Defining Liturgical Space

Authored by: Vasileios Marinis

The Byzantine World

Print publication date:  February  2010
Online publication date:  December  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415440103
eBook ISBN: 9780203817254
Adobe ISBN: 9781136727870


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The idea that ritual influenced Byzantine religious architecture is not new nor particularly radical. After all, a Byzantine church was constructed primarily to house a wide array of rites, from the important sacraments of the Eucharist and Baptism to an ever-increasing number of services of secondary importance, such as Compline, Vespers and the rest of the Hours. Nevertheless, historians, with a handful of exceptions, have systematically ignored the function of Byzantine churches as architectural frameworks for the performance of rituals, focusing instead on issues of typology, morphology and building styles. The reasons for this discrepancy are varied: whereas our knowledge of Byzantine architecture has advanced significantly in the past decades, the study of the history and evolution of the Byzantine rite is still incomplete and the evidence remains fragmentary, especially for areas outside Constantinople; liturgical texts are inaccessible to the untrained, and liturgical treatises are notoriously esoteric; and most importantly, both categories of sources show a vexing yet thought-provoking indifference toward the space in which the rituals that they describe took place.

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