Christian Iconography

Topics: Jesus, Mosaic, Church of the Holy Sepulchre Pages: 6 (2387 words) Published: January 28, 2013
Short Essays
1. Compare and Contrast: Hosios Loukas, Greece (before 1048) v. San Marco, Venice, Italy (building consecrated 1073; mosaics 12th c.) and the Cappella Palatina, Palermo, Sicily (1142/3) Typical Byzantine churches, like all architectural forms, employ relatively standard layouts and similar mosaic programs. Hosios Loukas, preceding both San Marco and Cappella Palatina, is an example of adherence to Byzantine conventions of visual programs and spatial planning. However, the churches of San Marco and Cappella Palatina are departures from such convention. Experiencing greater influence from the West, the churches of San Marco and Cappella Palatina, in their architectural forms and decoration, at once show their Byzantine roots and strides toward westernization. Hosios Loukas, though appearing irregular in its floor plan, is actually two adjoining churches. Built on the space that marks the site of Saint Lucas’ death, the church is an excellent example of Byzantine planning and decoration. With a large central dome, the church can be divided into three main parts: the sanctuary, which is east of the dome; the naos, which is the central portion; and the narthex, or entry porch. Possessing a cross-like plan, the church is for the most part centrally planned. In the narthex, the typical mosaics of the Pantokrator, the Crucifixion and the Anastasis are employed. The apse mosaic, which is at the far end of the sanctuary, depicts the image of Theotokos sitting on a throne with the Christ Child; above the alter and the apse mosaic rests the mosaic of the Pentecost in the domical vault. In the central dome, which houses the Pantokrator, the circle converts to the square through an octagonal form, a feature shared by Cappella Palatina. The squinches created by the octagon depict scenes from Christ’s life. Furthermore, the likenesses of saints decorate the church. Most importantly however, the decoration of the church contains little extraneous detail. San Marco, however, exists as a transition from the traditional Byzantine format to more westernized looks. Still displaying a cruciform floor plan, the basilical form is integrated into the church. The four lateral domes and one central dome imply this focus on symmetry and centrality, while still allowing for the western influence. The naos is elongated, to create greater linearity and the cross arm of the cross-square is actually a transept. Though exhibiting much of the same scenes, those of San Marco have a particularly greater focus on narrative. One can observe such effects in the Anastasis scenes of both churches. In the Anastasis of Hosios Loukas, only five figures appear: Christ, David, Solomon and Adam and Eve; the five figures possess enough detail to identify them and the scene. In the San Marco example, eleven figures are present. The crowded quality enhances the narrative, allowing them to be read as more of a story and less as a symbolic image representing an event. Similarly, the crucifixion scene of Hosios Loukas and San Marco are respectively simplified and elaborate. Cappella Palatina, built by Roger II a Norman, focuses even greater narrative. The church also further employs the basilical form, while displaying forms from all the cultures that influenced it. Baring less architectural resemblance to the Byzantine church, Cappella Palatina’s mosaics, though depicting much of the same scenes as Hosios Loukas and San Marco, are composed in a rather haphazard way. For example, the nativity, which is usually streamlined to the most integral parts, shows multiple scenes in the same mosaic. In fact, some figures, such as the magi, appear more than once. This technique, allows the viewer to trace out the story of the birth of Christ. The eastern apse looks like a traditional Byzantine church, with a Pantokrator and seated Virgin. However to the west, the basilical nave shows the Western Christian influence. Its...
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