Byzantine Church

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Byzantine Church

another name for the Orthodox Church
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Byzantine Church


(cross-of-domes church), a cruciform domed Christian church, which emerged during the development of medieval Byzantine architecture. The classical Byzantine church has four columns joined by arches in the center of the building, which support the drum upon which rests the dome. Pendentives mediate between the arches and the drum. Between the supports along the axes of the church, vaulted arms branch out in the form of a cross toward the outer walls. The corner rooms that are formed as a result of this plan are topped with small cupolas or vaults.

The structural composition of the Byzantine church is determined by this fixed system of interrelated spatial units. The central dome, which is raised high above the drum, is the principal element of the church. The vaulted arms of the cross are situated a story lower, and the corner rooms are even lower. The organization of the church is clearly visible from both inside and outside.

In addition to the organization of space, the plastic expressiveness of the massive walls and supports plays a large role in the creation of this architectural image. The vast surfaces of the interior walls and vaults are decorated with Byzantine religious paintings.

The type of cross-of-domes church that first appeared in the sixth century reached the height of its development from the ninth to the 12th century in the Constantinople school of architecture. Variations of this type of church developed in other schools of Byzantine architecture. Examples of these variations are churches with a dome on squinches, which are reinforced by eight supports; churches with a dome that is supported by two free-standing pillars and two walls; and churches in which two pairs of pillars were added—one pair at the apses and the other at the entrance (in medieval Greece). Another well-known type of Byzantine church had cupolas that covered the arms of the cross.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Urs Peschlow's study of stone barriers between the nave and aisles for organizing the laity concludes that early Byzantine churches with and without dividing barriers coexisted, and that these served a wide range of communities as cathedrals, parochial churches, monastic churches, and pilgrimage churches.
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Jedin enlisted the great Byzantine church historian Hans-Georg Beck to contribute sections on the Eastern church in the early volumes.
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The tour included the Siq, the Treasury, the Nabataean Amphitheatre, the Court and the Byzantine church.
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