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Image and Audience in the Ancillary Spaces of Monastic Churches in Late Byzantium

Rossitza Schroeder, Pacific School of Religion, Fellow, Fall

While at Dumbarton Oaks I was able to finish one of the chapters of my book, which discusses the relationship between image and audience in the subsidiary spaces of late Byzantine monastic churches. In this chapter I consider the representations from the Old Testament and argue that, while responding to wider ideological trends in Western Europe and the Crusader East, the Byzantines created their own visual paradigms to represent their empire as the Promised Land, their capital city as the New Jerusalem, and their people as the new Israelites. Unlike what we see in Paris, London, or Acre, for example, where warfare and royal virtue were extolled through references to the Old Testament, in Constantinople and Thessalonike it was the renovation and construction of new churches that was emphasized. Through subtle clues, like references to actual building materials, the audience was invited to consider the spaces of their churches as equivalent to the Solomonic temple. The images further underlined special relationship that the Orthodox Byzantines fostered with their God, a relationship that after the Incarnation had become that much more immediate and intimate. I was able to further elaborate on my research on the role of monochrome images as the prefigurative skia and typos and to connect them to contemplative practices, and ultimately to the completion of icons in one’s mind and the creation of mental acheiropoieta. I also included a short discussion of the half-shod military saints, commonly referred to as monosandaloi. I argue that their icons have a destabilizing effect, which I tied to the liminal nature of the spaces in which they were painted.


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Byzantine Studies Fellows, 2012/13