that shows the glory the Carolingian period, is the gate of the Lorsch monastery located in the courtyard preceding one of the most important monasteries in Europe during the empire, the monastery of Lorsch (not far from Darmstadt), which was destroyed. The first monastery in Lorsch, whose foundations were laid in 763, included a church and monastery with a cloister, surrounded by monks' rooms. Ten years later, a church was built about 600 meters away from the first, and dedicated in 774.
          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.
To the pillars of the arch are attached half columns. On the second floor, pilasters connected by inverted V-shaped arches decorate the gate. Red and white bricks alternate in repeating patterns. There are three different patterns: chessboard, diamond, reminiscent of the Roman opus reticulatum, and hexagonal shapes.
         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
 Asceticism originated in the East, and it was   only in the early fifth century that it reached the West. This phenomenon began when many Christians fled to the desert from the pursuing rule of Emperor Diocletian to make contact with God.
       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.
In the sixth century, St. Benedict (480 -550)  popularized the institution of monasticism around the world. He gathered his followers in Monte Cassino Monastery near Naples, who accepted a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The rules written by St. Benedict described in details the way of life of the monks. The word "monastery" in English literally means "a place for solitary people".
One of the main rules of life in the convent, according to St. Benedict, was a combination of prayer with manual work (ora et labora). Idleness, in his opinion, is the enemy of the soul, which is why the monks have to do manual labor and sacred reading at regular times. Additionally, Benedict referred in his rules, to receiving guests and pilgrims. In this matter he writes that guests have to be received as if they were Jesus himself, as Jesus said: " For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in" (Matthew 25:35).
Above all, Benedict stressed that the servants of faith and the pilgrims should be respected. He noted that guests arriving unexpectedly should not disturb the monks. These rules that largely dictated the life in the convent, dictated also its architectural plan, whose most outstanding expression is found in the monastery of San Gallen in Switzerland (c.820) (see a separate chapter below).
Asceticism was perceived as the ideal Christian life. He who built a monastery was considered placing a ladder to heaven and garden of Eden. The monastery itself was considered the shortest way to heaven.
       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.
Benedictine monks attached great importance to silence, because thus they could hear the word of God. Beside the religious rituals, the monks were farmers and ran the convent as an autarkic farm. Each monastery had a monastery church. An "abbot" – a monk chosen by the monks, who also received the approval of the bishop, administered the largest monasteries, convents and churches, which were called "abbey".
         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.
Every day the monks would meet to discuss affairs of the monastery. This meeting was called "chapter". It would be opened by reading a chapter from the rule book and Bible, and continue in discussing matters concerning the monastery and its inhabitants. The meeting room devoted to these activities was called "chapter house".
      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 word "cloister", comes from the Latin word "claustrum". "Claudere", meaning  "close". The shape of the cloister was usually close to a square, being inspired by the atrium of the early Christian church, and it was common to place it on the southern side of the church.
        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.

          The Cult of Relics
           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.
The second conference in Nicaea (north - west of today's Turkey), which took place in 787 CE, insisted that the remains of saints should be used for the consecration of new churches. A church that  was dedicated without relics had to buy them as soon as possible.
       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.
Another change in the plan of the church as a result of the worship of relics, was the building of continuation to the side aisles, so that they revolve around the apse and create the ambulatory. This innovation enabled the believers to walk around  the remains, which were the focus of attention. This innovation is also found in the plan of the church of the Monastery of Saint Gallen.

              The Plan of St. Gallen Monastery 
      In the library in the monastery of San Gallen, Switzerland, was kept on parchment unusually large (112.1 X 71.1 cm) plan of a monastery in 820 CE. This is the largest manuscript surviving from this period. It is not clear if this is a real church plan or an ideal plan for St. Gallen. To the drawing of the ground plan, made probably by the hands of three people, were added the dimensions. The  entire layout was, according to plan, about 152X 213 m in size. The church is described as a structure 61 m (200 feet according to the plan) in length, but this measure does not match the other measures of the church. The width of the nave was about 12 m (according to plan - 40 feet), and the side aisle was about 6 m (according to plan - 20 ft) in width. The length of the church according to the width of the nave had to be about 91 m (300 ft) rather than 61 m as written in the plan. There is no explanation to the discrepancy.
Image - Plan of San Gallen monastery

St. Gallen Monastery plan is an example of a layout including a ninth-century monastery church. Its plan is orthogonal, reminiscent of the Roman city plans.
          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.
The monastery served the community as a school, hospital, and place of worship. It provided cultural and health services and became essential to its environment. In the western part of the plan of the monastery, facing the entrance to the church, there were livestock, pen, and functions required for making contact with the public outside the monastery.
         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 Monastery of St. Riquier
         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 structure of the monastery has not survived, but an engraving, which is a reproduction of a 12th century drawing made according to medieval manuscript, represents it.             
The ground plan of the monastery has a general shape of a triangle, which is associated with the Holy Trinity and the three churches located in the monastery. The main church was dedicated to Christ, the Virgin and St. Riquier. The second was dedicated to the Virgin and the holy apostles, and the third was dedicated to St. Benedictus. The courtyard between them is not a cloister of the church, but a space in a shape close to triangle - 30 m in length.
         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.
   The church of the Virgin in San Riquier had a rotunda in front of which there was a rectangular structure. The dome was decorated with paintings and mosaics. Every day the three church choirs of monks stood in the center of the church and singing sounded in the entire building.
        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. 

Ottonian Architecture
Historical background
       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.     
Lords held fortified mansions together with the Knights. The castle of the lord protected those who were dependent on it and created a resistance to attacks from outside. Serfs worked the land and were not free to move or have property of their own. They were required to transfer at least half the harvest to the nobleman, or to the vassal who owed his share of defending the local lord. This situation led to the shrinking of cities and disappearance of some.
 The feudal system helped to some extent, protect the people in riots. The institution of abstinence, which has developed during the feudal period, provided conditions of isolation from the world and the promise of redemption. The church itself became feudal, and secular factors penetrated it.
         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.
   Society was divided into three classes: clergy, aristocracy, and the working class. In other words, praying people, warriors, and workers. People lived in small villages around the lord's castle, and found refuge in time of danger inside the walls. The estate was a self-sufficient unit, based on economy of exchange, without using money.
          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.
After Conrad's death in 918, Henry (Henrik) the Duke of Saxony, was elected and after his death in 936, Otto I (912-973), from Saxony, called Otto the Great, was elected king of Germany. When he tried to take over the other German states, he encountered strong opposition from their rulers. He tried to imitate Charlemagne with no success. About a third of the land controlled by Otto I in Germany was in the possession of the church. In order to have an impact on them, he set up many new hegemonies and appointed his supporters and family to rule them. Thus, he controlled the income of the church.
         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.
The Remains of Ottonian Architecture
       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.
During the rule of the Ottonians, architecture began to flourish everywhere, but of all their construction projects, very few have survived. The characteristics of this architecture can be learned from the reconstruction of the Church of St. Michael in Hildesheim.

        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 flat wooden ceiling of the nave was painted by Jessebooms and was completed in the 13th century. Below, in the nave, is a clerestory above high and simple walls, which were prominent characteristics of the Ottonian architecture.
         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.

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