Shared Flashcard Set


Intro to Medieval Art
Descriptions of key buildings and terms
Art History
Undergraduate 2

Additional Art History Flashcards




Santa Maria Maggiore
  • Rome
  • Built 432-440 and completed under Pope Sixtus III
  • Characterized by a tall, wide nave with side aisles and a round apse at the end. (thanks website!)
  • Nave mosaic narrative Pope Sixtus’ single most important project
  • Monumental evidence of the classical revival
  • The use of gold in the mosaics marks a shift from the classical Roman style to the intentional immateriality of medieval art
  • Through the affirmation of Mary Theotokos (Mother of God) in this church, Pope Sixtus refuted Nestorianism (which denies Mary the title of Mother of God) and defended the Roman prerogatives
Basilica of San Vitale
  • Ravenna
  • Consecrated in 548
  • Central octagonal plan
  • Central domed octagon surrounded by an ambulatory and gallery
  • The eight piers that support the dome also define the galleried niches, which seem to press out from this central core
  • A rectangular choir, apse, and flanking rooms project from the eastern face
  • The apse, the choir, and the gallery roofs all ascend to the roof over the dome in a series of distinct yet interlocking polygonal forms
  • Steep dome and its attenuated supporting structures create an effect of rising space
  • Substitutes symbolic images for narrative or visual realism i.e. in the Theodora mosaic, mosaicists sought to represent the exalted nature of the emperor and empress
Dome of the Rock


c. 692

  • Built by Abd Al-Malik, an Umayyad ruler
  • First monument sponsored by a Muslim ruler
    Confronts the idea of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, even as it praises Him as a prophet
  • Inscriptions run along the sides of the dome
  • Absence of clear hierarchy in the importance of individual forms in its mosaics - emphasis on vegetal forms
  • Unlike Christian structures, this holy space was not organized towards a goal - more equalized
  • Constructed to be a statement to Jerusalem


Sutton Hoo
  • c. 625
  • Cemetery site in Britain
    Burial boat of Raedwald, a pagan king
  • Combination of Norse, Celtic, and Continental styles
  • Items include ornate belt buckles and shoulder clasps
Palatine Chapel


c. 800

  •  Charlesmagne establishes himself as the next Augustus
  • He tries to relate himself as a holy figure, as an early Holy Roman Emperor 
  • Harkens to classical Roman architecture
  • 24 elders in his court facing each other in the dome
  • Plainly intended to rival ancient Roman and Byzantine architecture, it includes marble deliberately brought from Rome and Ravenna
  • A mighty stone structure with an octagonal plan, mosaic decoration, and a two-story interior framed by massive arches
Great Mosque of Cordoba
  • Begun in 785 by Abd al-Rahman
  • Consists of a prayer hall and a courtyard, later a minaret
  • Original building finished in 791 by using materials from Roman and Visigothic buildings
  • "Islamic art/architecture achieves its effect through repetition of equal units"
  • Characterized by alternating voissoirs, the horseshoe arches, zigzag moldings, rolled corbels
  • Double-tiered, polylobed arches
  • Mihrab - exquisite design, lush vegetation in mosaics = paradise on earth


Hagia Sophia
Hosios Loukas


c. 1020

  • Pendentive and squinches convert the central space into a dome-covered octagon - very complicated interior
  • Entire building serves as microcosm of the Christian universe - hierarchical placement of images (think Demus)
  • The Pantocrator commands the central dome (scene from the Ascension). The next level (squinches, domes, pendentives and higher vaults) have scenes from the earthly life of Christ, arranged in the order of the church calendar. The lesser vaults and the walls have images of saints and prophets. The floor represents the realm of matter.


Utrecht Psalter
  • The most famous Carolingian MS
  • "The dynamism accorded serpents in Scandinavia or abstract spirals in Ireland is here transferred to human beings and their activities" (116).
  • Made of vellum - lambskin - Christ as the sacrificial lamb, the materiality of a body being written on
  • "What before was written in blood is now written in spirit"

c. 816-835

Hiberno-Saxon vs. Carolingian
  • Hiberno-Saxon (Book of Durrow - think the picture of St. Matthew; Lindisfarne Gospels) 
  • The emphasis is on intricate, abstract patterns over naturalistic representations.
  • Patterns are the focus because in Celtic culture, patterns were seen as a means to unlock magic.
  • Carolingian art paid homage to Roman classical art and focused more on realistic representations although the energy it brought to its drawings were unique.
  • Carolingian font was legible whereas HS font was not and focused on geometric pattern
  • For preliterate societies, geometric designs were essential to magic and power
  • Images are magic symbols that unlock power, not illustrations
  • The main aim of Byzantine artists "[was] to represent the central formula of Byzantine theology, the Christological dogma, together with its implications in the organization and ritual of the Byzantine Church”
  • Three main ideas stem from the belief of the icon as completion of Incarnation: 1) the picture is “a magical counterpart of the prototype”, 2) “the representation of a holy person is worthy of veneration”, and 3) “every image has its place in a continuous hierarchy”.
  • First, the Byzantine church represents the hierarchy of Kosmos (heaven), the Holy Land, and the earthly world, with the cupolas being heavenly and the lower parts being terrestrial. Second is topographical symbolism of the church being on par with the places on earth in which Christ walked. Third is based on the Christian Calendar.
  • the three zones of Byzantine decoration meant to be analogous to the previously mentioned tripartition of heaven, paradise, and the terrestrial world: cupolas and apses, upper parts of the vaults, and the lower vaults respectively.
  • The cupolas of middle Byzantine art were made in only the following three themes, and only one theme was used for each church: the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Ghost, and the Glory of the Pantocrator (17). They made use of space afforded by the cupolas to convey a sense of presence. The festival cycle dictated the art of the second zone while the third zone was predominated by the choir of the saints.
  • “The icon is in fact a surface that resonates with sound, wind, light, touch, and smell. This object thus offers us a glimpse into what vision meant in Byzantium: a synesthetic experience in which the whole body is engaged”.
  • “By treating it as art, confining it to a glass-cage museum display, subjecting it to uniform and steady electric lighting, the icon has been deprived of life—its surface, dead.”
  • The experience of the icon is one of continual feedback through all five senses between the icon and the faithful.
  • typos/sphragis (imprint/seal) -the icon as the materiality of absence
  • Shift in image theory responsible for emphasis on the relief icons over wooden representations


  • In Byzantine culture, space and movement were inseparable concepts embedded in Greek thought.
  • The word chôra means to “withdraw (give way), to make room for another” and chorós used to denote “the idea of collective coordinated movement…[that] is specifically circular”.
  • Both root words are critical in understanding chorography and how it attempts to show hierós (the sacred) in holy Byzantine places such as Hagia Sophia.
  • Refers to Procopius’ description of the sanctuary, which emphasizes the circular nature of the columns, and cites this as a promotion of choral dance and how it stems from its place in the ritual of ancient mysteries.
  • Paulus the Silentiary’s poem mentions the circularity of the synthronon (the sacrosanct part of the sanctuary), the conches (the lateral part of the sanctuary), the lighting of the iconostasis, and the dome are meant to highlight the hierotopic creation taking place in that church.
  • The ritual of lighting and extinguishing the fire used for rituals in Hagia Sophia is choral in nature. This is emphasized in the ritual of Communion and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection
  • Describes the utilization of this glistening marble floors in structures dating back to the Egyptians and Greeks
  • Focuses specifically on the Hagia Sophia by first explaining how the structure achieves the aesthetic of a “frozen sea” through both the connotations of the word marble itself and the space’s use of book-matched marble floors in which the continuing stream of the veins in the marble floor suggests the movement of the ocean.
  • The word marble derives from the Greek verb “marmairein”, which translates to “glistening”. The underlying root of the word, “mar”, implies motion.
  • The fact that earlier societies believed marble to be naturally constructed with the infusion of water into the earth further promotes the union between water and marble.
  • Before the 9th century, the Hagia Sophia subscribed to the aniconistic ideal, and hence, the structure relied heavily on the visual impact of the marble.
  • No figural imagery appeared in the mosaics of the church, so rather than depicting specific icons of the Bible or a personified version of the sea, the floor contributed to the sanctity of the space through its allusions to Biblical parables.
  • The marble floor was a symbol of faith.
  • Criticizes the idea of transformation, borrowed from the concept of the Eucharist, as applied to the icon in post-iconoclastic artworks
  • Instead, he argues on behalf of desire, which is taken from the phrase that the icons are meant to make the viewer "remember and desire" the ones depicted.
  • Pantocrator - God, the Divine, made visible in Christ
  • The problem is that the icon is not a site of transformation, but desire.
  • The icon "maintains a sense of difference between the one looking, the medium of portrayal, and the one portrayed, and it defers forever the presence of the latter".
  • "The icon in the 9th cent. works to deny presence and expectations of worship".
Central vessel of a church, extending from the entrance to the crossing or choir
The sanctuary - the apse, choir and nave in Byzantine church
Vestibule of a church, tranverse hall in front of the nave
A vaulted, semicircular or polygonal structure; in a church it faces the nave and houses the altar.
A spherical, triangular section of masonry making a structural transition from a square to a circular plan; four pendentives form a dome
A corbeled arch or niche across the corner of a square bay serving to convert the space to an octagon on which a dome or vault can be raised.
The stalactite dome or vault; an ornamental ceiling formed of corbeled squinches usually of brick or timber; as a decorative form may be used on capitals
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