A quite unique "fin-de-siècle" (1892) overview of the calligraphic mosaics decorating the walls of the church of the monastery of St. Saviour in Chora in Istanbul. The decorative cycle, depicting scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, was commissioned by the humanist, poet and imperial officier Theodore Metochites between 1315 and 1321. The building was converted into a mosque (Kariye Camii) in the 16th century and the mosaics were plastered over. The images show the mosaics just after being uncovered for the first time in the 19th century, and before their restoration carried out after WW2.
Justinian I of Justinian the Great reigned in the middle of the 6th c. AD, that is considered the golden age of the Byzantine Empire. Mosaics, ivories and coins give us an idea of his physiognomic characteristics and of the power of his figure.
Byzantine art depicts an abundance of polarities of “good and evil”, based on religious and other popular beliefs. The gallery explores such manifestations and their afterlife in mainstream symbols and less conventional imagery. It features from images of the Good Shepherd and Adam and Eve in Paradise to scenes of Christ's Descent into Hell (Anastasis) and Last Judgment to prophylactic objects (eulogiai) and apotropaic motifs.
The symbolism of the bird is omnipresent in Byzantine Art. It is considered as an essential element in many decorations and art pieces of that time. Birds can be considered as animals whose interpretation was directly connected to a series of symbolic meanings. They are animals with a sort of duality that stand between earth and sky, and therefore between life and death. On the contrary, there’re many secondary depictions of birds that are intended only as medium of decoration, and not for their iconic value.
Birds of different species are depicted in some mosaics in Ravenna dated to the fifth or sixth century. Many of them have been studied and classified along with the help of ornithologists. It was thanks to these studies that researches have been able to identify many species.
The gallery comprises selected photographs from five eminent Byzantine churches in Kastoria (Greece) decorated with wall paintings from the ninth/tenth until the sixteenth century, as Agios Stephanos, Taxiarches Mitropoleos, Agioi Anargyroi, Agios Nikolaos tou Kasnitzi, the monastery of Panagia Mavriotissa and Agios Athanasios tou Mouzaki.
In the first centuries of Christian Era, the initiation to Christian religion was usually the result of a conscious choice and marked a significant turn in the life of an individual: the baptismal immersion meant not only the purification from all sins, but also the beginning of a new life, embracing a new set of values and conveying a new personal and social identity as a Christian. The growing significance of this ritual event in people's life, in parallel with the spreading of Christianity all around the Mediterranean and beyond, is fairly represented by the importance acquired in this period by the very place where the baptism is given: the baptistery. This building often strikes the modern gaze for its monumental and rich decorative features. This gallery gives a glimpse of the impressive architectural legacy and of the variety of structural and decorative solutions of some of the most famous Late Antique and Medieval baptisteries, a landmark in the history of European culture.