Byzantine art defines the original content and style of artworks shaped by the Eastern Roman Empire’s effects of political, social, religious, economic and cultural dynamics, which were abolished in 1453 when Mehmed II occupied Constantinople (Istanbul), the capital of the eastern part of the Roman Empire that was divided into two parts in AD 395. The Byzantine art was created by a group of elements that came together in the same period such as the likings and preferences of the Hellenistic period and the Roman civilization, which were influenced by the Ancient period’s traditions and different belief forms, the Orthodox Christian belief, as well as the closely tied cultures and geographies. The local materials and aesthetical perception of the artworks produced in the surroundings were also among these influential elements.
The development of Christianity and the organization of the church as an institution are of major importance regarding the political and cultural evolution of the Byzantine Empire. Despite the religious and political conflicts in the empire, the belief system in question was supported by Constantine I (324-337), the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, so as to provide stability for the empire and to enhance his own power, and it was prominent and determinative for each area, including the political and social life and the production of artworks from the foundation of the empire until its collapse.
During its nearly one thousand-year history, the iconography in Byzantine has been affected by the ideological, political and economic issues, and it performed the role of a medium to reflect ideological and political conflicts and preferences during the period it was produced. When the Byzantine’s history is examined, it is clear that there were theological and liturgical arguments and acceptations behind the mentioned conflict and preferences. The iconography of the subjects that were elaborated on in the Byzantine religious iconography, the inseparable part of the worship, naturally has the marks of the theological and liturgical elements of the period. Monasteries, being extremely influential in the formation of the theology as well as of liturgy in connection with the theology, had a leading role for the Byzantine iconography with their works. Apart from frescoes, mosaics, and icons, another element that had an impact on the Byzantine religious iconography in this scale was the Byzantine religious architecture, which had a different form in line with the liturgy changing within time. Shaping compatibly by the requirements of the changing liturgy, churches displayed different patterns regarding the selection, location and iconography for their scenes. The first reflections of all these elements were mainly observed in Constantinople, the capital of the empire. Therefore, it is possible to state that the capital had an impact on the provinces and the surroundings / peripheries of the empire in relation to Byzantine art. This understanding in art shaped by the Constantinople is called ‘the metropolitan style’. ‘The provincial style’ is mentioned while assessing the works in the regions excluding the empire’s capital; however, the marks of the metropolitan style are generally sought in these works. It is considered that the metropolitan effect also reached other regions of the Byzantine geography through the style and iconography features of the portable objects produced in Constantinople.1
In spite of the Orthodox Christian dogma’s formation within centuries and of works’ ability to reflect different preferences in accordance with the regions they were produced in, religious depictions produced by the Byzantine culture stayed almost the same because of the status quoist approach where icon works are a requirement for dogmas. For the Orthodox Christian iconography, the religious icons were sacred since each was regarded as one-to-one representation of the originals, and were primarily accepted as objects of the faith, instead of art. Therefore, the style of the icons varies while the iconographic characteristics hardly show a sign of change, and the icons are part of a set of rules. Considering the periods determined by the political and social incidents, Byzantine art is analyzed in three different stages: Early Byzantine (approximately 300-600), Middle Byzantine (approx. 600-1200) and Late Byzantine (approx. 1200-1453). It is important to note that a more detailed examination reveals that each individual stage is further divided into periods. The Early Byzantine period covers the period starting from the fourth century, when the Byzantine Empire was founded and Christianity became an institution representing the formal religion of the state, till the seventh century, when the rise of Islam and the Arab conquests of the eastern and southern coasts of the Mediterranean started. This stage is further divided into two parts, the Late Ancient and Early Christian period (324-527), and the Justinian I period (527-565). With the political and military withdrawals, Byzantine art was shaken by a movement that emerged in 726 and that prohibited the adornment of churches with the religious paintings as part of a decision by the empire, which lasted till 842 with a short interval. This era was called “Iconoclastic period” “destruction of icons”, the existing ornamental works with figures were destroyed; moreover, crosses, vegetal and geometrical motives were preferred as new ornamental works.
Displaying its first examples in the fourth century, Byzantine architecture modified itself according to the requirements of the changing liturgy. After becoming the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, Constantine I declared Constantinople, which he named after his own name, as the capital that would later grow into a center influencing other regions of the empire both in architecture and iconography throughout the Byzantine history due to the intense town planning activities commenced during the fourth century. As this influence was felt sometimes directly and sometimes relatively in the peripheries of the empire, it occasionally extended to the outside of the empire as a result of commercial and military activities. At the beginning of Christianity, several typologies were tried within time in line with the liturgical needs of church architecture, whose first known example was found to be “domus ecclesias” (churches looking like houses), regarding the places where its believers gathered to perform their rituals. At the first stages of churches’ construction, a basilica form in which the citizens were getting together for various purposes in the Roman era and which was easy to construct was embraced.
Having one or more than one benefits, basilicas had a templon that separated the naos, where people gathered, from the bema, a sacred part where the ecclesiastics performed rituals, or icons on the iconostasis. Since the community at that time consisted of majority of people who were illiterate, it was only possible for them to perceive Christianity’s basic dogmas and keep them vivid in their imagination by means of frescoes at the walls of churches. Such architecture would be adorned with icons where stories about Orthodox holy days, which were included in the liturgy in line with the council’s decision based on the life stories of Jesus and Mary, as well as exemplary life stories of saints and (religious) martyrs, were represented with a narrative depiction.
One of the characteristic examples of the basilicas from the first period is the church that was attributed to Saint John Prodromos (John the Baptist) and was founded in 461 by the Stoudios Monastery. Moreover, in spite of the major damages, today it is known with the name of Imrahor Ilyas Bey Mosque. As in the basilicas with a basic type, the indoors of the building is divided into three naves by two sets of columns. Following the fire which broke out in the eighteenth century, the columns on the right were removed, and nothing was left from the wooden roof. There is an architrave consisting of marble blocks with rich adornments on the headings of the currently standing sets of columns on the left, which have lost its trim works due to the fire. Column headings, window cinctures, as well as moldings and cornices constitute the elaborated examples of the fifth century’s stonemasonry and Byzantine architectural plastics. The in situ examples of the mosaics, which, according to the old sources, majestically adorned the structures’ walls and the abscissa of the hemi domes, failed to reach into the present day. Having been unearthed owing to the research made by the Russian Archeology Institute Istanbul in 1907, the sarcophagi and mosaic pieces that are preserved by the Istanbul Archeology Museum are the only available data that has survived from that period. The opus sectile –floor and wall coverings made of cut stones in different colors and shapes- ornamental works, which are thought to have been created during the period following the Latin invasion (1204-1261) display a composition of hunting scenes, mythical creatures, as well as geometrical motives.
It is known that there were intense activities for monumental structures and ornamental works from the period of Constantine I in Constantinople in the fourth century. However, ornamental works with figures that belong to the pre-iconoclasm period have failed to reach us today, except for the most ancient Bible-related icon known to exist in Istanbul, the mosaic titled ‘Presentation of Jesus at the Temple’, which was unearthed during the Kalenderhane Mosque excavations, and the Great Palace mosaics, from the fifth and sixth centuries. The mosaics of the Great Palace that consist of houses, ritual rooms, churches, gardens, and playgrounds, are important examples in terms of the civil architectural patterns of the Early Byzantine period. The Great Palace’s structures lost the magnificence they had between forth and ninth centuries since Byzantine emperors preferred to live in palaces built in different regions in the following periods. The Great Palace’s mosaics focus on daily life, nature, and mythology. The mosaics, which are found in borders with rich vegetal patterns and a white background organized in fish scale, depict hunting and fighting scenes of various animals, village life, mythological representations -such as Bellerofon’s fight with Chimera and the kid, Dionysos, sitting on the shoulders of Pan -interesting and colorful scenes including exotic creatures composed of different animal parts.
Written sources indicate that there were mosaics depicting the life of Constantine I in the Polyeuktos Church, one-figured mosaics, from the Justinian period, that represented the life of Jesus at the Hagia Sophia, as well as the mosaics depicting Mary, Mother of Jesus, and the Ascension at the On İki Havari Church, and frescoes showing some scenes from the emperor’s life during the Maurice’s period (582-602) at the Blakhernai Palace. However, none of these works still stand today.
Byzantine architecture also has centrically planned structures, along with basilicas. Built to create a main round space, these structures were covered by a dome on their top. A typology called ‘domed basilica’ was generated by the end of the fifth century when Byzantine architecture combined the types of basilicas and centrically planned structures. The first examples of domed basilicas are found in Anatolia, and the most gorgeous one is the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The first church, which was built in the fourth century and was repaired after having partially been burned down in the fifth century, is estimated to be a Hellenistic basilica with a wooden roof. After having experienced another fire during the Justinian reign in the sixth century, the church was reconstructed and turned into the present Hagia Sophia. There is no definite information which informs us whether this structure, whose mosaics and walls covered with colorful stones that are spoken highly of in the period’s sources, had icons with figures during that period. Nevertheless, the sources state that there was a big cross in the middle of the dome. Even if the structure had mosaics with figures at that period, it is possible that they were demolished during the Iconoclastic period. The period’s mosaics with vegetal and geometrical works have reached us today. The structure was constantly repaired because of fires, earthquakes, and deliberate destructions that were made by humans, such as those in the Iconoclastic period (726-843) when the icons of sacred people or events were banned by the emperors due to theological reasons. Moreover, its sacred relics and other precious objects were despoiled during the Latin invasion in the thirteenth century. The travel books of the sixteenth century show that after the Hagia Sophia was transformed into a mosque following the fall of the city to the Ottomans, the figures’ faces in the mosaics were covered. In the eighteenth century, whitewash was applied on the mosaics. In the nineteenth century, Abdülmecid (1839-1861) deployed the Fossati Brothers, Swiss architects, to the restoration of the structure. In the process of the restoration, the mosaics were removed, their pattern designs were drawn, and the drawn patterns were put over them again. All of the mosaics with figures that are present today in the Hagia Sophia belong to the Iconoclastic period. The mosaics that are available today in the structure are as follows: the mosaic (886-912) where Jesus the Master of the Universe on the Emperors’ Door that opens to the main area from the nartex and the Emperor Leo VI kowtowing before him; the mosaic (Basil II era, 976-1025), above the passage door to the southern part of the building, that represents Mary holding the Child Jesus on her lap, and Constantine I offers her the model of Constantinople on one side as Justinian I offers her the model of the Hagia Sophia on the other side; the one (ninth century), on the abscissa hemi dome, that depicts Mary, enthroned, with the Child Jesus on her lap, and archangels on her both sides (only the feet of the angel on the left); the one, on the upper walls filling the inside of tall cinctures on the side naves, that represents ecclesiastics including the Young Ignatius, Istanbul’s Archbishop John Chrysostom, and Antakya’s Archbishop Ignatius Theophorus; in the middle of the southern traverse, Deesis (fourteenth century) representing Jesus the Master of the Universe, Mary, on his left, and St. John the Baptist, on his right; the one, on the left of the window that is on the southern walls at the end of the traverse, that has Constantine IX Monomachos (1042-1055) giving offerings to Jesus, and his wife, Zoe; on the right of the window, Mary and the Child Jesus, on her lap, with John II Komnenos (1118-1143) giving an offering bag to her, as well as his wife, Irene, and their son, Alexios; on the vault of the northern traverse, Alexandros; and finally the mosaics of the apostles including Peter, Andrew, Luke (?), Simon the Zealot and Ezekiel the Prophet, Emperor Constantine I and his mother Helena (?); archbishops such as Germanos, Nikephoros, Tarasios, and Methodios. On the other hand, since two more mosaics on the western part were damaged, they were completed as frescoes. The icon representing Jesus the Master of the Universe, from the ninth century, on the dome and the archangels on the southern walls failed to reach the present day.
Besides its mosaics with figures, the Hagia Sophia stands out with its rich architectural plastic elements. Monogrammed column headings that were processed with the openwork technique, opus sectile flooring and ornamental works, and marble plates on the walls reflect the sophisticated sense of art.
In fact, in spite of being a structure from the fourth century, the Hagia Irene Church, is the combination of the domed basilica and cross plans, which was also renovated by Justinian I in the sixth century. The present structure located inside the Old Military area (Sur-i Sultani) in the outer court of the Topkapı Palace was not transformed into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire period; instead, it was used as an armory. It is known that the churches built during the era of Justinian I had rich ornamental works. While the Hagia Irene too was expected to follow this plan, only the gilded cross mosaic on the abscissa hemi dome reached the present day, which was a consequence of catastrophic earthquakes and the destruction created by the Iconoclastic period. The floor mosaics of the structure belong to the Early Byzantine period, while the frescoes, located on the right upper traverse, depicting the saints’ heads are from the Late Byzantine period.
Following the victory that iconodules won against iconoclasts when the Iconoclastic period ended in the ninth century, the fields such as theology, liturgy, architecture, and iconography experienced dramatic changes. The reflection of this shift on architecture could have been observed in the Nea Ekklesia (New Church), which was built on the southwest of the Great Palace complex in Constantinople, upon the order of Emperor Basil I (867-886); however, it did not survive into the present day. Regarded as the first example of the closed Greek cross plan type, this structure became the turning point of Byzantine architecture. There is a liturgical reform, made by the theologians of the Stoudios Monastery in Constantinople, behind this plan type. Theologians that were in favor of icons pioneered the expansion of the painting program in churches in accordance with the new liturgy, and the church plan type had to be renewed accordingly. Putting the dome in a higher position by means of a drum allowed the construction of secondary domes, as new areas, to accommodate more icons, as well as of various transition elements in passages to the dome through the body of the structure. Furthermore, thanks to the gaps implemented into the drum, the structure receives more light, which increases the impact of the frescoes and mosaics. Free and obvious pillars carry the dome, enabling a wider view. Another renovation, one of the most major components of liturgy, which was brought by the dome, is that hymns sound more impressive owing to the vibration provided by the dome.
Iconography enjoyed a real renovation period due to the economic and political stability experienced in the Byzantine world during that period, which continued until the middle of the eleventh century. Originally Macedonian governors who acquired the administration of Byzantine used their powerful financial sources for the reparation and construction of scarcely renovated churches of the Justinian I era. Owing to the collaboration between Emperor Basil I (867-886) and the Patriarch of Constantinople Photios (858-867/877-886), several renovations regarding the architecture and ornamental works were brought to forward to the current agenda. The most significant icon work of the period is the abscissa mosaics of the Hagia Sophia. The reigns of Emperor Michael III (842-867), Basil I (867-886), and Leo IV (886-912), who came to the throne following the Iconoclastic period, coincided with the period when Byzantine painting art flourished and developed at its best. Churches in Istanbul were before long re-adorned with iconic figures. Among the examples that did not survive the essential mosaics are the Chrysotriklinos Main Reception (prior to 867), the Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church (867-877), the Twelve Apostles Church, and the Nea Ekklesia (prior to 880). The Nea Ekklesia constituted the foundation of the religious painting program which was going to be developed at the churches with the Closed Greek Cross plan type in the following periods.
In the Byzantine lands, the examples of iconography from the tenth century have not succeeded in reaching the present day to a large extent. Art activities for the aristocratic group in Constantinople during that period were limited to precious materials and reliquaries produced by using elaborate craftsmanship and small handcraft examples such as bowls. The styles followed in monumental painting art and manuscripts, from the times subsequent to the Iconoclastic period, had an impact on the icons. Two icons, one of marble and one of ivory, from the Macedonia Dynasty era in the Middle Byzantine period are critical regarding their material and style. Presently being exhibited in the Istanbul Archeology Museums, the Icon of St. Eudokia, discovered during the excavations of the Constantine Lips Monastery Church, is a portable mosaic icon made of colorful stones mounted into a colorful marble, which has few other examples. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, marble relief icons were also produced. The Praying Mary icon, whose head part was ruined, is presently exhibited in the Istanbul Archeology Museums and is a good example of a marble relief icon.
The transformation experienced in the eleventh century was also reflected on art. Financial power that bishopric had as a formal organ of the church changed hands and passed to the monastery. On the topic of the Monastery of Pantokrator churches in Constantinople, one of the places where the transformation can be observed, an expensive material and a mosaic that required a method were used for the twelfth century frescoes. As the sources from that period mention, the examples that had been made by the imperial family, the only remaining from these works is a fragment of the Archangel mosaic, from the twelfth century, in the Kalenderhane Mosque. There is little information regarding the frescoes made in the capital in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Along with the findings from the Melismos Chapel in Kalenderhane, the Odalar Mosque also included a Mary cycle from that period. Produced in Constantinople in the first half of the twelfth century, a group of painted manuscripts, which included Kokkinobaphos homiliaries, demonstrate the high level of Byzantine art in that period.
Despite the prosperity of the renovation performed during the period of the originally Macedonian governors who governed the empire between the ninth and eleventh century, regarded as ‘the Macedonian Renaissance’, the eleventh and twelfth centuries were the times of decline in the economy and politics. Some of the factors of the decline were the Byzantine’s territorial losses in Anatolia after having lost the Battle of Manzikert against the Seljuks, the defeat in the Battle of Myriokephalon, and the separation of the Orthodox and Catholic churches. Starting with the Alexios Komnenos (1081-1118) dynasty, the Komnenos period, when a temporary welfare period was enjoyed and reflected on the produced monumental works, it still could not prevent the decline of the Byzantine Empire.
The only mosaic that remains in Istanbul from the Komnenos period is the panel (1118-1136) representing Mary together with John II Komnenos and his wife Irene in the Hagia Sophia. During that period, the large monastery complexes were founded by the leading families that had a connection with the emperor and the palace. The most prominent monasteries among these complexes are the Monastery Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos (Fethiye Mosque), the Monastery of Christ Pantepoptes, and the Monastery of Christ Pantokrator. Under the wooden floor of the church in the Pantokrator Monastery (Zeyrek Church Mosque), a floor mosaic was discovered, and it consists of extremely colorful compositions such as mythological figures, swimming humans, as well as zodiac characters. Colorful glass pieces with Byzantine motives found in the debris of the structure, where remnants of golden mosaic works on the window cinctures were discovered, suggest that the church had an elegant mosaic program, along with leaded glass.
The thirteenth century witnessed some incidents that inevitably determined the fall of the Byzantine Empire. In 1204 during the Fourth Crusade Constantinople was conquered by the Latins which kept it until 1261. During that period, the Byzantine aristocracy initiated local governments in Iznik and Trabzon of the Anatolian region, and Epir region of Greece. After the Latin invasion in Constantinople, the capital’s short-lived improvement in art was interrupted. Both the raid before and after the invasion, and the neglect of the structures throughout the whole period caused an irreversible destruction in the texture of the city. In 1261 the Palaiologos dynasty, coming originally from Iznik, took over the city from the Latins, and in 1453 Turks conquered the city; during the time between these years, only a couple of churches were changed by a minority group to function as a family cemetery and they decorated them with an elegant mosaic program and marble craftsmanship. It can be acknowledged that the Monastery church of Theotokos Kyriotissa (present Kalenderhane Mosque) was probably dedicated to Mary, mother of Jesus, Kyriotissa at least in the Palaiologos dynasty period, considering the Mary Kyriotissa fresco, from the early twelfth century, found on the diaconicon of the Bema Church, following the fire at the structure in the twelfth century, and another Mary Kyriotissa fresco, from the Palaiologos dynasty period, situated on the door way through the inner narthex of the present main church. Subsequent to the conquest of the city with the Fourth Crusade, the Latins invaded the church. Found on the hemi dome over the diaconicon and considered to be painted between 1228 and 1261, St. Francis of Assisi frescoes provides fundamental information regarding the use of the structure.
Art was benefited as a medium to regain the cultural continuity during the period that started when Constantinople was taken back from the Latins in 1261. Michael VIII Palaiologos had the Peribleptos Monastery church repaired and had a mosaic made. Mentioned in sources from the eighteenth century, the mosaic depicted himself, his wife Theodora, and his son Constantine.
Designed by Theodore Metochites, a prominent Byzantine statesman of the period of Andronikos II Palailogos (1282-1328), The Monastery of Chora Church (the Chora Museum) is the most splendid work that represents the Late Byzantine art with its monumental architecture, frescoes, and mosaics. In its rich painting program, the traditional Byzantine iconography was interpreted with an almost experimental aesthetical insight, showing a similarity with works by Western artists in Europe at the same period. At the Late Byzantine period, art got rid of the inflexible rules of the church and became able to express religious subjects in a freer manner. The Hellenistic style was observed to regain its vividness on the mosaics at the Chora Museum. Presenting a key feature that was absent on the Middle Byzantine period’s mosaics but was available in Europe following the Renaissance, compositions whose most of the scenes consist of architectural icons and Hellenistic landscape motives, which were used for the floor decoration, and perspective elements, which stress the depth, were created. Few mosaics, from the fourth century, at the naos of the church could be preserved. Situated above the Western entrance of the naos, the scene of Koimesis (Mary’s Dormition) is the only piece that still stands to this date. There are 19 scenes representing Mary’s life in the inner narthex, while the outer narthex has 26 scenes depicting Jesus’ childhood and his miracles. In these scenes, the figures given together with the architectural and natural compositions are tall, and their heads are depicted to be smaller than their bodies. Although they have an exaggerated expression on the faces, they are strikingly close to being real. Dominating the period’s art and making the figures earthly, rather than spiritual, this realistic humanist approach is more distinct than the frescoes on the parecclesion of the structure. The painting program including Anastasis on the abscissa hemi dome, the miraculous resurrection scenes on the both sides of the abscissa, as well as the Last Judgment scene on the vault are directly related to the cemetery function. Especially, the cemetery chapels built next to churches became common at the last stage of Byzantine. Differently from the standard painting programs of churches, these chapels had a diverse range of iconographic selections.
In the capital, a big part of the mosaics from the period of Palaiologos dynasty was made between 1215 and 1320. The Pammakaristos Church originally had a mosaic cycle including the Twelve Great Feast scene. Only some fragments of the Baptism and Ascension scenes reached the present day. A classical concept is dominant on the Deesis composition at the Bema Church and Jesus the Master of the Universe icon on the main dome. A similar example is the Church Mosque mosaics. The Torah prophets on the domes’ splits surround Mary and Jesus figures that are inside the medallion standing on the domes covering the place. The Deesis mosaic on the southern traverses of the Hagia Sophia is one of the most well qualified icons of the period in terms of its elaborate craftsmanship and sensitive expression.
The structure of a gothic church was built by the Genoese that were connected to the Dominican Order probably on an old Byzantine church’s ruins in Galata in the fourteenth century and, after the fall of Constantinople, was turned into a mosque called the ‘Arab Mosque’. Excluding the churches constructed in a neogothic style in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the church is the only gothic church in Istanbul. Byzantine fresco masters were hired to work within the structure founded with the name of ‘San Domenico e Paolo’. Made in the period of its construction, presumably the first half of the fourteenth century, frescoes came into sight after plastering partially fell down on the area in front of the altar due to the earthquake of 1999. Moreover, in the middle of the extensive reparation activities performed in the following years, the frescoes made by the Byzantine masters working for the Catholics were found.
Atik Mustafa Pasha Mosque (Şeyh Cabir Mosque) in Ayvansaray is assumed to be the Saint Thekla Church from the ninth and tenth century. While there is no clue of any ornamental works from the Byzantine period within the structure, it is known that some mosaic pieces fell down from the walls during the repair conducted in 1988. Its south front is divided into three sections by buttresses added in the Ottoman Empire period. The two parts on the east and west have almost the same height, and the section on the center is the widest of the three. This front has the same structure as the whole of the north front, and in the section between the two buttresses in the middle, there are frescoes inside the three conjoint cinctures above the only window starting from the ground level. They were found in the process of reparation in 1956, covered with wood by Mathews for its protection. However, a year later, the frescoes were accessed by removing the wooden piece for a certain amount of time to take photographs, and covered again after the process. Having spent a long time behind the wood preservation in the following period, the frescoes became invisible when the niches outside of them were filled in through the end of 1980’s. Archangel Micheal, on the middle niche; Saint Kosmas, on the east side; and Saint Damian, on the west side, can be seen on the photographs that were taken when they were open. Due to their stylistic characteristics, Mathews consider that the frescoes date back to the Palaiologos dynasty period.
A significant number of the examples of Byzantine art’s portable works, which are described with admiration in the sources from the period, are presently kept at museums and collections in countries outside of Turkey. Some of these works were presented as a gift acting as a power indicator by Byzantine emperors, and some were removed by raids or for smuggling purposes, e.g. the Latin invasion in the thirteenth century. In 1876, Le Comte Riant prepared a comprehensive list that states the works brought to the West as booties, and indicates that Francs and Venetians had planned to split the treasure of Constantinople before the Latin invasion. Among those works, there are objects with religious functions that represent the qualified examples of Byzantine metalwork. Most of the items that were made in Constantinople and used in liturgy such as patens, calyxes, reliquaries, as well as crosses, oil lamps, and thuribles are presently displayed at various European museums primarily including the Treasury of San Marco, Venice.
The production of glass, ceramic, and fabric was conducted in Constantinople, even if it was not very common. The tenth century is the most shining era for silk weaving. Certain fabrics that were associated with the empire and nobility including fabrics with purple colors, or with golden or silvery patterns were only weaved at the empire’s workshops. These precious fabrics were generally used in the protection of relics and the cemeteries of emperors.
When it was the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Istanbul was one of the critical centers where illustrated manuscripts were produced, and most of the works are kept at museums and collection in countries outside of Turkey. Octateuch numbered 8 where the subjects of the Old Testament, presently protected at the Topkapı Palace, are illustrated as one of the most valuable examples of its kind, with its 352 miniatures made in the twelfth century. While Constantinople had been the production center for qualified illustrated manuscripts until the twelfth century, as in the examples of Sina and Athos, the empire expanded the qualified manuscript production in the surrounding rich monasteries. The mentioned data can suggest that the central structure lost its influence and new centers with the same competence started to emerge starting from the twelfth century.
While some of the Byzantine works that are preserved at the gardens and the Rooms of Christian Works and Byzantine Works of Istanbul Archeology Museums are made in Constantinople, the museums also exhibit examples brought from different regions of the empire. These works include: column headings with figures, and vegetal, geometrical and monogrammed ornamental works, as bearer architectural elements of religious structures from the Early Byzantine period; emperors’ sarcophagi primarily including ‘Prince’s Sarcophagus’, which was found in Sarıgüzel, Istanbul, and adorned with monograms of Jesus carried in a garland by flying nikes representing the triumph of the Christianity; the Saint Eudoxia icon made with mounted gems and the ciborium cincture adorned with apostle busts, found in Fenari İsa Mosque; ‘Mary and the Child Jesus’ icon found in the Sokullu Mehmet Paşa Mosque; ‘The Praying Mary’ marble icon founded in Gülhane; the relief depicting an emperor on rank, found in Fatih; a relief plate depicting two peacocks drinking water from a kantharos; fifth-century mosaic representing Orpheus, found in Jerusalem; the bedplates of sculptures made in the name of Porfirios, the leader car racer of the period, from the Early Byzantine period; two ambonites found in Salonica, one depicting ‘Three Divine Emperors’; emperors’ sculptures; ‘Jesus the Good Shephard’ sculptures; medallion busts of the Bible writers; pieces of the Arcadius and Theodosius columns; the relieves of ‘Jesus’ Miracles’, ‘Jesus and Peter the Apostle’, ‘Jesus’ Entry Into Jerusalem’, found in the Stoudios Monastery; the silver Stuma Paten made in Constantinople, found in Syria; the missing heel portion of the porphyry Tetrarchs in the San Marco Square, Venice, found in Saraçhane, proving that the sculpture was pirated.
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Necipoğlu, N. (ed.), Byzantine Constantinople: Monuments, Topography and Everyday Life, Leiden: Brill, 2001, pp. 1-10.
Ödekan, A., “Artakalanlar, Unutulanlar”, Kalanlar: 12. ve 13. Yüzyıllarda Türkiye’de Bizans, ed. Ayla Ödekan, tr. İnci Türkoğlu, Istanbul: Vehbi Koç Vakfı, 2007, pp. 10-11.
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Uçkan, Y., V. Bulgurlu and Ö. Çömezoğlu, “Lüks Üretimde ve Günlük Kullanımda Cam Sanatı”, Kalanlar: 12. ve 13. Yüzyıllarda Türkiye’de Bizans, ed. Ödekan, tr. İnci Türkoğlu, Istanbul: Vehbi Koç Vakfı, 2007, pp. 40-44.
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1 For more information see R. Cormack, “Byzantine Art”, The Encyclopedia of Visual Art, Danbury: Grolier Educational Corp., 1983, vol. 3, p. 375; A. J. Wharton, Tokalı Kilise: Tenth-Century Metropolitan Art in Byzantine Cappadocia, Washington: Dumbarton Oaks, 1986, pp. 11, 17, 18, 47; C. Holmes, “Provinces and Capital”, A Companion to Byzantium, ed. Liz James, Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, pp. 55-66; A. Eastmond, “Limits of Byzantine Art”, A Companion to Byzantium, ed. Liz James, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, pp. 313-322.