Hagia Sophia. Detail of dome. Istanbul. CC Attribution: SA 4.0 International. Detail of photograph by Osama SM Amin FRCP (Glasgow)


Byzantine Architecture: Fourth-Fifteenth Centuries

  • Begins: Thursday 12 September 2024
    Until: Thursday 10 October 2024
  • Lettsom House, First Floor, 11 Chandos Street, London W1G 9EB (NB: There is no lift in this building)
  • Lecturer: Dr Cecily Hennessy

The Byzantine empire produced some of the most famed buildings of the medieval period including the great church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, modern Istanbul. This course takes a chronological view of Byzantine architectural developments from the fourth to the fifteenth centuries. We focus on the religious and secular buildings created throughout the empire including monuments in Jerusalem, San Simeon, Sinai, Cappadocia, Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Ravenna and Rome. We discuss the harnessing of Roman architectural forms for the service of Christianity and how these changed over time. Buildings include baptistries, mausolea and churches. We look at their locations and designs as well as how they functioned as places of worship. We also explore secular architecture, including urban planning and palaces. Integral to the appearance and use of all these buildings was their decoration, including mosaics and monumental paintings.

Week 1
Rome, Jerusalem and beyond, Christian architecture in the service of the emperor
Two new capitals: the architecture of Constantinople and Ravenna

Week 2
Architecture of urban churches and desert monasteries
Architectural transformation and the building of Hagia Sophia

Week 3
Building and decorating techniques; spolia
Architectural transformations after Iconoclasm

Week 4
Byzantine architectural influence in the west: Torcello, Venice, and Sicily
Architecture on the periphery

Week 5
Buildings of the later Byzantine period
Byzantine architectural influence beyond the empire


Cecily Hennessy received her PhD from The Courtauld in 2001 and subsequently worked there as Head of Short Courses and Adult Learning. She joined Christie’s Education in 2006 and was appointed Academic Director in 2017. Aside from numerous journal articles, Cecily has contributed papers to many edited collections most recently in Tomb and Temple: reimagining the sacred buildings of Jerusalem, edited by Robin Griffith-Jones and Eric Fernie in 2018. Cecily has published Images of Children in Byzantium in 2008 and two short guides, one on the Painting in Cappadocia: A Guide to the Sites and Byzantine Church Decoration in 2013, and more recently Early Christian and Medieval Rome: a guide to the art and architecture in 2017.

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