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Monday, 12 May 2014

Chora Church Mosaics

Chora Church's Amazing Mosaics

Chora Church Mosaics: Jesus feeding the people
Ribbed Roof Holds Mosaics Better
The 4th century Chora Church is draped with amazing mosaics covering every cm (inch) of both walls and ceilings. Glorious gold permeates all the panoramic panels. The mosaics are in amazing shape considering the earthquakes and their age – they are nearly 700 years old.  The mosaics are in notably better condition than at Hagia Sophia plus they are much closer to you because of the lower vaults. 
The earliest known examples of mosaics were found at temples in Mesopotamia, dating to the third millennium BC.  The first glazed tiles were found in Persia dating from around 1500 BC. Most mosaics are made of small, flat, roughly square, pieces of stone or glass of different colours, known as tesserae (Latin for cube). There is no grout between the tesserae.  That would decrease the light reflection.    
Mosaic of Theodore Metochites presenting a model of his church to enthroned Christ
Benefactors always like to get into the picture
Most of the current building dates from 1081.  Virtually all of the interior decoration dates between 1315 and 1321 and was funded by Theodore Metochites, auditor of the treasury.  He was also a poet and patron of the arts.  A panel over the doorway to the inner narthex (hall) depicts Theodore Metochites in his full dress robes offering a model of Chora Church to the enthroned figure of Christ holding a book of gospels.  This follows the Byzantine convention of depicting an architectural donation.
Chora Mosaic of St. Paul
Can't you just Feel the Robes
Mosaics is one of the most important aspects of Byzantine art and architecture with its emphasis on rich decoration and colour.  The gold is gold leaf sandwiched between two layers of clear glass.  The extensive use of gold evoked the spiritual splendour of the Kingdom of God. 

However, it had the additional benefit of increasing light refraction and illumination in an otherwise dark church.  Also, the tesserae were set at slight angles to the wall, so that they caught the light in different ways. 

I am not going to provide endless lists of panels and figures that's another way to get museumed out.  For an animated description, read the Boundless web page on The Chora Church in Constantinople.
Because of the decline in the power and wealth of the Byzantine Empire, frescoes were used in the Parecclesion.  This side mortuary chapel ends with one of the most important and dramatic art works. 

Anastasis fresco: Christ freeing Adam and Eve
What? 3D and Movement in the Gothic Art 
The Anastasis (Greek for resurrection) depicts Jesus descending to hell, having defeated Satan (in chains below his feet), and raising Adam and Eve from the dead.  His feet positioning and the flying figures of Adam and Eve give a dramatic sense of movement and force not found in earlier mosaics. 

Note that the figures in the fresco are interacting with one another. This is in contrast to early Byzantine and Gothic art where figures are static and always forward facing.  

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