THE SOUND OF SILENCE: SACRED PLACE IN BYZANTINE AND POST-BYZANTINE DEVOTIONAL ART

Open Access
Author:
Anguelova, Vessela Nikolova
Graduate Program:
Art History
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
June 22, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Anthony Cutler, Dissertation Advisor
  • Anthony Cutler, Committee Chair
  • Elizabeth Bradford Smith, Committee Member
  • Brian A Curran, Committee Member
  • Garrett Fagan, Committee Member
  • Annemarie Weyl Carr, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • paper icons
  • Byzantine art
  • icons
  • post-Byzantine
  • devotional art
Abstract:
This study explores the representation of holy places in devotional images from the early Christian era to the post-Byzantine period. I delineate five phases of this development. The first phase (300s-500s) was connected to the rise of Christian sacred sites. Christian ideas about sacredness of locations built upon the Greek and Roman cults, and the Jewish religion but reflected Christianity’s own practices. Despite the variety of Christian holy places, only biblical sites appeared in religious images. This tendency changed in the post-Iconoclastic period. After the 900s, non-biblical sacred places gradually populated icons. All of these were monastic. The roots of this iconographic development must be sought in the standardization of the representation of saints. The Menologion of Basil II (976-1025) exemplifies the first systematic association of saints with specific locations. In this illuminated church calendar the eremitic desert or a cityscape suggests a saint’s occupation. The manuscript provided an important source to iconographers of devotional images that showed non-biblical holy places in the twelfth and the thirteenth centuries. These places—the church of the Miracle at Chonae and the eremitic desert of the Koimesis of St. Ephrem—specifically acclaimed ascetic virtues and praxis. The next step towards the representation of non-biblical sacred sites came in the early 1300s with the icon of the Virgin from the Zoōdochos Pēgē monastery in Constantinople. This new image bound devotion to a miracle-working spring in the Byzantine capital, yet it became popular in the neighboring countries. My study examines the reasons for this popularity through the decorative program of Archangel Michael at Lesnovo (1349). I argue that the Virgin Zoōdochos Pēgē effectively evoked Byzantine imperial power, and Christian doctrine and thus served the Serbian ruling class to legitimate its patriarchal church. The advertising potential of icons of places was fully appreciated in the post-Byzantine period. At this time icons expanded the holy sites conferring sacredness to ordinary monasteries. A case study of the Rila monastery paper icons attributes the wide distribution of these icons to the printing medium, and to the economic and political circumstances of Ottoman rule.