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Approaches to Byzantine

Architecture and its Decoration

Studies in Honor of Slobodan ~ u r Z i d

Edited by
Mark J. Johnscm, Robert Ousterhout, and
Amy Papalexandrou

0Mark J. Johnson, Robert Ousterhout, Amy PapaIexandrou and contributors 2012

Ail rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored

in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission
of the pubIisher.

Mark J.Johnson, Robert Ousterhout, and Amy Papalexandrb~have asserted their

right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the
editors of this work.

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British Librarp Cataloguing in Publication Data

Approaches to Byzantine architecture and its decoration: studies in honor of
Slobodan Cur~id.
1.Architecture, Byzantine. 2. Decoration and ornament, Byzantine. 3. Decoration
and ornament, Architectural-Byzantine Empire. 4. Religious architecture-
Byzantine Empire.
I. curad, Slobodan. 11: Johnson, Mark Joseph. III. Ousterhout, Robert G. TV.
Papalexandrou, Amy, 1963-

Libragr of Congress Cataloging-in-Publieation Data

Approaches to Byzantine architecture and its decoratim :studies in honor
of Slobodan cur?% / [editors], Mark J. Johnson, Robert Ousterhout, and Amy
p. cm.
Includes index.
ISBN 978-1-40942740-7 (hardcover :alk. paper) 1. Architecture, Byzantine.
2. Decoration and ornament, Architectural. I. (SurS15,Slobodan. II. Johnson,
Mark Joseph. 111. Ousterhout, Robert G. W .PapaIexandrou, Amy,
1963- V. Title: Studies in honor of Slobodan (Sur~ib.
NA370.867 2011

ISBN 9781409427407 (hbk)

Printed and bound in Great Britain by the

MPG Books Group, UK
Change in Byzantine Architecture
Marina MihaljeviC

We are accustomed to viewing architecture in two successive stages, planning

and execution, which define the domain of two separate professions,
architects and builders. The communication of visual ideas between these
two parties relies on and is carried out through the medium of architectural
drawing, which not only allows for a projection of imagined buildings
but also provides the principal device for creating architectural forms. As
described by professionals, the reconciliation of the two three-dimensional
variable components-interior and exterior-depends on continuous mutual
assessment through the medium of an architectural drawing.
We have no evidence of what we would today call an "architect" after the
Transitional period (lateseventh-early ninth centuries),nor was there any kind
of blueprint in Byzantine architecture. Thus Robert Ousterhout has described
these two procedures, planning and execution, as being simultane~us.~ This
concept is valid for many Byzantine buildings, yet, as Ousterhout admits,
other approaches to design are pos~ible.~ It is worth pondering whether
Byzantine buildings provide evidence that would indicate to the modem
viewer the creative side of Byzantine architectural practice, notwithstanding
the indisputable absence of distinction between the two professions-architect
and a builder-in the written record, the latter denoted in the Middle Ages by
a single term oikodomos, or later protom~istor.~
Provincial architecture has rarely been taken into account when considering
the creation and change of architectural ideas in Byzantine architecture. This
chapter will follow the traces of Byzantine architecture in the provinces
during the Komnenian period, focusing on the architectural practices in the
wider geographic area of Constantinopolitan influence to detect the modes
of operation of Byzantine builders and possibly translate them into modem
terms to expand our understanding of the architecture. We shall differentiate
between elite and standard building practice, which in turn, may lead
Figure 5.1 Comparative plans of atrophied Greek-cross churches (drawing: author):
A. Istanbul, Christ in Chora, hypothetical plan of the twelfth-century
katholikon (after R. Ousterhout); B. Kurgunlu, St. Aberkios (after V. Sedov);
C. KurSumlija, Sv. Nikola (after M. c a n a k - ~ e d i ~D.
) ; Yuga Tepesi (after
S. Eyice); E. Studenica, Church of the Virgin (after V. KoraC); F. Asenova
Krepost, Church of the Virgin Petrichka (after K. Miiatev).
us toward a multifaceted view of the nature of change and expressions of
creativity in Byzantine architecture.

Constantinople:An Architectural Reinvention

In the course of the twelfth century several ecclesiastical buildings of the so-
called atrophied Greek-cross type were built in various parts of the Byzantine
E m ~ i r eThey
. ~ include the church at Y u ~ aTepesi located on the eastern shore
of Bosporus; the church of St. Aberkios in Kur~unlu,Bithynia; the church of
St. Nikola in KurSumlija, Serbia; and several other churches in the central
Balkans (Figure5.1). The archetype for these buildings was surely the famous
Constantinopolitan church of Christ in Chora (Kariye Camii), rebuilt most
probably between 1120 and 1122 by Sebastokrator Isaak Komnenos (Figure
5.1A).5The remains of Isaak Komnenos's church in Chora are incorporated
into the present building on the site.6 The preceding church foundation in
Chora was presumably built by Maria Doukaina some 40 years prior to Isaak
Komnenos's church.7 It was most likely a cross-in-square building with the
same width as the naos of the present c h ~ r c hIts. ~ interior supports carried a
dome, ca. 4.5 m in diameter, considerably smaller than the current one. Due to
the major earthquake damage, the eastern part of the church was completely
de~troyed.~ Instead of the old centrally placed supports to the dome on the old
plan, the four square piers were situated in the corners of the naos, allowing for
the erection of a new, larger dome almost 7.5 m wide. This design, possibly a
reintroduction of an earlier model, provided the interior with the remarkable
impression of monumentality-a characteristic that was most likely missing
in the earlier cross-in-square church.1°

Constantinopolitan Builders in the Provinces

The design established in Isaak Komnenos's church in Chora proved to

be very influential, and it was frequently repeated in various scales and in
diverse locations. The widespread use of the church plan reminds us of the
relative standardization of architectural models exported to the provinces.
It is interesting to examine the manner in which these models were created
and further interpreted. Here we shall examine two churches with the same
plan and similar dimensions built almost at the same time in two provinces
far from each other, Serbia and Bithynia. These two examples can assist in
determining both the idea of standardization and the nature of change and
the development of ideas in Byzantine architecture.
The church of St. Nikola in Kurgumlija in Serbia is believed to have been
erected around 1065 by Serbian Grand Zupan Nemanja (Figure 5.2). In its
present state, the complex includes the main church with the narthex, the
added exonarthex, and a later northem parekklesion, dated to the reign
of Serbian king Stefan Urog 11 Milutin (1282-1321).11 The evidence from
primary sources does not clarify whether the church and the narthex, or
only the added exonarthex with two flanking towers, should be attributed
to Nemanja's patronage.I2 Nevertheless, the characteristics of the church's
architecture reveal the direct engagement of a Constantinopolitanworkshop
in its construction. Its naos is a square unit surmounted by a dome measuring
4.6-4.7 m in diameter carried by four comer piers (Figure 5.1C). The walls and
vaults of the church are executed in the so-called recessed-brick technique,
a feature characteristic of Constantinopolitan architecture of the Komnenian
era.13 The dome and the drum below are ribbed and fenestrated with eight
windows. The exterior of the church is articulated with double-recessed
niches mirroring the interior structure of the church (Figures 5.3-5.4). The
rendering of the church fa~adesand the articulation of its dome fully comply
with the stylistic characteristics of Komnenian architecture in the Byzantine
capital, leaving no doubt about the origins of St. Nikola's architecture.

Figure 5.2 KurSumlija, Sv. Nikola. Exterior, from the northeast (photo: author).
Figure 5.3 Kursurnlija, Sv. Nikola. Interior of the naos, looking east (photo: author).
Figure 5.4 Kurgumlija, Sv. Nikola. Plan and section (author, after M. C a n a k - ~ e d i ~ ) .
A second example, the church of St. Aberkios, is situated on the south bank
of the Sea of Marmara in the present-day village of Kurgunlu in Bith~nia?~
The church was the katholikon of the twelfth-century monastery of Elegmi.15
As we learn from the monastic typikon, issued in 1162, the monastery was
granted to the author of the document, Nikephoros, the mystikos in the service
of Manuel I Komnenos. Even though the ktetor's account of the reconstruction
works does not state the erection of the church, the architectural features of St.
Aberkios clearly indicate its twelfth-century origins (Figures 5.5-5.7).16
The church is another example of the atrophied Greek-cross plan (Figure
5.18). Its naos, which was once covered by a dome approximately 5 m in
diameter, is almost identical to the naos of the church of St. Nikola. In its other
aspects, including the interior and exterior articulation, the architecture of the
church of St. Aberkios fits with contemporary Constantinopolitan practice.
The lower portion of the church walls was built in the opus mixturn technique
with alternating rows of stone ashlars and recessed-brick bands, whereas
their upper parts display recessed brick only. The three-light windows in
the tympana of the cross-arms stay in line with the treatment of the dome
pedestals in other Komnenian churches.
The similar dimensions and the general similarity of other architectural
features allow for observing both churches, St. Nikola and St. Aberkios, as
Constantinopolitan model-churches developed for the provinces, yet the
two churches display significantly different plans in their sanctuaries. At
the church of St. Aberkios, the main apse is almost the same width as the
naos of the church. The sanctuary comprises two lateral chapels flanking the
main apse. As the chapels protrude beyond the exterior walls of the naos, the
arrangement bears a striking similarity to the plan proposed for the naos and
the sanctuary of Isaak Komnenos's church in Chora. Whereas it is possible that
the church in Chora once included lateral bays situated in the continuation of
the external chapel protrusion^,'^ the archaeological excavations in the church
of St. Aberkios uncover no lateral addition to the church.ls
The master builder of the church of St. Nikola took an opposite approach.
When planning the church, he contracted the entire space of the tripartite
sanctuary to match the width of the "atrophied" naos. Thus, instead of the
enclosed lateral chapels, connected by the narrow openings with the bema
existent in the other two atrophied Greek-cross churches, St. Aberkios and
Yuga Tepesi (Figure 5.1D), the sanctuary of St Nikola presents more unified
space. Here, the relatively wide arched openings, possibly included as a
remedy to the relative narrowness of the sanctuary space, unify the bema
with the pastophoria (Figure 5.1A-B). Each of the sanctuary bays was covered
by a separate barrel vault.1gAs a result, a monumental altar tribelon (in fact,
the projection of the three longitudinal barrel-vaulted spaces of the sanctuary)
appears on the eastern side of the naos (Figure5.4).This created the particularly
meaningful design for the front sanctuary wall, which apparently was the
Figure 5.5 Kur~unlu,St. Aberkios. Exterior, from the northwest (photo: 0.Dalgiq).

Figure 5.6 Kur~unlu,St. Aberkios. Conch of the main apse (photo: 0.Dalgiq).
reason for its use. The arches supporting the dome are raised above the vaults
that cover the narthex, which, together with the low apses, provided space for
four huge tripartite windows on all four sides of the naos. The eastern window
in the pedestal of the dome is a particularly unusual feature, since none of the
existing Constantinopolitanchurches displays a similar design.20It is obvious
that the master builder's deliberate choice was to create an eastern window,
thereby aesthetically improving the naos of the church. It resulted in a lesser
height for the sanctuary, which additionally emphasized the towering central
part of the church.21
These two churches most clearly reveal both the repetitive practice and
the nature of change in Byzantine architecture. In none of its aspects does the
church of St. Aberkios reveal the engagement of an architect. The builders
of the church were probably experienced craftsmen familiar with the well
established and -what is particularly important -small-scale plan. The
building techniques and the faithfully replicatea Komnenian design elements,
including the double-recessed archivolts fenestrated with triple-clustered
windows, exhibit the builders' familiarity with Constantinopolitanbuildings.
Most likely, they were either invited from or trained in the Byzantine capital.
The patron was probably able to bring seasoned builders, who proceeded with
the task in a predictable, conventional manner. Only by adjusting the scale
does the architecture of the church depart from the archetype established by
the church in Chora.
The vaulting system of the church also provides us with further insight
into the professional profile and the ability of the building workshop. The
conch of the main apse displays two tiers of wedge-shaped segments with
pitched brick courses on its flanks and horizontal courses at its center (Figure
5.6). The building technique utilized was intended for the erection of vaulting
without a formwork, although the builders usually experience difficulty in
keeping the voussoirs in place as the mortar hardemZ2The builders did not
utilize the more common chevron technique, often found in the conches of the
twelfth-century Constantinopolitan churches and thus certainly known to the
builders. Noted for its decorative quality, the chevron pattern actually secures
the pitched and overlapping voussoirs in a more effective way.
The choice of a less pretentious, if effective, technique may be a sign of the
smaller workshop engaged in the construction of the church of St. Aberkios.
The builders were presumably dependant on local masons who assisted in
the construction of the vault. As long as the results of the construction were
stable, the builders provided only basic instruction to their assistants and
did not apply the more complex and intricate Constantinopolitan building
techniques. This supposition cannot explain the rendering of the vaulting of
the pastophoria, two tiny scalloped domes, which are otherwise a feature
common to the Komnenian architecture of the Byzantine capital. Their small
dimensions and the lack of drums resulted in a peculiar design with awkward
Figure 5.7 Kuraunlu, St. Aberkios. Interior of the naos, looking west (photo: author).
cavities above the pendentives at the base of the dome, a circumstance
alien to the architecture of the capital.23The clumsiness of form cannot be
explained by the participation of untrained assistants. Instead, it reveals a lack
of understanding or the neglect of well-established design principles. As it
appears, the builders reveal their insensitivity in matters of design when they
departed from familiar models.
The builders of the church of St. Nikola chose the established plan type
for the central part of the church in Kurzumlija. The plan of the sanctuary
helps us draw further conclusions about the working methods of Byzantine
builders and the sources of change in Byzantine architecture. We may ponder
what model was used for the tripartite arrangement of the sanctuary and its
frontal tribelon. The church combines a unified naos with the elaborate plan
of the cross-in-square sanctuary. The openness of the atrophied naos allows
an unobstructed view of the triple opening of the sanctuary that would
otherwise be hidden by the arches and the corner bays of a cross-in-square
With St. Nikola's sanctuary, we may recognize the interchange of design
elements between different types of buildings. This was a common pr~cedure
for Byzantine builders, and it proved to be effective when searching for non-
standard solutions. The form of the church of St. Nikola demonstrates the
thorough planning of its overall design. Its master builder ensured that the
central unit dominates the rest of the building. The raising of the naos vaults
did not come as an afterthought but was carefully coordinated with the height
and the form of the sanctuary. The goal was to introduce light into the central
part of the building. Unlike the builders of St. Aberkios, the master mason of
St. Nikola was seeking new design concepts, experimentingwith and varying
the prototype, which he knew from his training in Constantinople.

Builders and Apprentices: Two Examples

Not all of the atrophied Greek-cross examples in the central Balkans display
the involvement of metropolitan builders. For a further exploration of the
means of transmitting architectural concepts, we shall examine another
atrophied Greek-cross church, that of the Virgin Petrichka, situated in
the vicinity of the Bulgarian city of Asenovgrad (formerly Stanimaka). It
occupies the top of the hill within the small fortress, medieval Petrich, built
in the eleventh or twelfth century." The church is usually considered to be
a twelfth-century buildingz5The remains of the frescoes preserved in the
sanctuary support this dating.26
The church itself is a long, narrow building measuring 18.30 x 7 m. Due
to the steep terrain, it was placed over a high base, which forms a lower
floor and adds to the visual prominence of the structure (Figure 5.8). The
middle bay of the church displays a variation of the atrophied Greek-cross
plan (Figure 5.1F). It is covered by a dome measuring 4 m in diameter,
smaller than the domes of the churches of St. Nikola and St. Aberkios. The
dome rests on two engaged lateral arches, which extend between pairs of
pilasters. Barrel vaults extend the space to the east and west. The shorter
eastern bay was inserted behind the pilasters of the atrophied Greek-cross
to facilitate access to the sanctuary and allow for their wider dimensions. As
in the church of St. Nikola, the interior of the church of the Virgin Petrichka
has pleasing proportions. The arrangement of the tripartite sanctuary repeats
the solution seen at St. Nikola. The tribelon is here accentuated by raising
the opening of the main apse to the height of the eastern barrel vault, almost
twice as high as the lateral openings (Figure 5.9). In contrast to the churches
of St. Nikola and St. Aberkios, the church has only one tier of windows on its
lateral walls. The upper two-light windows, traces of which are visible on the
facades, may have been blocked to provide additional surfaces for interior
fresco decoration.

Figure 5.8- Asenova Krepost, Church of the Virgin Petrichka. South facade (photo:
Figure 5.9 Asenova Krepost, Church of the Virgin Petrichka. Interior of the naos,
looking east (photo: author).
The exterior of the church, however, corresponds with Constantinopolitan
architecture only in its rudimentary shapes. The characteristics of standard
design, including the correspondence of exterior and interior forms, were
respected only in the central portion of the lateral facades below the dome.
Instead, the subordinated articulation of the southern facade includes
approximately equal blind arcades that do not exactly correlate with the
interior divisions. Their double setbacks, together with a frieze of pendant
triangles below the apse, are the sole elements of Komnenian design displayed
on the facades of the church.
The major difference from Constantinopolitan models, however, is the
shape of the uppermost portion of the church of the Virgin Petrichka. Adding
the longitudinal extensions to the central square unit resolved the functional
requirements, but this variation in plan was not followed by a similar
intervention on the exterior. When compared to the earlier examples, the dome
seems to have lost its prominence. This is primarily due to the de-emphasis
of the cross arms. The exterior of the church was thus deprived of the high,
fully exposed tympana, common to all previous examples of the atrophied
Greek-cross church. The local team of builders responsible for the church in
Stanimaka was successful in developing the interior space, but less so with
the exterior design. A satisfactory solution would have required adjustments
between the heights of the vaults and the articulation of the facades. The
design skills of the master mason of the church of St. Nikola in Kurgumlija thus
appear far greater than those of the Stanimaka builders. Raising the height of
lateral arcades and the upper roof cornices diminished the prominence of the
central arcade, reducing the facade to a two-dimensionalscreen.
A final example of the same building type comes from the church of the
Virgin, the katholikon of the monastery of Studenica in Serbia, where Stefan
Nemanja became a monk in 1196 after abdicating the thr0ne.2~ Although the
plan of the church differs little from the earlier examples of the atrophied
Greek-cross churches (Figure 5.1E), it was apparently executed by builders
invited from the Adriatic c0ast.2~ Its sumptuous Romanesque facades (Figure
5.10) stand in contrast to its interior fresco decoration, which was clearly
created by sophisticated Byzantine painters.29The exterior of the church
displays an additional curiosity in the Byzantine form and construction of the
dome, which merits further examination.
As we know from written accounts, the church was not completely finished
before Nemanja's departure to Mount Athos in 1197.30The inscription at the
base of the dome specifically mentions the contribution of Nemanja's sons
to the erection of the church and the completion of the fresco decoration in
1208-1209.31 We have additional indications that in 1197 the construction
of the church was not yet completed from the unfinished marble blocks
incorporated in the masonry of the church: these probably indicate the efforts
to expedite the construction. The church was probably completed 1202-1205
Figure 5.10 Studenica, Church of the Virgin. Exterior, from the northwest (photo:
S. BariSiC.).
during the reign of Nemanja's son Vukan, before Sava transferred his father's
remains from Mount Athos to Studeni~a.3~
, The discrepancy between the design of the dome and the facades of the
church may indicate of a delay in the construction work as well as a change in
the building workshop. The differencesin construction techniques also support
this idea. The examination of the church walls indicates that the exterior was
built of marble ashlars up to 50 cm The interior was constructed by
regular horizontal courses of tufa, with the core filled with mortar mixed with
rubble. This construction is uniform throughout the church, except for the
interior lunettes below the crossarm arches and the drum of the dome. These
are made by courses of tufa 10-12 cm high alternating with single courses of
brick. While the other vaults are made of tufa, the arches supporting the dome,
the pendentives, and the dome itself are built of brick, corresponding to the
change evident on the exterior at the height of the pendentives. The drum
and the intrados of the dome are scalloped, and its exterior is detailed with
the colonnettes and recessed arches, features characteristic of the Komnenian
monuments of the Byzantine capital. It would appear that the Romanesque
masons had not completed the church, and the erectiow'of the dome was
assigned to a crew of Byzantine builders. The reasons for this shift may be
sought in the close ties of the ktetor, and especially his son Sava, with Mount
Athos and Byzantine monasticism, as well as the availability of Byzantine
masons after the Latin Conquest of Constantinople in 1204.
The exterior of the church calls for further examination. It seems that the
original concept of the church as planned by the Latin builders involved a
different design for the dome pedestal.34The changes in design and technique
can be correlated with the arrival of Byzantine builders, although it is not
clear whether the Byzantine masons worked simultaneously with the coastal
workshop or if they came only after the exterior of the fagades had been
~ompleted.3~ The two workshops may have worked together for a short
period of time. The Byzantines were responsible for the interior uppermost
portion of the dome pedestal, while the coastal builders finished the exterior
face of the wall. The collaboration of the two workshops could explain why
beneath the Romanesque sheathing, the facades have features characteristic of
Komnenian buildings. The central portions of lateral facades are articulatedby
broad, recessed archivolts, analogous to the interior arches of the cross arms.
We might interpret this as an ad hoc solution to adjust the upper portion of
the building to a new design for the dome. In addition, each lunette contains
the customary Komnenian tripartite windows, but within each opening is a
marble bifora. We may speculate that upon his arrival, the Byzantine master
builder helped to determine the design of the upper portion of the dome
Unlike the builders of the church of the Virgin in Stanimaka, the second
master builder at Studenica handled the longitudinal extensions to the naos
successfully, in spite of the change in design. The naos facade has a shallow
archivolt fully raised above the cornice of the lateral bays to form the towerlike
pedestal~forthe dome. Viewed together, these examples illustrate differing
abilities to address interior structural modification with respect to the
elevation-that is, to coordinate the three-dimensionalaspects of architectural
design. The facades of the church at Studenica preserve incisions from several
arches, one of which corresponds to the curvature of the a r ~ h i v o l tOne .~~
wonders if in a mixed workshop the Byzantine masons might have learned to
use architectural drawings.
The Romanesque appearance of Studenica's facades and the change
in building techniques clearly indicate that Byzantine builders were not
engaged in the construction of the lower parts of the church. It is also clear
that a Byzantine master builder did not supervise the work. The builders
were most probably required by the patron to follow the Byzantine plan of
his earlier foundation, the nearby church of St. Nikola, which they could have
visited prior to the beginning of the work in Studenica. Yet one might wonder
how the architectural design of St. Nikola was transmitted, for at Studenica
the Byzantine plan was interpreted by the artisans trained in a different
architectural style. Thus, the facades of the church at Studenica reveal the role
of a workshop in the transmission of architectural forms.

Originality i n Byzantine Architecture

The variety in design of a single building type presented here allows us to

draw a number of conclusions about the methods of work of Byzantine master
builders and the nature of change in Byzantine architecture. The examples
discussed here illustrate their efforts to address the structural, functional, and
formal components of architecture. Byzantine builders were well acquainted
with the established plan types and suitable structural systems. A closer look
into their procedures allows us to recognize strategies that may challenge
both the present ideas of established architectural types and the perception of
medieval architectural design.
The basic architectural method was to design with the building blocks,
which proved to be especially suitable in the addition of ancillary spaces.37This
additive process of design, however, does not fully explain the complexity the
examples analyzed above. In order to meet various requirements, whether
related to structure, plan, or design, the constituent components derived from
various planning types have been disengaged and reassembled. As we saw,
the sanctuary of the church of St. Aberkios follows the model developed in
earlier cruciform arrangements, in which the main apse matches the width
of the cross-arm and the pastophoria terminates the lateral bays. In contrast,
the sanctuary of St. Nikola seems to represent a detachment of a sanctuary
unit from a cross-in-square churches and its attachment to a unified naos. The
design of the sanctuary tribelon of St. Nikola is one of the cases in which we
recognize the creativity of the Byzantine master masons.
In the process of perfecting a specific planning and structural formula,
Byzantine architects did not adhere to commonly presupposed, typologically
limited solutions. In fact, the interchangeability of structural elements and
spatial or functional units became one of the main principles in Byzantine
planning. An understanding of the interchangeability of structural elements
allowed more flexibility in design. Since the medieval buildings too often defy
firm typologicalcategories, there is no reason to believe that the understanding
of the structural and functional problems did not go beyond that what we
now perceive as the plan types.
Another important consideration in design was the experimentation with
scale, which was often combined with other design strategies. Both aesthetics
and structure were challenged by a dramatic change of dimension^.^^
Experimentation with scale thus had repercussions in both structural design
and the invention of new building types. Generally less considered are the
problems in architectural design caused by small dimensions. The atrophied
Greek-cross type allowed for the creation of a unified space covered by a large
dome. Even if there is a great difference in dimensions between the Chora and
the church of St. Aberkios, they were both created to reconcile the limitations
of a small interior space.
The three well-known examples of churches with atrophied Greek-
cross plans built by the Constantinopolitan builders have strikingly similar
dimensions (Figures 5.1B, C, D). Their central units are covered by domes
nearly 5 m in diameter, a measurement that was familiar from other building
types and allowed ease of execution. The practical-empirical knowledge of
statics yielded models with standardized dimensions that could be repeated.
Notwithstanding the similarities in plan and dimensions, none of these
churches possesses an identical interior or exterior arrangement. The twelfth-
century buildings display a range of formal elements, recognizable to a greater
or lesser degree in a wide sphere of Komnenian influence. The Komnenian
architects operated within the framework of organized design principles. Yet,
as we saw, not all the buildings encapsulate the ability of their builders to
produce satisfactory design solutions. This is especially evident in the manner
of articulating the three-dimensional relationship between the exterior and
the interior architectural components.
The architecture of the eleventh and twelfth centuries deserves to be
called organic, since the building's exterior articulation was an accurate
reflection of its inner structural organization.But the outer shell, molded with
multiple recessed planes, epitomizes a certain understanding of design not
strictly determined by the structural system of the building. The essence of
a strict and well-established design system, as well as the evolved working
methods of Byzantine master builders, should not b e perceived in terms of
the repetitive nature of serial production, b u t rather i n terms of its flexibility
to respond to various requirements while maintaining t h e possibility for a
distinct architectural expression.


I offer this study i n honor of Professor Slobodan C U ~ Bto~ ,w h o m I owe

deepest gratitude for his continuous advice regarding the subject matters of
Byzantine architecture.


R. Ousterhout, Master Builders of Byzantium (Princeton, 1999; 2nd paperback

edition: Philadelphia, 2008).
For a critique of Ousterhout, see Ch. Bouras, "Originality in Byzantine
Architecture," Mdanges Jean-Pierre Sodini, = TM 15 (2005):99-108.
Ousterhout, Master Builders, 43-4.
R. Ousterhout, "The Byzantine Church at Enez: Problems in Twelfth-Century
Architecture," JOB 35 (1985):261-80.
R. Ousterhout, The Architecture of the Kariye Camii in Istanbul (Washington, D.C.,
1987), 20-21.
For the later history of the Kariye Camii see Ousterhout, Kariye Camii, 34-6.
Ousterhout, Kariye Camii, 19-20.
D. Oates, "A Summary Report on the Excavations of the Byzantine Institute in the
Kariye Camii, 1957-58," DOP 14 (1960): 2267. Ousterhout, Kariye Camii, 15-20.
For the hypothetical reconstruction of the plan see Ousterhout, Master Builders,
94-6, fig. 62.
Ousterhout, Kariye Camii, 21-2.
Krautheimer, ECBA, 365. The closer examination of this reemergence deserves a
separate study that is beyond the scope of this chapter.
M. Ljubinkovik "Crkva Svetog Nikole kod KurSumlije," ArhPr 14 (1972): 121-5.
M. Canak-~ediCand Dj. BoSkoviC, L'architecture de l'epoque de Nemanja I,
Monuments de l'architecture medievale serbe, Corpus des Mifices sacraux (Belgrade,
1986), 26-8, for the various scholarly opinions on the dating of the main church.
The origins and spread of recessed brick or concealed course technique have
been &en muchscholarly attention. Most important for the ~ i d d l h ~ ~ z a n t i n e
period is N. Brunov, "The Odalar-Djami von Konstantinopel," BZ 26 (1926):
353-4. C. Mango, "The Date of the Narthex Mosaics of the Church of the
Dormition at Nicaea," DOP 13 (1959):249-50; H. Hellensleben, "Untersuchungen
zur Baugeschichte der ehemaligen Pammakaristoskirche, der heutigen
Fethiye Camii in Istanbul," IstMitt 13-14 (1963-1964): 128-93; H. Schafer,
"Architekturhistorische Beziehungen zwischen Byzanz und der Kiever Rus im
10.und 11.Jahrhundert," IstMitt 23/24 (197311974): 198-218. For further examples
see: P. Vocotopoulos, "The Concealed Course Technique, Further Examples and a
Few Remarks," JOB 28 (1979):247-60.
The village of Kurgunlu is situated about 12 km east of the modem city of
Mudanya. The monastery should not be confused with thcremains of another
monastery called Kurgunlu described by C. Mango and I. SevTenko, "Some
Churches and Monasteries on the Southern Shore of the Sea of Marmara," DOP
27 (1973):235-77, which is located in a village with the same name in the vicinity
of the city of Bandirma.
C. Mango, "The Monastery of St. Abercius at Kurgunlu (Elegmi)Bithynia," DOP
22 (1968): 172-6, elaborates the data from the sources and designates the church
as the main church of the monastery Elegmi, known from the preserved typikon.
The typikon specifically mentions the rebuilding and strengthening of the
collapsed parts, the erection of many buildings "from their foundations," and
the encircling of the monastery with the "secure enclosure." A. Bandy, "Heliou
Bomon: Typikon," in: J. Thomas and A. Hero, eds, Byzantine Monastic Foundation
Documents (Washington, D.C., 2000), 3: 1051.
Oates, "Summary Report," 228.
Recent excavations proved the existence of the earlier basilica and uncovered
more remains of earlier architectural decoration, but not the lateral additions of
the twelfth-century church: M. I. Tunay et al., "Recent Excavations in the Church
of Hagios Aberkios, Kurgunlu, Province of Bursa (Turkey)," CahArch 46 (1998):
67. Yet, two lateral entrances to the naos leave a possibility that external porticos
were intended but not executed, or they were formed by light wooden structures.
The church in Yuga Tepesi also has a similar arrangement of the sanctuary with
two protruded eastern chapels.
The remains of the eastern f a ~ a d walls
e preserved the original voussoirs in the
springing of two lateral barrel vaults above the pastophoria. The middle vault
springing from the same height is the twentieth-century reconstruction.
M. C a n a k - ~ e dand
i ~ BogkoviC, L'epoque de Nemanja I, 1-19.
In Constantinopleonly the exterior of the fourteenth-centurysouthern parekklesion
of the church of the Virgin Pammakaristos displays an eastern window placed on
the pedestal of the dome; see T. Mathews, The Byzantine Churches of Istanbul,
A Photographic Survey (UniversityPark, PA, 1976), 355, fig. 36-12.
Canak-~ediCand Bogkovi6, L'epoque de Nemanja I, 28, observes these
characteristics as the divergence from Constantinopolitan practice. Krautheimer,
ECBA, 387, underscores the differences from metropolitan planning: "the
structure presents itself and an eminently Constantinopolitan building-in
partibus infidelium, as it were."
Ousterhout, Master Builders, 222, for the procedures developed for a construction
of vaults without centering.
The only Constantinopolitan example is the later northeastern chapel in the
church of Christ in Chora, built in the fourteenth century. Ousterhout, Kariye
Camii, 46-8, fig. 67, discusses the irregularities of the chapel and its dome,
noting that its overall diameter is nearly a full meter wider than a cornice. Yet
the diameter of the dome, about 2.90 m, allowed for blind scallops without
pronounced unpleasant effect.
Petrich was the seat of the Boyar Ivanko, the assassin of Asen I (1187-1196).
Ivanko was defeated by the Byzantines in 1200. The fortress was reinforced
and,extended in 1230 by the Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Asen I1 (1218-1241). I. Ivanov,
"Asenovata krepost pri Stanimaka i Backovskiiat manastir," Izvestiia na
Bulgarskoto Arheologichesko druzhestvo 212 (1911): 193-7.
N. Mavrodinov, Ednokorabnata i krustovidnata curkva po bulgarkitie zemi do kraiia nu
X N v. (Sofia 1931), 50-55. K. Miiatev, Arhitekturata v srednovekovna Bulgaria (Sofia
1965), 171-3.
For the frescoes see L. Mavrodinova, Stennata fivopis v Bulgariia do kariia nu XIV
bek (Sofia 1995), 60.
Sava Nemanji6, '"ivot Stefana Nemanje," Stare srpske biografije, trans. M. Bag2
(Belgrade, 1924), 9.
S. ~irkovik,V. Korak, and G. Babi6, Studenica Monastery (Belgrade, 1986), 3242.
See for example V. Djurik, "Sveti Sava i slikarstvo njegovog doba," Sava
NemanjiC-Sveti Sava, Istorija i predanje (Belgrade, 1979), 245-61.
Sava Nemanji6, '"iivot Stefana Nemanje," 151, 153,173-5, mentions Nemanja's
advice to his older son Stefan to take care of the finishing of the church.
canak-Medi6 and Bogkovi6, L'epoque de Nemanja I, 80.
Canak-Medi6 and BoSkovi6, L'epoque de Nemanja I, 80.
c a n a k - ~ e d i 6and Bogkovi6, L'epoque de Nemanja I, 94-6, for detailed description
of the building techniques.
M. canak-~edi6,"Prvobitna zamisao kupolnog dela Bogorodirine crkve u
Studenici," Raika bagtinu 2 (1980): 2742, proposed that the original design
involved four triangular gables on the sides and a pyramidal roof above the
dome pedestal in line with contemporaneous Apulian churches.
eanak-Medi6 and Bogkovii, L'epoque de Nemanja I, 88, hold the opinion that the
Latin workshop left before the arrival of the Byzantine builders.
e a n a k - ~ e d i 6a nd Bogkovit, L'epoque de Nemanja I, 98-9, fig. 12.
Ousterhout, Master Builders, 110-16, refers to this method as an additive process
of design.
Ousterhout, Master Builders, 30.