We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Are Features of Byzantine Churches?

By Gregory Hanson
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Musical Expert is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Musical Expert, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The structure and appearance of Byzantine churches evolved significantly during the thousand year history of that empire. Early churches were based closely on patterns drawn from Roman civic and religious architecture. Churches constructed during the middle years of the Byzantine Empire tended to follow a unique architectural plan featuring large and richly-decorated domes. Byzantine churches erected during the waning years of the empire were often less richly-decorated, and began to feature a wall of icons.

The first Byzantine churches were built on a Roman model, as the Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire. These churches typically featured a basilica layout. This type of floor plan features twin rows of columns that partially separate aisles along the side of a rectangular structure, and also serve to support the roof. A curved apse is usually located at the end of the basilica. Wings were sometimes added to this structure, creating a cruciform shape, but were generally shorter than the main hall of the basilica.

As the culture of the Byzantine Empire became more thoroughly Greek, a new style of Byzantine church emerged. The Hagia Sophia, perhaps the most famous Byzantine building of all, showcases the key features of this style. In this church, there is a central dome, and four wings of equal length lead off from that dome. This is a substantial departure from a traditional basilica plan and was made possible by architectural advances that made the construction of larger domes possible.

Religious art in Byzantine churches typically employed rich materials to decorate most visible surfaces. Churches in wealthy regions would be covered entirely in mosaics, an art at which the Byzantines excelled. Glass shards and gold leaf were used together to create vivid colors and to enhance the impact of the light that was allowed into Byzantine churches by improved dome construction. Marble and other expensive materials were used to make churches more beautiful, and although some churches featured religious frescos, mosaics were preferred.

Artwork in Byzantine churches usually depicted stylized religious figures. These figures were meant to convey a symbolic and spiritual message, rather than to precisely depict the human form. Early churches, such as San Vitale in Ravenna, did sometimes depict recognizable human figures, but this became much less common in later years. The depiction of the human form, even for religious reasons, was controversial in the Byzantine church, and a period of iconoclasm began in the 700s, during which much church art was destroyed. Churches erected during this period were typically not ornamented with images of human beings, even stylized ones.

In the waning years of the Empire, icons were once more embraced. Byzantine churches built in the last centuries of the Byzantine Empire not only featured religious images on their walls but added a wall of icons at the front of the church. This wall came to be entirely covered in Byzantine icons, painted in the stylized manner that had developed centuries earlier. Church decoration during this period was generally less lavish, as the Empire’s fortunes were fading.

Musical Expert is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.