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tv   France 24  LINKTV  September 18, 2013 2:30pm-3:01pm PDT

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oly representations, then you call them icons. the type of perspective that they use-- byzantines the byzantine artists-- is inverse. it is exactly the opposite of linear perspective. the vanishing point is the viewer. so you see, there is a very clear relationship that is established between the viewer and the image that is represented. so the focus of that image is on the viewer and there is a clear and distinct relationship. the viewer is not invited to step into the infinite space within which the image exists. but on the contrary, that image exists at infinity, in the heavenly realm, and enters into the space which is recreated in the interior of the church. and they share the space during the
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liturgy. and that's a very important theological concept. that explains the reason why the byzantines developed not the linear perspective but the inverse perspective and that there was a very specific theological need or reason for its development. so this distinct relationship, which is developed between viewer or beholder and the image is very important to the artist, to the patron and whoever-- a theologian, in fact, because theologians were a very significant part of the decision-making process as to how you decorate a church and the very specific practices that were established in terms of the selection of the imagery what was appropriate and where they would be placed and how they would be placed. so the relationship with the beholder is one of the most important elements.
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therefore, you can understand why a centralized architecture would be an ideal place for the display of these images. now, the second point then the relationship of the image to the architecture. the architecture-- for example, because the images need to be placed frontally or possibly, at most turned slightly in profile there are scenes, for example, on the life cycle of christ, where the figures or individual characters need to communicate. and logically, if they're communicating they cannot be facing you, can they? they should be, in reality faced towards one another or even half possibly a three-quarter view or a back towards you. in order--they can-- and, in fact, the byzantines came up with an ingenious solution they still present the image frontally or possibly with a very minimal profile view. but they will choose an architectural
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setting they will choose an architectural element of the interior, which is round or curved slightly at least. and within that curved space they place these images which are, in reality, painted frontally. but because they're placed within an architectural niche which is curved or arced they do face one another. so the solution is met or the solution has been achieved. then the third important element is that each individual icon painting, addresses each other. they relate to one another. they're not individual panels which are to be appreciated individually. for example, during the baroque period or often during the renaissance period you will have individual panels painted.
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and they are appreciated individually. here, each image relates to one another. they are part of a whole. they are part of a total picture part of an entire theological idea or concept that the interior is supposed to unfold to the beholder. so the images, for example, very often, you will start reading them from left to right. there is a starting point where you begin. and your eye will then move in sequence in order to understand the progression of the sequence or episodes that are being told. for example, if and when the interior displays the scenes of the life cycle of christ, there is a beginning point. there is a beginning place. and that's the annunciation, when gabriel announced the birth of christ,
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and then you continue on through the sequence nativity, the birth of christ. and then it goes on. baptism. and then it takes you all the way through but in chronological order in chronological sequence so they, in fact, do relate to one another-- and also in terms of style. for example, in the sanctuary screen that you see directly in front of you in the interior in this church-- for example, if you take a look at the-- on the right-hand side you take a look at the representation of christ, the figure dressed in deep blue, you will see a fluttering drapery which seems to flutter very high upward and seems to be pointing in a particular direction. there's a reason why the artist has represented the drapery in just this fashion because it was his way of connecting visually that particular image or icon to the very large image directly
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in the center of the sanctuary screen, the very high and large, very, very tall icon. and therefore, with this drapery, it links and connects and moves you visually towards the central apex point which is christ. and the central icon is the anastasis or descent into limbo or descent into hell following christ's resurrection. therefore, those three elements are very critical in the understanding of byzantine decorative program, the program which was fully devised, fully developed, set down, written down and established during that middle byzantine period. this church conforms to the middle byzantine system. but it does deviate, as i have mentioned, placing the life cycle scenes of christ in the lower portions of the wall rather than relegating them to the upper portions of the wall.
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now i would like to take you to the sanctuary screen where we can address the individual images and see them closely so that i can discuss the decorative program of the sanctuary screen. [music] i am standing in front of the sanctuary screen which is, in fact, an architectural picture frame. originally, in the 4th century or probably around the 5th century a.d. the partition between the main part of the church which is the nave, where the congregation meets and the sanctuary, where the liturgy is performed behind the partition here, was sectioned off
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by a very low screen called a templon. it was, in fact, a type of screen that would-- and was used by the romans to partition the roman emperor-- to separate the roman emperor from the crowds when he made public appearances. gradually, very gradually, this partition, the templon, which was made usually of stone, marble slabs, began to expand. and it began to expand by the 6th century we know that the partition sprouted colonnettes and eventually they surmounted it with an entablature and then began to place icons, representations of holy images directly on top. and then by the 15th century in fact, especially in russia and yugoslavia these sanctuary barriers reached five rows.
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that one i'm standing in front of presently has two rows. the lowest row is called a local row. it's low and it's rather assessable for those who wish to venerate these icons. what you see here are representations of isolated saints which are standing and, in fact, in this row, there is a certain amount of flexibility in your choice of the participants, in the choice of your subject matter. in the center, the two center-most images which flank the sanctuary represent on the right hand christ in the blue robe, and across the way on the left is the virgin with the christ child, but that is traditional. that's an established representation-- established choice of placement. but when coupled with the figure to the left--
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on christ's left or to my right if i face the screen is saint john the baptist. when you take the three figures with christ placed in the center you have a very important iconography called the deesis. that's a greek word. but in fact, the iconography is really dealing with a very specific subject matter which addresses the intercessory prayer. interceding in fact, the two the virgin mary and john the baptist intercede before christ on the part of humanity and so addressing the concept of salvation. then directly behind the screen in the central portal which admits you or admits the clergy into the sanctuary or the celebrant the one who performs the liturgy into the sanctuary right in the center on the bottom, you have three figures three male figures and they represent the liturgist or those who had composed
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the liturgy or the ceremony, the hymns and the entire service way back in the 4th and 5th centuries a.d. and then directly above the very large, the huge mosaic which takes you all the way up to and right into and underneath the dome into the vault area, is the anastasis which i have mentioned earlier. anastasis, which in the western tradition is called the harrowing of hell or the descent into limbo. what is very effective is that stylistically these images are connected. for example, christ wearing the blue robe with his fluttering drapery visually connects you with the movement of the two figures in the central panel the lower figures who represent-- the woman in red is eve and the figure of adam dressed in the orange. and then if you noticed the movement of their legs and arms
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they point and take you visually up and towards the uppermost figure of christ who stands on what appears to be doors where, in fact they are lids of sarcophagi or lids of coffins comparable to present-day concept of coffins. and then the images which you find on the screen flanking the centrally placed images of christ and the virgin and john the baptist are local saints. but traditionally, there will always be an image of the feast or a particular event which celebrated by the church. for exple, this church is called the holy trinity church and therefore you will have an icon addressing this particular event. and so right next to the virgin, you will find an assembly of the 12 apostles and the descent of the holy spirit on the 12 figures. and that is directly-- in fact, left--
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just left of the virgin mary-- to her right, to our left. the uppermost row or the second row, uppermost in this case you have the representation of the life cycle. you have the representation, in fact, to be more accurate of the liturgical calendar. and so once again, it starts from the left, so you read the images on the left and you start with the annunciation. and just as i had mentioned in the lower portions of the wall you have the life cycle of christ, whh sotis tually representations of the liturgical calendar. so in the second row you find the annunciation, the nativity presentation to the temple and it takes you all the way through and across until finally you reach the last image on the right which is the ascension following the resurrection and the ascent of christ to heaven. and that is the terminal point of the liturgical calendar completed
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in this particular sequence. now, these-- because the church is so large the screen is quite high and it does close off the sanctuary area except in the center of this particular church, the entrance, the portals which take you or admit you into the sanctuary are relatively low and they're quite transparent, so you really have a very clear view of what is occurring inside the sanctuary. whereby in more traditional iconostases or in more traditional churches, for example, though many of the iconostases are no longer in place but in churches in the middle byzantine period the daphne or hosios loukas, for example, you would've had a higher sanctuary barrier. it would not have been as visible or the activity within would not have been as visible. but the sanctuary barrier is a very important means of communicating the church theology,
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the concept of the liturgy that is being enacted throughout the service in the church and so visually-- it's a very visual-- its position is very significant because it is the focal point. and so when the congregation gathers, facing or focusing towards the sanctuary which is usually in the eastern most part of the church. therefore, the sanctuary really holds your attention. and it is a very important vehicle for the communication of the church theology and liturgy. so you have the representation then of the holy person which is the entire theology the entire-- the idea or concept of the liturgy represented then for you on this screen. now, the entire then program of the church really works together. it works together and in summary to communicate the idea that the church is really a miniature version,
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a microcosm of the entire order or the entire-- hierarchically placed order of the total universe, with god at its apex and then descending down to the physical or mortal world, and then representing on the screen the liturgical context and the theological context, which is very much visible and very much in place for the beholder. also, when we are looking at these images, it is important to keep in mind that they do relate to one another. these images are so designed that they are to be understood not as an individual and separate unit, but as units which relate and they are very much a functional part of the total system that you see in front of you. [music]
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now that we've completed our visit of the holy trinity church i hope that you can walk away with a much clearer understanding of byzantine art and its significant influences on western art. when you watch your next telelessons, the ones dealing particularly with the medieval western tradition and the early renaissance, i hope you draw comparisons between byzantine art and the western tradition.
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i'm maria cheremeteff and i thank you for joining me. [music]
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