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Compartive Civilizations 12
Byzantine Architecture
K.J. Benoy
architecture was
a continuation
and refinement
of Roman styles
and techniques.
The basilica
plan continued
in use – as in the
Church of S.
Apollinare in
S. Apollinare In Classe - Ravenna
The characteristic
nave, side aisles, apse
and clerestory
windows are all
clearly evident.
S. Apollinare In Classe - Ravenna
The exterior
similarly reveals
the basilica style,
though this is a
building less
grand and
imposing than the
Basilica of
Constantine in
Central Plan Churches
Sta. Constanza in Rome (350 AD), the mausoleum for
Constantine’s daughter, provided a model for Christian
architects who sought to use the more perfect form of the
circle in their designs, without the massive drum of the
Curiously, the idea originated in Roman bath houses.
Sta. Constanza - Rome
Sta. Constanza – Rome
Note the annular
vaulting of the
surrounding aisle.
S. Vitale - Ravenna
Circular, central
plan churches
were very difficult
to build.
supporting domes
became a popular
and simpler to
S. Vitale - Ravenna
S. Vitale - Ravenna
Note how a series of
large supporting piers
rises to support the
Gone is the Pantheon’s
great drum and
windowless walls.
S. Vitale - Ravenna
Around the central
space run side aisles,
beyond the flanking
pillars, which gives
additional space in a
similar fashion to that
of a basilica design.
S. Vitale - Ravenna
The austere
brick exterior
belied an
interior of
marble and
Emperor Justinian
In the 6th century, the Emperor Justinian embarked on
an ambitious building programme.
He vastly enlarged the empire, but also decided to
build the most magnificent building on the planet.
His capital was packed with subject people from all
around his vast empire – brand new people with
enormous skills.
Justinian’s Building Projects
Hagia Sophia
The architects
Anthemius of
Tralles and
Isodorus of
Miletus were
commissioned to
create the
greatest interior
to that time.
Hagia Sophia
The architects
overcame a significant
engineering problem –
how to place a dome
upon a square base.
Building Domes
Octagonal buildings
achieved this through
transitional arches or
corbelling features in
an architectural design
known as a squinch
Building Domes
Squinch in
the Ibn Tulun
Mosque in
Cairo, Egypt.
Building Domes
Arthemius and
Isodorus’ soloution
was revolutionary.
They used triangular
transition features
from four massive
support piers to a
drum and then to the
shallow dome above.
Hagia Sophia
This 1852 lithography
clearly shows two of
the great pendentives.
Beyond them can be
seen one of the apses,
whose half dome
serves to resist the
outward thrust of the
building and to enlarge
the great interior
Hagia Sophia
Cutaway isometric from Great Architecture of the World
The building was enormous and complex, requiring
tremendous mathematical precision.
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Figure : Sections and Elevations from Bannister Fletcher 1924
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia – as it would have appeared without the
minarets, which were added during the Moslem era.
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia – as it appears today in Istanbul.
The Byzantine Legacy
Central planned
churches, based on
domes were copied
extensively by later
St. Basil’s, in Moscow,
is a particularly
exuberant example.
The Byzantine Legacy
Kapitan Keling Mosque, Penang,
Richmond, BC
the domed
plan as a
model for
The Byzantine Legacy
Contact with Constantinople through trade convinced even
the Venetians to adopt this style of Church.
San Marco Cathedral is the direct result.
The Byzantine Legacy
influence is
unmistakable in
structures, like
the dome of the
second St.
Cathedral in
The Byzantine Legacy
And, of course, the tradition continues in Greek Orthodox
churches throughout the world today.