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The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A.D. 843–1261

Evans, Helen C., and William D. Wixom, eds., with essays by Speros P. Vryonis, Jr., Thomas F. Mathews, Jeffrey C. Anderson, Annemarie Weyl Carr, Henry Maguire, Robert G. Ousterhout, Ioli Kalavrezou, Eunice Dauterman Maguire, Helen C. Evans, Olenka Z. Pevny, Joseph D. Alchermes, S. Peter Cowe, Thelma K. Thomas, Jaroslav Folda, Priscilla Soucek, and William D. Wixom (1997)


In A.D. 843, following the resolution of the Iconoclastic controversy, which had raged throughout the Byzantine Empire for more than a century, the use of icons—images—was triumphantly reinstated in the Orthodox Church. This momentous event inspired much of the art of the following four centuries, which comprises the second great era of Byzantine culture and provides the starting point of this volume. The Glory of Byzantium, and the exhibition that it accompanies, concludes with the demise of the empire’s role as a world power, evidenced by the Latin occupation of Constantinople from 1204 to 1261.

Conceived as the sequel to the landmark exhibition “Age of Spirituality,” which was held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1976 and focused on the first centuries of Byzantium, “The Glory of Byzantium” explores four interrelated themes: the religious and secular culture of the Second Golden Age of the Byzantine Empire; the empire’s interaction with its Christian neighbors and rivals; its relations with the Islamic East; and its contact with the Latin West. Bringing together the contributions of fifty-nine scholars and art historians, most of them working in the United States, the text explores the complex currents of Byzantine civilization in its myriad facets. More than 350 works of art assembled for the exhibition from 119 institutions in 24 countries are discussed and illustrated in the catalogue. Together they present a significant selection of the most beautiful and meaningful works that survive from the empire’s Second Golden Age and from the countries that constituted its extended sphere of influence. Liturgical objects—including icons, mosaics, chalices, patens, and reliquaries—and secular objects—silks, ivories, ceramics, jewelry, and manuscripts—reflect the dynamic nature of the art of this era both within and outside the empire.

The first half of the volume treats the historical context, the religious sphere, and the secular courtly realm of the empire; the second half focuses on the interactions between Byzantium and other medieval cultures, including Islam and the Latin West. The 17 essays are accompanied by detailed discussions of the works of art and by full-color photographs, as well as by views of architectural sites and comparative illustrations. Many of these illustrations were made specifically for this volume by Bruce White, photographer, on site in Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, Georgia, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation.

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Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261–1557)

Evans, Helen C., ed., with essays by Helen C. Evans, Alice-Mary Talbot, Slobodan Curcic, Sarah Brooks, Anna Ballian, Annemarie Weyl Carr, Arne Effenberger, Jannic Durand, Warren Woodfin, Scott Redford, Thelma K. Thomas, Anne Derbes, Amy Neff, Maria Georgopoulou, Robert S. Nelson, and Maryan W. Ainsworth (2004)



The fall of the Byzantine capital of Constantinople to the Latin West in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade abruptly interrupted nearly nine hundred years of artistic and cultural traditions. In 1261, however, the Byzantine general Michael VIII Palaiologos triumphantly re-entered Constantinople and reclaimed the seat of the empire, initiating a resurgence of art and culture that would continue for nearly three hundred years, not only in the waning empire itself but also among rival Eastern Christian nations eager to assume its legacy. Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261–1557), and the groundbreaking exhibition that it accompanies, explores the artistic and cultural flowering of the last centuries of the “Empire of the Romans” and its enduring heritage.

Conceived as the third of a trio of exhibitions dedicated to a fuller understanding of the art of the Byzantine Empire, whose influence spanned more than a millennium, “Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261–1557)” follows the 1997 landmark presentation of “The Glory of Byzantium,” which focused on the art and culture of the Middle Byzantine era—the Second Golden Age of the Byzantine Empire (843–1261). In the late 1970s, “The Age of Spirituality” explored the early centuries of Byzantium’s history. The present concluding segment explores the exceptional artistic accomplishments of an era too often considered in terms of political decline. Magnificent works—from splendid frescoes, textiles, gilded metalwork, and mosaics to elaborately decorated manuscripts and liturgical objects—testify to the artistic and intellectual vigor of the Late and Post-Byzantine era. In addition, forty magnificent icons from the Holy Monastery of Saint Catherine, Sinai, Egypt, join others from leading international institutions in a splendid gathering of these powerful religious images.

While the political strength of the empire weakened, the creativity and learning of Byzantium spread father than ever before. The exceptional works of secular and religious art produced by Late Byzantine artists were emulated and transformed by other Eastern Christian centers of power, among them Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Cilician Armenia. The Islamic world adapted motifs drawn from Byzantium’s imperial past, as Christian minorities in the Muslin East continued Byzantine customs. From Italy to the Lowlands, Byzantium’s artistic and intellectual practices deeply influenced the development of the Renaissance, while, in turn, Byzantium’s own traditions reflected the empire’s connections with the Latin West. Fine examples of these interrelationships are illustrated by important panel paintings, ceramics, and illuminated manuscripts, among other objects. In 1557 the “Empire of the Romans,” as its citizens knew it, which had fallen to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, was renamed Byzantium by the German scholar Hieronymus Wolf.

The cultural and historical interaction and mutual influence of these major cultures—the Latin West and the Christian and Islamic East—during this fascinating period are investigated in this publication by a renowned group of international scholars in seventeen major essays and catalogue discussions of more than 350 exhibited objects.

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“The Arts of Byzantium”:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, v. 58, no. 4 (Spring, 2001)

Evans, Helen C., Robert Hallman, and Melanie Holcomb (2001)

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A Masterwork of Byzantine Art — The David Plates:
The Story of David and Goliath, Activities for Learning

Morales, Esther M., Michael B. Norris, Alice W. Schwarz, and Edith W. Watts (2001)


The first in the “A Closer Look” series of learning-activity sets focusing on a particular work of art, this resource encourages young people and adults to look more closely at the Museum’s spectacular set of Byzantine silver objects, known as the David Plates. It provides an in-depth exploration of the plates, including their subject—the biblical story of David and Goliath—and essential background information about the culture in which they were made. Also included are maps, teaching strategies, activities for students, a list of key words, and a bibliography.

This learning activity is made possible through the generous support of Mary and Michael Jaharis.

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Perceptions of Byzantium and Its Neighbors (843–1261)

Pevny, Olenka Z., ed., with essays by Ihor Sevcenko, Alice-Mary Talbot, Yuri Piatnitsky, Vera N. Zalesskaya, Etele Kiss, Thomas Steppan, Liudmyla Milyaeva, Elka Bakalova, Guglielmo Cavallo, Panayotis L. Vocotopoulos, Wlodimierz Godlewski, Nodar Lomouri, and Kitty Matchabeli (2000)



The thirteen papers in this volume were delivered at the international symposium held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art May 23–25, 1997, in the context of “The Glory of Byzantium” exhibition, which was on view from March 11 through July 6, 1997. One of the main purposes of this exhibition was to explore the Byzantine Empire’s complex and varied relationship with its neighbors, recognizing the multi-national, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural character of its artistic traditions.

Whereas the symposium was conceived in close conjunction with the exhibition, its intent was somewhat different. It strove to acknowledge the international character and diversity of current scholarship on Byzantine art, and to present not only new material but also the variety of objectives, approaches, and methodologies that shape modern perceptions of the subject. Thus, the symposium was not restricted to a specific theme; instead, the participants were asked to address a broad range of aspects of the “Glory of Byzantium” exhibition. The contributors to this volume, all of whom are scholars of Byzantine art and culture, hail from ten different countries, including Austria, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the United States of America. They all hold prominent positions in the leading scholarly or cultural institutions of their respective countries, and are distinguished experts in their fields of specialization, with established international reputations. Immediately apparent is that many of the authors are from Eastern Europe, and reside in lands that once were under the ecclesiastical and cultural sway of Byzantium. Yet, their perceptions of the Byzantine artistic legacy, which contributed to the cultural identity of their homelands, rarely are included in such English-language symposia and publications.

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The Jaharis Gospel Lectionary: The Story of a Byzantine Book
Lowden, John (2009)


The Jaharis Byzantine Gospel Lectionary was until 2008 a hidden treasure: a manuscript almost entirely unknown, even to scholars. Superbly preserved, it represents the apogee of Constantinopolitan craftsmanship around the year 1100 and is arguably the most important Byzantine work to come to The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s renowned collection since the gifts of J. Pierpont Morgan in 1917. For more than one thousand years, from its founding in Constantinople, New Rome (now Istanbul, Turkey), in 330 until its fall to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the Byzantine Empire witnessed the creation of masterpieces of religious and secular art. During the Middle Byzantine era (ninth through thirteenth centuries), one of the greatest periods of Byzantine art, exquisitely illuminated manuscripts and splendid objects carved in ivory, marble, and gemstones, or worked in gold, silver, and cloisonné enamel, displayed the quality of the works created for the Orthodox Church. At that time the empire’s territories reached from Greece and the Balkans to Anatolia in the east and from Syria to the lands of the newly converted Rus’ (modern-day Ukraine and Russia) in the north. Over the last decade the Metropolitan Museum’s exceptional collection of the arts of the Byzantine world has been handsomely reinstalled in the Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries for Byzantine Art. Long missing from the Metropolitan Museum’s expansive collection of Middle Byzantine art, however, has been a superlative example of an illuminated book, one of the preeminent artistic traditions of the Byzantine Empire. Now, through the continued generosity of Mary and Michael Jaharis, the Metropolitan has acquired one of the finest illuminated liturgical texts of the era, the Jaharis Gospel Lectionary.

In this important study John Lowden, a leading expert on Byzantine manuscripts, discusses this extraordinary work within the broader context of Byzantine book illumination. He traces the lectionary’s history from its acquisition by the Metropolitan backward through Paris, Athens, Mount Athos, and Istanbul to its production in Constantinople. Through detailed analysis and comparison, accompanied by sumptuous color illustrations of the Jaharis Gospel Lectionary and other, closely related illuminated manuscripts, Professor Lowden shows that the lectionary was made for use in the patriarchal church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople—the seat of the Orthodox Church and the primary site at which the emperor worshipped—or one of its nearby affiliated churches. This highly readable, groundbreaking publication of the Jaharis Gospel Lectionary represents a major addition to our knowledge of Byzantine illumination.

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Age of Transition: Byzantine Culture in the Islamic World

Evans, Helen C., with contributions by Edward Bleiberg, Lisa R. Brody, Steven Fine, Arnold E. Franklin, Alan Gampel, Claus-Peter Haase, Lyle Humphrey, Hieromonk Justin of Sinai, Annie Montgomery Labatt, Lawrence Nees, Robert Schick, and Carol Snow (2015)


Building on the groundbreaking 2012 exhibition “Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition,” which explored the transformations and continuities in the Byzantine Empire from the seventh to the ninth century, the present volume extends the exhibition catalogue’s innovative investigation of cultural interaction between Christian and Jewish communities and the world of Islam.

Eleven essays by internationally distinguished scholars address such topics as the transmission of Christian imagery to the Mediterranean, icons preserved in The Holy Monastery of Saint Catherine at Sinai, interaction between Jewish communities and the Muslim world, the purposeful mutilation of figurative floor mosaics in places of worship, the evolution of classical and Byzantine motifs in a new cosmology for Muslim rulers, and interconnections in the realm of music. Each essay provides compelling evidence that the era of transition from Byzantine to Islamic rule in the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa resulted in unprecedented cultural cross-fertilization and significantly affected the development of the Mediterranean world for centuries to come.

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Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261–1557):
Perspectives on Late Byzantine Art and Culture

Brooks, Sarah T., ed., with essays by Thomas F. Mathews, David Jacoby, Angeliki E. Laiou, Robert F. Taft, S.J., Maria Mavroudi, Sophia Kalopissi-Verti, Vassilios Kidonopoulos, Nancy Patterson Ševčenko, Hans Belting, Antony Eastmond, Donald Ostrowski, and Yuri Pyatnitsky (2006)



These papers on the Late Byzantine period were inspired by the major loan exhibition “Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261–1557),” which was held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from March 23 through July 5, 2004. They were first presented by a group of renowned international scholars who gathered at the Museum on April 16–18, 2004, for a symposium examining the resurgence of artistic, cultural, and religious life during the last centuries of Byzantium. For the broadest possible perspective, the speakers, who were drawn from various disciplines, considered not only art history but also those developments in such fields as economics, politics, literature, and urban life that profoundly affected the visual arts.

For almost two centuries after 1261, the year in which Michael VIII Palaiologos recaptured Constantinople from its Latin occupiers, Byzantine creativity and learning spread farther than ever before, even though the political strength of the empire was on the wane. The texts collected here examine issues central to life in the capital, including artistic patronage and the changing physiognomy of the city, but they also describe the continued growth of Byzantine influence on the Christian and Muslim East and the Latin West. Essays on the Eastern lands include studies of trade, which during these years stretched eastward across Asia and northward through the Black Sea; of relations with powers in the Caucasus, Asia Minor, and Central Asia, as reflected in the life of the Georgian princess T’amar; and of scholarly exchanges between Byzantine and Arabic writers.

Among the texts focusing on the West are one describing Byzantine elements in the decoration of the basilica of San Marco in Venice and another tracing the evolution of the cult of Saint Catherine of Alexandria from its beginnings in the monastery at Sinai to its enthusiastic adoption in Europe. Byzantine religious life in this “age of icons” (forty exceptional works from the Sinai monastery appeared in the exhibition) is the subject of insightful essays on the place of icons during the empire’s long history and on Palaiologan iconography and liturgy.

The sixth in the Metropolitan Museum’s Symposia series, this volume sheds valuable new light on the world in which Late Byzantine art was created and viewed.

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Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition
Evans, Helen C., ed., with Brandie Ratliff (2012)


This groundbreaking volume explores the epochal transformations and unexpected continuities in the Byzantine Empire from the seventh to the ninth century. As the period opened, the empire’s southern provinces—the vibrant, diverse areas of North Africa and eastern Mediterranean—were at the crossroads of trade routes reaching from Spain to China. These regions experienced historic upheavals when their Christian and Jewish communities encountered the emerging Islamic world, and by the ninth century an unprecedented cross-fertilization of cultures had taken place. This extraordinary age is brought vividly to life by leading international scholars, their writings accompanied by sumptuous illustrations of the period’s most notable arts and artifacts. Resplendent images of authority, religion, and trade—embodied in precious metals, brilliant textiles, fine ivories, elaborate mosaics, manuscripts, and icons, many of them never before published—highlight the dynamic dialogue between the rich array of Byzantine styles and evolving Islamic aesthetic. With its masterful exploration of two centuries that would shape the medieval world, Byzantium and Islam provides a revelatory interpretation of a period with profound ramifications for the modern era.

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