Byzantine Art

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Byzantine art (4th - 15th century CE) is generally characterised by a move away from the naturalism of the Classical tradition towards the more abstract and universal, there is a definite preference for two-dimensional representations, and those artworks which contain a religious message predominate. However, by the 12th century CE Byzantine art has become much more expressive and imaginative, and although many subjects are endlessly recycled, there are differences in details throughout the period. Whilst it is true that the vast majority of surviving artworks are religious in subject, this may be a result of selection in subsequent centuries as there are abundant references to secular art in Byzantine sources and pagan subjects with classical iconography continued to be produced well into the 10th century CE and beyond. Using bright stones, gold mosaics, lively wall paintings, intricately carved ivory, and precious metals in general, Byzantine artists beautified everything from buildings to books, and their greatest and most lasting legacy is undoubtedly the icons which continue to decorate Christian churches around the world.

More about: Byzantine Art


  • c. 540
    The Byzantine mosaics of the church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy are created.
  • 545 - 553
    The throne of Maximian, Archbishop of Ravenna is produced with many fine ivory panels depicting Christian images.
  • 867 - 886
    The illustrated Byzantine manuscript the Homilies of Saint Gregory of Nazianzus is produced.
  • c. 1100
    The Jesus Christ mosaic in the dome of the church at Daphni, Greece is made.
  • c. 1125
    The Vladimir Icon of the Virgin and Child is painted in Constantinople.
  • 1164
    The Byzantine wall paintings in the church of Nerezi, Macedonia, are made.
  • c. 1260
    The wall paintings of the church of Sancta Sophia in Trebizond are made.
  • 1370 - 1375
    The Byzantine manuscript the Theological Works of John VI Cantacuzenos is produced and contains many miniature paintings.