The Enthroned Christ and Emperor Leo VI the Wise

The Enthroned Christ and Emperor Leo VI the Wise, around the year 920, mosaic decorating the lunette over the Imperial Door in the Narthex of Hagia Sophia, the Great Church of the Byzantine Empire, Istanbul, Turkey

I like what the late Professor Nicolas Oikonomides wrote about the Byzantine mosaics in the vestibule and the narthex of the Great Church of Hagia Sophia… The imperial mosaics of Saint Sophia, beyond their artistic value, are of considerable historical importance… and… mosaics were made in the hope that they would survive ad saecula saeculorurn. Consequently, although representing a particular scene, or event, or idea that prevailed at the time of their composition, they were also supposed to bequeath their presumably understandable message to future generations. I am reading his article, Leo VI and the Narthex Mosaic of Saint Sophia, follow his steps, and learn interesting facts about the Enthroned Christ and Emperor Leo VI the Wise, the mosaic decorating the lunette over the Imperial Door of the Great Church. Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 30 (1976), pp. 151+153-172 (26 pages) and

In 1930 Thomas Whittemore, an American scholar, archaeologist, and restoration expert founded the Byzantine Institute of America and in 1931 took over the responsibility of recovering the mosaics of Hagia Sophia after receiving the approval of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, who turned Hagia Sophia into a museum four years later. 1n 1933 Whittemore uncovered and restored the mosaic decorating the lunette over the Imperial Door of Hagia Sophia. This mosaic, featuring the enthroned Christ in the center, a Byzantine Emperor in a prostrate position to his right, Whittemore identified him as Leo VI the Wise, and two medallions presenting the Mother of God and the Archangel Gabriel, is most unusual-a hapax in Byzantine art, according to Nicolas Oikonomides. and The Mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul by Thomas Whittemore, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 42, No. 2 (Apr. – Jun. 1938), p 220 and file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Byzantium%20Mosaics/Leo%20the%20Wise%20Oikonomides.pdf

Byzantinologists agree that the Hagia Sophia Mosaic over the Imperial Door (Christ and Emperor Leo VI, the Wise) is to be dated to the second half of the ninth century or the beginning of the tenth. There is a disagreement, however, over the meaning of the whole composition, on which Oikononides gives an explanation I find interesting. file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Byzantium%20Mosaics/Leo%20the%20Wise%20Oikonomides.pdf page 154

The Enthroned Christ and Emperor Leo VI the Wise (detail), around the year 920, mosaic decorating the lunette over the Imperial Door in the Narthex of Hagia Sophia, the Great Church of the Byzantine Empire, Istanbul, Turkey

Prof. Nicolas Oikonomides presents, I believe, a very persuasive argument over the meaning of the composition. He stresses the idea of how unique and unusual the theme of an emperor prostrating himself in front of Christ is in Byzantine imperial iconography and questions… Is the depicted Emperor exhibiting extreme humiliation or repentance? Oikonomides is in favor of repentance over humiliation. To support his case, he recalls that the initial meaning of the Greek word μετάνοια is repentance. He also recalls that since early Byzantine times, the same term, μετάνοια. is used by Orthodox Greeks to mean prostration, because prostration was-and still is, an act of penance, a normal way for the Orthodox Greeks to show repentance. He then compares the Emperor depicted in the Hagia Sophia mosaic to famous manuscript illuminations depicting the Repentance of David, the Biblical King, and he concludes that the Hagia Sophia mosaic of an Emperor in a prostrate position shows a repentant emperor. file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Byzantium%20Mosaics/Leo%20the%20Wise%20Oikonomides.pdf Pages 154-158

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

The Hodegetria Plaque

The Hodegetria with St. John the Baptist and St. Basil, Second half of 10th century, Ivory, 16.3×10.5 cm, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, USA

In 1939, John Hanson writes, Mildred Bliss brought this plaque, The Hodegetria Plaque, to Princeton for advice from the most important authority on Byzantine ivory carving at the time, Kurt Weitzmann who, with Adolf Goldschmidt, had published the corpus of Byzantine ivories in 1930 and 1934. He later recalled Mrs. Bliss showing him the piece: When I showed my enthusiasm for this entirely unknown ivory I was courteously reprimanded for having made my judgment too quickly—“It would have taken Dr. Goldschmidt a little longer to make up his mind.”

This amazing Ivory Plaque intrigued me… particularly John Hanson’s reference to the Louvre Ivory relief of St. Theodore… Weitzmann succeeded, Hanson writes, in identifying a relief of St. Theodore in the Louvre as one of the wings for the Dumbarton Oaks ivory. Fascinated, I searched the Louvre Byzantine Collection of Ivory carvings and digitally “reunited” the left wing (in the Louvre) of the original triptych, with the Dumbarton Oaks central plaque. Both Ivories show exceptional quality of artisanship – seen in the subtlety of the drapery folds and the noble bearing of the figuressuggesting an aristocratic owner, perhaps even an emperor. and

The left panel of a triptych: Saint Theodore, Second half of 10th century, Ivory, 16.8×13.4 cm, the Louvre, Paris, France  
The Hodegetria with St. John the Baptist and St. Basil, Second half of 10th century, Ivory, 16.3×10.5 cm, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, USA

The Louvre Ivory wing presents St. Theodore as a dignified, and bearded mature man, standing tall, facing the viewer. His head is, however, turned to the left, and presented slightly bent. Although St. Theodore is a military saint, is presented, in this case, wearing civilian clothes. I particularly like his coat… fastened on the right shoulder, and beautifully embellished with embroideries like the “tablion” element, noticeably, and centrally placed.

The Dumbarton Oaks ivory group of Panagia Hodegetria with St. John the Baptist and St. Basil is equally impressive! It is an understated, yet majestic Deësis (intercession) scene. St. John the Baptist, and St. Basil, their heads bent and hands pleading, take the role of intercessors…. while the Hodegetria, tall and elegant, rises over them.

Searching for information and answers… I was charmed by the way Hayford Peirce, and Royall Tyler described the Ivory Plaque as possessing… unobtrusive grace, a reconciliation of the extremes of elegance and austerity and suppleness to drapery, by introducing shallow folds between the deep ones. An Ivory of the Xth Century by Hayford Peirce and Royall Tyler, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 2, Three Byzantine Works of Art (1941), pp. 11+13-18 (29 pages)

An article titled Two Images of the Virgin in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection by Sirarpie der Nersessian in Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 14 (1960), pp. 69+71-86 was equally interesting. The author describes the Hodegetria as exhibiting the finest qualities of the sculpture of the tenth century

For a Student Activity on Panagia Hodegetria with St. John the Baptist and St. Basil, please… Check HERE!

Christ Pantocrator in the Byzantine Monastery of Daphni

Christ Pantocrator in the Byzantine Monastery of Daphni… whose great eyes, dark and exorbitant and cast almost furtively over one shoulder, at total variance with His right hand’s serene gesture of blessing and admonition, spell not only pain but fear, anguish and guilt, as though He were in flight from an appalling doom. The only fit setting for such an expression is the Garden of ! Gethsemane; but this is a Christ-God in His glory, the All-Powerful One. It is tremendous, tragic, mysterious and shattering… writes Patrick Leigh Fermor in his travel book Mani. Travels in the Southern Peloponnese of 1958. and

The sight of the Pantocrator image at Daphni is indeed breathtaking, and I particularly like Fermor’s use of adjectives… tremendous, tragic, mysterious, and shattering! Whether Fermor was right or not in his description… whether the Daphni Pantocrator survives today exactly as it was created by the anonymous 11th century Byzantine master… is not easy to answer, but was expertly addressed by Robin Cormack in his 2009 article Rediscovering the Christ Pantocrator at Daphni. Professor Cormack takes his reader on a wonderful journey as he “deciphers” the secrets of this amazing mosaic and the wondrous ways of mosaic restoration. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 71 (2008), pp. 55-74 (20 pages) Published By: The University of Chicago Press

Visiting the Daphni Monastery has always been a wonderful experience! Built on the slopes of Mount Egaleo in the grove of Haidari, next to the ancient Athenian Ιερά Οδό (Sacred Road) that connected Athens with Eleusis, the site of the eponymous Eleusinian Mysteries, lies the Byzantine Monastery of Daphni. It is only interesting that the Monastery was built on the location of the ancient sanctuary of Apollo Daphnaios, destroyed during the invasion of the Goths in 395 AD. Unfortunately, of the old temple only one Ionic column still remains in the colonnade of the narthex, while the rest were removed by Lord Elgin in the 19th century.

According to the Greek Ministry of Culture (ΟΔΥΣΣΕΥΣ site), the first monastic community at Daphni was organized during the 6th century AD and was enclosed by strong defensive walls, almost square in plan. The catholicon was a three-aisled basilica which stood in the center of the courtyard. Along the inner NE side of the walls, two-storied buildings were constructed, containing the cells of the monks. A reception hall and a second block of cells were attached on the north wall of the enclosure.

What we see today is the 2nd phase of development and construction, dating from the 11th century (around 1080). The Monastery’s Katholikon is a cross-in-square church of the octagonal type, surmounted by a broad and high dome. It has a narthex, formed as an open portico… The exonarthex was constructed a little later, in the early 12th century and the chapel to the west was added in the 18th century… The porch with the three pointed arches in the west facade of the narthex was added in the 13th century by the Frankish monks and certainly points to western influence… The walls of the church are built in the simple cloisonne masonry with poor brick decoration, restricted on the windows… The monastery is protected by a square enclosure fortified with towers and ramparts, with two entrance gates on its east and west sides.

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

For an interesting Video on the Daphni Monastery, please Check…

Silver Flabellum in the Collection of the Dumbarton Oaks

Flabellum, 565 – 578, silver and gilding, 30.9 x 24.77 x 1.91 cm, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, USA

flabellum (plural flabella), in Christian liturgical use, is a fan, made of metal, leather, silk, parchment, or feathers, intended to keep away insects from the consecrated Body and Blood of Christ and from the priest, as well as to show honour. The Apostolic Constitutions, a work of the fourth century, state (VIII, 12): “Let two of the deacons, on each side of the altar, hold a fan, made up of thin membranes, or of the feathers of the peacock, or of fine cloth, and let them silently drive away the small animals that fly about, that they may not come near to the cups.”. The 6th century Silver Flabellum in the Collection of the Dumbarton Oaks is not only liturgical but a work of great art as well!

The Bliss-Tyler Correspondence, always fascinating, provides two references to the purchase of the Silver Flabellum/ Rhipidion (in Greek)/Fan of the Dumbarton Oaks Collection by Robert Woods Bliss in 1936, in Paris, France. The first reference is made in a letter dated February 1, 1936…  I’m much excited about your recent acquisitions. Hurrah for the Drey cross! And for the Rhipidion (fan). And I’m prepared to enthuse about the pyx when I see it or a photo. The second reference is dated March 6, 1936… The rhipidion (flabellum) is certainly early VIe cent. The hallmarks make that certain, and the style is perfectly consistent. and

Riha Silver Group, 6th century AD, silver and gilding, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, USA

During the turbulent years (7th century) of the Sasanian and then the Arab invasions of Syria, devoted Christians buried a precious collection of liturgical vessels for safekeeping, hoping they will be able to reclaim them when peace would have prevailed. The silver Rhipidion, along with an amazing Paten and a Chalice, all three of them in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection today, were discovered at Riha, a small village south of Aleppo in central Syria. It has been written by Stephen Zwirn of the Dumbarton Oaks, that the Riha Treasure along with silver treasures from nearby Stuma, Hama, and Antioch were discovered at about the same time, and it has been suggested that these hoards actually constituted one large group brought together for protective burial, which was divided into smaller sets after it was unearthed early in the twentieth century. The original owners never came back to retrieve their treasures… and thus, many centuries later, they ended up in different Museums and private collections around the world! and

The Riha chalice, paten, and fan were each impressed, writes Stephen Zwirn, with stamps that indicate the emperor’s reign during which they were made. The chalice was fabricated during the reign of Justinian I (527–65), while the paten and fan belong to the reign of his successor, Justin II (565–78)… They form a set for use in the Orthodox Eucharist, or Communion: the paten held the leavened bread, still a tradition in Orthodox worship, the chalice contained the wine, and the fan was used to keep insects away from the bread and the wine. It has been suggested that they were produced in Constantinople and purchased by Megalos and Nonnous, a couple named in the inscription of the paten, for presentation to a church in Syria soon after 577. and file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Byzantium/Age_of_Spirituality_Late_Antique_and_Early_Christian_Art_Third_to_Seventh_Century.pdf pages 617-18

Flabellum (detail), 565 – 578, silver and gilding, 30.9 x 24.77 x 1.91 cm, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, USA

The silver Flabellun/Rhipidion/Fan in the Dumbarton Oaks is engraved with sixteen peacock feathers around its scalloped rim. On its central disk, the 6th-century silversmith, engraved a tetramorph cherubim, the four-winged creature described in Ezekiel 1:4–21. The same tetramorph has been, summarily, engraved on the reverse side as well. The luxury of all liturgical vessels discovered in Syria indicates the splendor of the Early Christian Church Service, and the magnificent silver Rhipidion in particular, the ceremonial status altar fan had during the Orthodox Eucharist or Communion Service. file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Byzantium/Age_of_Spirituality_Late_Antique_and_Early_Christian_Art_Third_to_Seventh_Century.pdf pages 617-18

For a Student Activity inspired by the Silver Flabellum in the Collection of the Dumbarton Oaks, please… Check HERE!

Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine

Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine, mid-10th century, Ivory, 16.4×6.5 cm, Dumbarton
Oaks, Washington, DC, USA

It was but recently the whole human race celebrated various ten-year periods for the great Emperor with festive banquets. It was but recently we ourselves hymned the conqueror with praises for his twenty years, taking the floor at the Council of God’s ministers. Just now we wove garlands of words also for his thirty years, in the very palace hardly yesterday to crown his sacred head. But today our thought stands helpless, longing to express some of the conventional things, but at a loss which way to turn, stunned by the sheer wonder of the amazing spectacle. Wherever it casts its gaze, whether east or west, whether all over the earth or up to heaven itself, every way and everywhere it observes the Blessed One present with the Empire itself… writes Eusebius PamphiliOn the Life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine back in the 4th century AD. Today, celebrating Emperor Constantine’s Name-Day, I present you a Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine from the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and wish every person named Constantine or Constantina… Health, Happiness, and Prosperity!

Emperor Constantine is often described as the most important emperor of Late Antiquity. His political and military acumen, foresight, and sagacity mark his rule as a significant pivot point between Ancient History and the Middle Ages. His reign was eventful and brutal, but his momentous decisions created a whole new world for Europe and parts of the Eastern Mediterranean… He legalized and supported Christianity, and he founded the “New Rome,” mythical Constantinople, the city that ruled supreme in beauty, and power, for a thousand years! Emperor Constantine, while alive, was revered and feared at the same time. He was the greatest of statesmen… he became a Saint of the Christian faith, and a shining example for Emperors to come into the world!

Originally in the Collection of the famed connoisseur of European paintings and of objects of fine art from many cultures, Count Grigory Sergeievich Stroganoff (1829-1910) of Rome, Paris, and St Petersburg, the Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine entered the Dumbarton Oaks Collection in 1947. The small ivory representation of a Saint dressed in Imperial attire, a loros wrapped around his body and a crown with pendilia, is identified with Emperor/Saint Constantine I (208?-337 AD). Along with his mother St. Helena, according to John Hanson of Dumbarton Oaks, also dressed in royal robes, these saints were often shown flanking a representation of the True Cross. In all probability, this is the case for the Dumbarton Oaks Ivory panel. It was the left-wing of a precious triptych..

Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine (detail), mid-10th century, Ivory, 16.4×6.5 cm, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, USA

There were no less than eleven Byzantine Emperors by the name of Constantine, the number rising to twenty-two if children and relatives with little or no independent power were added to the list. They all wanted to connect with the Empire’s founder and share his legacy. It is perhaps for this reason that the saint’s features resemble, as stated by John Hanson, the facial features of early 10th century Byzantine Emperors, the time when the Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine was created. If the identity of the emperor was specifically Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, the resemblance creates a complex sign of authority and sanctity, aligning the living emperor with his imperial namesake. and

For a Student Activity on the Triptych Leaf with St. Constantine, please… Check HERE!

Good Friday – Μεγάλη Παρασκευή

Book cover with a silver-gilt Spanish setting of a Byzantine Ivory Crucifixion, 10th century (ivory); late 11th century (setting), silver-gilt with pseudo-filigree, glass, crystal, and sapphire cabochons, ivory on wood support, Overall: 26.4 × 21.9 × 2.5 cm, the MET, NY, USA

Today he who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon a Tree. He who is King of the Angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns. He who wraps the heaven in clouds is wrapped in mocking purple. He who freed Adam in the Jordan receives a blow on the face. The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails. The Son of the Virgin is pierced by a lance. We worship your Sufferings, O Christ. Show us also your glorious Resurrection. (Good Friday – Μεγάλη Παρασκευή Twelfth Antiphon – plagal fourth mode)

Σήμερον κρεμᾶται ἐπὶ ξύλου ὁ ἐν ὕδασι τὴν γῆν κρεμάσας. Στέφανον ἐξ ἀκανθῶν περιτίθεται ὁ τῶν Ἀγγέλων Βασιλεύς. Ψευδῆ πορφύραν περιβάλλεται ὁ περιβάλλων τὸν οὐρανὸν ἐν νεφέλαις. Ῥάπισμα κατεδέξατο ὁ ἐν Ἰορδάνῃ ἐλευθερώσας τὸν Ἀδάμ. Ἥλοις προσηλώθη ὁ Νυμφίος τῆς Ἐκκλησίας. Λόγχῃ ἐκεντήθη ὁ Υἱὸς τῆς Παρθένου. Προσκυνοῦμέν σου τὰ Πάθη, Χριστέ. Δεῖξον ἡμῖν καὶ τὴν ἔνδοξόν σου Ἀνάστασιν/ (ΜεγάληΠαρασκευή Ἀντίφωνον ΙΒ΄ – ἦχος πλ. δ΄)

Panel with a Byzantine Ivory Carving of a Crucifixion, 10th century, Ivory, the MET, NY, USA

Byzantine Panels of Ivory Carvings were precious and treasured… just like the Ivory Panel in the MET coming from the Nunnery of Santa Cruz de la Serós in Spain. Set within an amazing gold frame of a Spanish goldsmith, the Byzantine Ivory Crucifixion Panel becomes an important testimony of Western admiration for the artistry of Byzantine craftsmanship, the high esteem accorded such Byzantine objects, and the cultural exchange, the artistic emulation, Byzantine artifacts initiated. The Glory of Byzantium, Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era p. 466

The Crucifixion plaque of Santa Cruz de la Serós originally formed the center of a Byzantine three-paneled icon. Typical to Byzantine Iconography, a Triumphant Christ stands erect on the Cross, his face serene, the eyes closed, his arms effortlessly horizontal, and his feet supported by a projecting platform. The “monumental” Cross in the center, seems to divide the compositional panel into 4 parts. The upper two smaller in size parts exhibit the sun and the moon, and two Angels. Standing under them, flanking the Cross, are the weeping Virgin Mary, and Saint John the Evangelist. They are both depicted holding a Book, an open one by Mary, and a bejeweled closed Book, by Saint John. Could the two represented Books be meant to remind the plaque’s viewer of Christ’s message of hope and redemption?

The Metropolitan Museum Ivory is associated (by Goldschmidt and Weitzmann) with the Cortona Reliquary of the True Cross Ivory panel, and a collection of Ivory plaques known as the Nikephoros Group. These Ivories display simplicity of composition, stylistic homogeneity, rough but monumental style of carving, broad, blunt facial features, and rather large hands. The Nikephoros Group Ivories are dated to the middle of the 10th century because of an inscription on the back of the Cortona Reliquary of the True Cross Ivory panel mentioning emperor Nikephoros, most certainly the Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas (963-969). p. 466

The MET Byzantine Ivory of the Crucifixion has been one of the many gifts to the Nunnery of Santa Cruz de la Serós, outside the royal capital of Jaca, which was founded by Queen Felicia (d. 1085), wife of Sancho V Ramírez (r. 1076–94), king of Aragon and Navarre. It entered the Metropolitan Museum Collection in 1917 as a gift from J. Pierpont Morgan. and

A PowerPoint of all artworks presented for the Holy Week in the Greek Orthodox Church, 2022… is HERE!

Holy Monday – Μεγάλη Δευτέρα

Vienna Genesis, The Pharaoh’s Banquet, folio 17, page 34, (Cod. Theol. gr. 31), first half of the 6th century, Illuminated Parchment dyed purple, heightening in shell gold, with a text written in silver ink, 32.0×26.5 cm, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Austria

On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he held a feast for all his officials, and in their presence, he lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. Pharaoh restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.… (Book of Genesis, The story of Joseph, 40:20-22 – Holy Monday – Μεγάλη  Δευτέρα)

Την τρίτη ημέρα λοιπόν, ο Φαραώ είχε τα γενέθλιά του και έκανε συμπόσιο για όλους τους υπηρέτες του και έφερε μπροστά τους τόσο τον αρχιοινοχόο όσο και τον αρχιαρτοποιό.  Και επανέφερε τον αρχιοινοχόο στη θέση που είχε ως οινοχόος, και εκείνος συνέχισε να δίνει το ποτήρι στον Φαραώ.  Τον αρχιαρτοποιό όμως τον κρέμασε, ακριβώς όπως τους είχε δώσει την ερμηνεία ο Ιωσήφ. (Γένεση, Η Ιστορία του Ιωσήφ, 40:20-22- Holy Monday – Μεγάλη  Δευτέρα)

Vienna Genesis, The Pharaoh’s Banquet, folio 17, page 34, (Cod. Theol. gr. 31), first half of the 6th century, Illuminated Parchment dyed purple, heightening in shell gold, with a text written in silver ink, 32.0×26.5 cm, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Austria

Andreas Fingernagel, Director of the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books

at the Austrian National Library, considers the Late Antique Codex theologicus graecus 31, the Vienna Genesis as of outstanding importance, an illuminated manuscript regarded and admired as a rare testimony of Late Antique art history. The manuscript, dated to the first half of the 6th century, consists of 48 preserved pages, written in Maiuscula Biblica in silver ink on purple parchment. It is illustrated with 48 miniatures produced in a city scriptorium of culture and sophistication like Antioch or Constantinople. It is one of the earliest known cycles of book miniatures from the Old Testament, a rare witness of Late Antique book culture. Since 1664, this magnificent codex has been preserved at the Imperial Court Library, today, the Austrian National Library in Vienna.

Vienna Genesis, The Pharaoh’s Banquet (detail), folio 17, page 34, (Cod. Theol. gr. 31), first half of the 6th century, Illuminated Parchment dyed purple, heightening in shell gold, with a text written in silver ink, 32.0×26.5 cm, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Austria

According to research done in the early 2020s, the Vienna Genesis is the incredible work of 7 different artists. Scholars came to this conclusion, by looking into each artist’s style, iconography, colour palette, pigments, and dyes. All artists involved in the illumination of the Vienna Genesis were trained in creating rich, and lively paintings in an authentic Late Antique style, suited for the sophisticated liking of an imperial patron.  Painter E (folios 17–18, pages 33–36) has been identified as the artist who created the amazing miniature (folio 17, page 34) depicting The Pharaoh’s Birthday Banquet. This is a scene in the story of Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, celebrated during Holy Monday. pp. 232-235 and Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century pp. 458-459

The Österreichische Nationalbibliothek of Vienna Digital Copy of the Vienna Genesis… Check

A PowerPoint of all artworks presented for the Holy Week in the Greek Orthodox Church, 2022… is HERE!

Lazarus Saturday – Σάββατο του Λαζάρου

Cup with the Raising of Lazarus (Christ holding a staff and Lazarus still  wrapped in his burial shroud), 4th century, Free-blown glass with wheel-cut decoration; very pale green, nearly colourless, 11.2 × 11.8 cm, Yale University Art Gallery, USA

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:1-3 – Lazarus Saturday – Σάββατο του Λαζάρου)

Ο δε Ιησούς, εξ ημέρας προ του πάσχα ήλθεν εις την Βηθανίαν, όπου ήτο ο Λάζαρος, ο οποίος είχε πεθάνει και τον οποίον είχε αναστήσει εκ νεκρών. Παρέθεσαν, λοιπόν, εις αυτόν δείπνον εκεί και η Μάρθα υπηρετούσε. Ο Λάζαρος ήτο ένας από τους συνδαιτυμόνας. Εν τω μεταξύ η Μαρία επήρε μίαν λίτραν μύρου γνησίου και πολυτίμου, καμωμένου από το αρωματικόν φυτόν που λέγεται νάρδος, και άλειψε τα πόδια του Ιησού,  τα οποία και εσπόγγισε κατόπιν με τας τρίχας της κεφαλής της. Όλο δε το σπίτι εγέμισε από την ευωδίαν του μύρου. (Κατά Ιωάννην Ευαγγέλιον 12:1-3 – Lazarus Saturday – Σάββατο του Λαζάρου)

Cup with the Raising of Lazarus Lazarus (anonymous onlookers), 4th century, Free-blown glass with wheel-cut decoration; very pale green, nearly colourless, 11.2 × 11.8 cm, Yale University Art Gallery, USA

Lazarus Saturday, along with Palm Sunday, holds a unique position in the Church Calendar of the Greek Orthodox Church. They are days of celebration… before the days of sorrow that follow… The Raising of Lazarus of Bethany and the Entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem are both the most popular themes in Byzantine Art since the beginning of the Christian era.

Ever since I first saw the Yale University Art Gallery’s unique glass Cup with the Raising of Lazarus, at the Exhibition Age of Spirituality, as a university student at the time, I am enamored with it! I like its simple skyphos-like shape, slightly conical, and how very pale green, nearly colourless, it is. I like best, how it is decorated by wheel-cutting, a technique in which shallow cuts were made in the surface of a glass vessel by applying a rotating wheel of metal or stone covered with an abrasive material. This decorative technique… was used to create lines, geometric designs, or, as in this case, figural scenes. According to the Yale University experts, examples of glass items like the Yale glass cup, in which variously oriented groups of parallel cut lines create solid areas suggestive of anatomy, drapery, architecture, and landscape, are associated with glass-cutters working in Cologne, Germany. The Cup’s iconography is simple, yet powerful. Lazarus, still wrapped in his burial shroud, stands next to Jesus, who holds a staff in his left hand. The remaining four figures included in the scene are probably anonymous onlookers. In a typical Early Christian style, they are depicted between trees with highly flat, geometricized tops. Simply put… a magnificent piece! and pp. 444

Cup with the Raising of Lazarus Lazarus (anonymous onlookers), 4th century, Free-blown glass with wheel-cut decoration; very pale green, nearly colourless, 11.2 × 11.8 cm, Yale University Art Gallery, USA

A PowerPoint of all artworks presented for the Holy Week in the Greek Orthodox Church, 2022… is HERE!

Church of the Parigoritissa in Arta

Church of the Parigoritissa in Arta, 1294-1296, Arta, Greece

According to a popular Epirote legend… the anonymous “πρωτομάστορας” (master architect), commissioned to build the Church of the Parigoritissa in Arta was accomplished, famous, and much in demand! Hired to design plans for another church, while still working in Arta, the “πρωτομάστορας” was obliged to travel away, leaving his assistant in charge. The assistant, anonymous as well, was young, ambitious, innovative, and highly creative. He decided to change the original plans… implement a novel architectural proposal, and, in the process, created an original Church design we still admire today! Upon his return, the “πρωτομάστορας” was stunned, envious and… vengeful! He wanted revenge and he planned carefully… He tricked his unsuspecting assistant into climbing to the roof under the pretext that he was going to show him a mistake he made and then… the plan was, to push him over. But the plan did not materialize as wished! As the young assistant was falling, he grabbed the master-builder dragging him along to their death. The mother of the young assistant was devastated… but one night the Virgin Mary appeared to her dream and “την παρηγόρησε,” consoled her for her unjust loss. Mary’s consolation was considered a miracle and thus… the Church in Arta was called “Παναγία η Παρηγορήτισσα,” the Church of the Virgin Mary of Consolation.

Ιn Arta the Parigoritissa Church is considered the city’s Αρχόντισσα… most Aristocratic edifice! Built on the western slope of Peranthis hill, the church is associated with the Komnenos Doukas ruling family of the Despotate of Epiros. Archaeologists discern 2 construction phases. The older 1st phase dates to the middle of the 13th century and is associated with Michael II Komnenos Doukas (1230 until his death in 1266/68 ruler of the Despotate of Epirus) and his wife Theodora Petraliphaina (canonized as Saint Theodora of Arta, ca. 1225 – after 1270). Recent archaeological discoveries show that large parts of its original masonry were preserved to a sufficient height and incorporated via various modifications for the construction of the church’s 2nd phase which materialized under the sponsorship of Nikiphoros I Komnenos Doukas (c. 1240-1297) and his wife Anna Palaiologina Kantakouzene (d. 1313). On the western wall of the main church, over the entrance, an inscription verifies the fact that the Parogoritissa church was founded in the period 1294-1296 by the despot of Epirus Nikephoros I Komnenos Doukas, his wife Anna Palaiologina Kantakouzene, and their son Thomas. The aspiration of the princely couple was to create a Metropolitan Church worthy of a Byzantine Capital, impressive and original in design, luxurious and imposing on its exterior and interior decoration!

Thomas Smart Hughes, Travels in Sicily Greece, and Albania… Illustrated with engravings of maps scenery plans &c., vol. Ι, London, J. Mawman, 1820, Collection: Hellenic Library – Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation

The church of Parigoritissa was dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary and was formerly the Katholikon of a large Monastery, of which 16 cells and the Refectory are also preserved. It is one monumental, voluminous, cubic in essence (has dimensions of 20,30×22 m) building, which external masonry and design “elusively” resemble the Italian mansions of the Early Renaissance period. The exterior façade of the church is divided into three zones: The lowest one is irregularly built and unadorned because until 1865 it was covered by a portico, as evidenced by the existence of 12 pilasters on the three sides of the temple to support its roof. The two upper zones of the church are meticulously built according to the isodomic “cloisonne” system, adorned with a large number of double (dilova) windows with a colonnette in between, and further embellished with elaborate brick decorations. The Parigoritissa like many other churches in Arta, uses bricks and clay tiles in a variety of colours and designs, to decorate their walls with designs like meanders, concentric rhombuses, and toothed strips to name just a few. Finally, the church is crowned by five domes, from which the central one is larger and taller. Among the two western domes, there is a smaller, open dome, which gives the impression of a ciborium. and

Church of the Parigoritissa in Arta (Keramoplastika), 1294-1296, Arta, Greece

For an interesting 3D Video on the Byzantine city of Arta and its Monuments created by the Greek Ephorate of Antiquities of Art, go to:

For interesting Photographs, go to…

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

My thoughts on the interior architectural plan and decoration of the Parigoritissa Church will be presented in another BLOG POST…

Visiting the Parogoritissa with my students…
Photo Credit: Kostas Papantoniou

Byzantine Girdle

Marriage Belt, 6th-7th century, Gold, 4.8×75.5 cm, Byzantine Collection, Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington DC, USA

That which her slender waist confin’d, / Shall now my joyful temples bind; / No monarch but would give his crown, / His arms might do what this has done.     /     It was my heaven’s extremest sphere, / The pale which held that lovely deer, / My joy, my grief, my hope, my love, / Did all within this circle move.     /     A narrow compass, and yet there / Dwelt all that’s good, and all that’s fair; / Give me but what this ribbon bound, / Take all the rest the sun goes round… wrote Edmund Waller, back in the 17th century… and I imagine another slender waist confin’d  by a Byzantine Girdle, masterfully created back in the 6th or the 7th century…

The Gold Byzantine Marriage Belt at Dumbarton Oaks is small, but lo and behold, it’s luxurious and precious, unique, and ever so beautiful! It combines Christian and pagan iconography… two large medallions depicting Jesus uniting a young couple as they clasp each other’s right hand, in a gesture, known as the dextrarum iunctio, that had been part of the Roman marriage rite, and twenty-one small medallions that contain busts of pagan figures: all men, some draped, several bearded, others with leaves in their hair, a few holding the thyrsos—a staff associated with Dionysos—and some a caduceus, the rod of the god Hermes/Mercury. Framing the central, Marriage scene, is the inscription, “From God, concord, grace, health.”

Marriage Belt (detail), 6th-7th century, Gold, 4.8×75.5 cm, Byzantine Collection, Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington DC, USA

The fascinating aspect of the Dumbarton Oaks marriage belt is how the artist combined the “sacred with the profane…” Jesus blessing the young couple, with Dionysus and his male entourage. The combination of Pagan and Christian traditions in early Byzantine marriage art is captivating. The presence of Christ uniting the young couple in the larger, central two disks was apparently a popular practice in wedding belts and marriage rings. There is a similar second belt at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, and numerous variations on marriage rings to testify to the fact. What the Dumbarton Oaks experts find challenging is the integration of non-Christian figures with the Christian scenes. and

Marriage Belt (detail), 6th-7th century, Gold, 4.8×75.5 cm, Byzantine Collection, Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington DC, USA

It is also interesting to read the actual Epithalamic Poem by Dioscorus of Aphrodito dedicated to Count Callinicus… τον περίβλεπτον κόμετα Καλλίνικον… Bridegroom, may your wedding be filled with the dancing of the Graces; may it ever seek the help of Wisdom after Beauty. You are marrying a bride who is an enviable Ariadne, silver-sandaled Theophile wreathed in gold. (May your marriage) have the scent at once of love and of wisdom. Gold has embraced gold, and silver has found silver. You raise up the honey-sweet grape cluster, in its bloom of youth; Dionysus attends the summer of your wedding, bearing wine, love’s adornment, with plenty for all, and blonde Demeter brings the flower of the field. . . . They have woven holy wreaths round your rose-filled bedroom. Like splendid Menelaus, but more tawny colored, follow your Helen, a wife who will not leave you. And afterwards you shall see dear children on your lap, like both your excellence and your wife’s to look upon. I wish a famous painter would accurately depict your lifelike image, with his craft to work your beloved likeness, whose bright beams flash with joy like the moon. Your young body has surpassed prize-winning Bellerophon, and your beauty is that of measureless excellence. To judge impartially, you have outdone Achilles and Diomedes, and easily outstripped Ares and brave Herakles. Be gracious to me in my awe of you, so I may sing your song: I came sailing on my voyage, inspired by your measureless excellence. Not in a worldly sense . . .;;doc.view=print -88-

If you are interested in discovering how the Dumbarton Oaks Marriage Belt ended in the renowned Washington DC Museum, please click HERE! and read the correspondence between Mildred and Robert Bliss and Royall Tyler between September 1937 and August 1938. It is a fascinating story…