Characteristics of Byzantine Art

These pendentives meet together with the corners not resting on the pillar , thus describing a circular line on which then the hemisphere of the dome either rests directly or supported by a tambour (cf. Fig.18) .This construction permits the inclusion of numerous windows through which light can flow into the sacred area and can be employed in a variety of ways . It can also be combined with the basilica type , as in fig. 18 above .

The mosaics serve the same purpose . They are based on a tradition dating back to the 5th. century before Christ . These were brightly coloured pebbles which were laid out on a floor initially to form geometric-floral motives , later also as complete picture compositions . This decoration was also used in the early Christian basilicas (fig. 19) , but not continued after the 6th. century ; so much attention was no longer paid to the floor . The mosaic art lived on particularly as wall decoration . In this way it was possible to imitate valuable tapestries and reduce the heaviness of the walls . Just as in the case of the domes , one wanted to avoid a massive , oppressive impression .

With pieces of coloured glass , which could also be backed by gold leaf , and mother-of-pearl , light materials were found which held to the still moist mortar against the force of gravity in the vertical and namely also in the dome or the semi-dome of an apse . Artists soon learned to compensate for the effects which come about through domed surfaces by distorting the drawing correspondingly . They took account of the optical refraction of the mosaic stones and set them at certain angles to one another in the plaster . This technique could lead both to works of the priestly , ceremonially reduced style , known as hieratic (fig. 176 , 199) and to an enraptured illusionism depicting the holy persons naturalistically and yet full of allusions so no doubt about their removal to heaven (fig. 20) . Where sufficient money was available for these lavish murals , preference was given to mosaic art . Their existence always indicates the presence of a patron who commissioned them on behalf of the state . If it was necessary to manage with more modest means , then it was possible to fall back on frescoes which had similar , tapestry-like effect , albeit nothing like so magnificent . As Cyprus was at that time one of the richest and most peaceful provinces , it is possible to find relatively many remains of mosaics from that period here (cf. Kiti , Lythrankomi)

In the 6th. century , the stylistic characteristics of Byzantine art are clearly marked . The frontal presentation of the main figures brings about a distancing ; the emphasis on the lines is an abstraction , a denaturalisation corresponding to the Christian hope for the vanquishing of earthy things . Many of the schemes of the later canonical plan of composition , such as Mary Orans between the Archangels Michael and Gabriel are already fully developed and change only in details .

The pictorial programme

As a result of the repulsion of iconoclasm , the number of theologically fixed composition schemes rose and their place within the church was fixed . With this is linked , of course , a check on the painters by the bishops . Their work was regimented by numerous rules . At the end of the development were the painters' manuals of the 16th. century , the oldest of which was ascribed to an author who had lived one hundred years earlier , a certain Dionysios of Phurna , thus backdating it to 1468 to give the work greater legitimacy .

The definition of the thematic distribution of pictures envisages that Christ Pantocrator dominates in the dome (the representation of heaven) . Beneath him , the four archangels , the choir of angels with cherubim and Preparation of the Throne and the twelve prophets of the Old Testament form the transition to the earthly . The transition is reached with the four Evangelists who belong in the pendentives . Supporting architectural parts are reserved for saints , monks and bishops as representatives of the earthly church . In addition to this vertical arrangement , there is also a horizontal one telling the story of Christ's life and sufferings starting out from the apse ; in the eastern half , the Annunciation and Birth of Christ , in the west the Crucifixion of Christ and the Dormition of the Virgin ; in between , the New Testament cycle develops in the traditional sequence . By comparison with the West , iconoclasm led to a greater emphasis on the incarnation of Christ which was the main argument against the iconophobes : A man may be portrayed , Christ became man , so anyone not believing in the portrayability of Christ denies His incarnation . The veneration and portrayal of the Virgin Mary are based on this teaching and were adopted by the West with a certain delay . Come to that , major impulses for the art of northern Europe came from the East through the then still for the most part Byzantine Italy . This is especially true for the age of the Saxon emperors during which Byzantine art experienced a brilliant climax under the Macedonian and Komnenian emperors , to match which the West had nothing comparable to offer .

The art of the Komnenes

The political and economic upswing in the 10th. and 11th. centuries permitted the construction of numerous new churches . Over 200 were constructed in Cyprus alone until the year of the Latin conquest (1191) , 40 of which are still more or less well preserved until today with their fresco decoration . Following the model of Constantinople , the 'inscribed cross' became a particularly frequent ground-plan type . In this , a cross with equal arms is extended by a square . A special development of this is the five-domed church in which each section of the cross bears a dome . More frequent are three-domed churches in which the nave is emphasised by domes . However , a hall church consisting of just a nave with a timber roof is typical for the Cypriot mountain region . This is in keeping with the modest means and the weather conditions in Troodos . The side arms of the cross are just hinted at with arch-shaped niches (cf. Fig. 61) . The decoration of the dome is ommited , the remaining pictorial programme was , however , transfered without difficulties .