The Power of Symbolism in Byzantine Art Essay

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The Power of Symbolism in Byzantine Art

ABSTRACT: Our deeply visual culture today shows the fascination humanity has with the power of images. This paper intends to discuss the use and importance of images within the context of Byzantine art. The works produced in the service of the Eastern Orthodox Church still employed today, show a remarkable synthesis of doctrine, theology and aesthetics. The rigid program of Church decoration was meant as a didactic element to accompany the liturgy. The majesty of the images bespeaks of the Glory of God and the spiritual realities of the Christian faith. The images were intended to educated and provide contemplation of the invisible realm of the spirit. Byzantine aesthetics, therefore, is
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The world of the Byzantines provides an interesting artistic phenomenon endowed with spiritual and symbolic revelations. The unifying element of this art form, which spanned from the 4th to the mid 15th centuries (the fall of Constantinople ended the Byzantine empire in 1453, Vikan, p. 81), remained in the service of theology as an educational component to the proliferation of the Orthodox Church. After the fall of Constantinople, the basic canons of Byzantine art have remained viable, even to the present day, in the Orthodox Church continuing the abstract and symbolic imagery meant to evoke spiritual elevation and divine contemplation in the viewer.

In Byzantine art one can discover the wealthiest and most complex fusion of functions, elements and reasons. The synthesis of theology, religion and aesthetics provides a window to a multifaceted world view that has endured remaining relevant for centuries, still being promoted today within the Orthodox Church. Borne of the Early Christian art of the 3rd and 4th centuries (Rodley, p.2) prior to its acceptance and promotion as the official state religion of the Roman empire, this art form originally drew on the visual imagery of the pagan past. Amidst the vastness of the Roman empire, multiform influences prevailed of which the most significant was Hellenistic (Stuart, p.54) The majesty and physical detachment one

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