The Early Medieval Period. 500-1000 A.D. Christian Meeting Places. In the New Testament, the meeting place was primarily domestic—in homes. The Jerusalem church met in the temple for teaching and prayer, and also met in their homes for breaking bread.
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The Early Medieval Period 500-1000 A.D.
Christian Meeting Places • In the New Testament, the meeting place was primarily domestic—in homes. • The Jerusalem church met in the temple for teaching and prayer, and also met in their homes for breaking bread. • The shift from domestic meeting place to a dedicated meeting facility had a significant impact on the nature of Christianity.
The Roman Basilica • Romans emphasized law and order. • Their law courts were not only places for legal proceedings but were centers of civic and public activities. They functioned sometimes as “town meeting” halls under the guidance of the government. • The basilica form was adopted by Christians as the best architecture suited for church buildings (rather than temples).
The Roman Basilica Basilicas took their form from a ship. The center portion was the nave (from Latin word for ship), flanked by side aisles, and a curved end known as an apse.
The largest and most impressive Roman basilica was built by Maxentius and finished by Constantine in the early 4th century. The apse contained a colossal statue of Constantine. It stood until largely destroyed by an earthquake in the 17th century.
Two views showing how the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine would have appeared originally
Basilica as Church Building • A basilica was a “Roman town hall” derived from a Greek word which means “belonging to the king.” • The apse was the authority seat in the hall where the council or chairperson would sit. • The bishop’s chair was called a throne (cathedra) because the Greek word also referred to a teacher’s seat and not only to royalty.
Buildings and the Arts • Just as Roman public buildings were decorated with art, so church buildings were decorated with frescos and mosaics. • The earliest known Christian mosaic was found beneath St. Peter’s Basilica in the 1940s—Jesus is pictured in a gold mosaic as the sun-god, Helios. • Frescos were more common as mosaics were expensive. Most of these are lost to us due to the Germanic settling of the West but frescos were revived in the Renaissance period.
Earliest Christian Mosaic, ca. 300 • Earliest known Christian mosaic was found beneath St. Peter’s Basilica in the 1940s—Jesus is pictured in a gold mosaic as the sun-god, Helios.
Byzantine Architecture • Where: Eastern Turkey, Northern Italy, Slavic countries and Russia. • When: 330-1453 • Major Building Form: Churches • Plan: Cross-in-Square capped with Dome
Byzantine Architecture • Support: Pendentives and Piers • Hallmark: Dome • Décor: Lavish inside, plain outside (though development meant more ornamentation on the outside); mosaics and icons dominate.
Byzantine Architecture • Effect: Mysterious, transcendence, the presence of God • Inspiration: God’s own throne room. • Goal: to arouse emotion, transport into the presence of God, evoke worship
Byzantine Architecture:Hagia Sophia • Built by Justinian in 532-37 to project the power of his church and empire. • Dome: 107’ diameter and 180’ height. • Hired two geometricians (Anthemios and Isidorus) to design it. • The arches open up into apses, and domes into semi-domes to create a funneling effect of space. • Dome rests of 70’ piers hidden by colonnades and rounded arches • In contrast to classical architecture, it is all curves that intersect, as if in motion.
Justinian Built Hagia Sophia, 533-537 “Most beautiful church in the world”
Left: Interior of Hagia Sophia Above: Icon of Mary & Child in Hagia Sophia with Justinian I and Constantine I presenting Hagia Sophia to them.
Massive Church • In 612 the records list a total of 600 persons assigned to serve in Hagia Sophia: 80 priests, 150 deacons, 40 deaconesses, 60 subdeacons, 160 readers, 25 chanters, 75 doorkeepers. • Impresses everyone: • Russian Non-Christians • Western Christians • Turkish Muslims
Byzantine ArchitectureBasilica of San Marco, Venice • Though overlaid with Gothic features, the interior preserves the domed, Greek-cross plan built to house the body of St. Mark (stolen by a Venice Merchant from Egypt). • Begun in 830, final completions in 1094 • 45,000 square feet of mosaics and filled with decorations (including four gilded-bronze horses stolen from Constantinople in 1204)
Byzantine Art • Byzantine churches are rarely decorated with statues and, in the beginning, not very ornate on the outside. • However, on the inside they are filled with frescos, mosaics and icons. • Art creates the atmosphere of heavenly surroundings while architecture creates a sense of three levels: heaven, paradise and earth.
The “Cult of the Martyrs” • Tombs of martyrs became sacred places with annual memorials and feasts. • The relics of martyrs were thought to have spiritual power, especially against demons and for physical healings. • Two Classes: • Martyrs • Confessors
The “Cult of the Saints” • Since dead saints, especially martyrs, were now in the presence of Christ, they could intercede for others. • San Sebastian Catacomb in Rome, ca. 260: “Peter and Paul, pray for me in eternity.” • Saints were not, however, worshipped, though they were venerated or honored. • Saint market days and holidays grew locally at first with the consecration of local bishops but about 1200 only the Pope in the West could decide who was “regarded” as a saint.
Origins of Monasticism • Several conditions contributed to the rise of Monasticism: • With peace between the Empire and the church, there were no more martyrs. In an era of persecution, one’s Christianity separated them from the “world.” • With the influx of “pagans” into the church, the church appeared to become more “worldly.” Monks sought a higher form of spirituality. • The search for spiritual communion with God led many into new forms of spirituality that was a new form of martyrdom (sacrifice) and anti-worldliness.
Monasticism • Beginnings in Egypt: Saint Anthony • Egyptian Hermits (“The Desert Fathers;” the solitary way) • Communal Beginnings: Pachomius • From Hermits to Monks (cenobitic life) • Eastern Empire: St. Basil (Asia Minor) • Basil visited Pachomius’ monastery in 357-358. • Prayer, Good Works, Meditation, Solitary Life (living as “skete” or “lavra” (groups of monastic cottages of 2 to 6 under the personal direction of an elder or geron). • “Guarding the Walls”—Palladios of Helenspolis (360-430). • Western Empire: St. Benedict (Italy) • Added Labor (agriculture, copying books, serving churches)
Mt. Athos: Three Eastern Monastic Forms • Solitary • Cenobitic • “Skete” or “Lavra” (alley)—living in individual cells but sharing a common small group or church with a spiritual guide. Also known as idiorrhythmic By 550, Constantinople had 76 monasteries and ther were over 100,000 monks within the Eastern Empire.
Eastern Monasticism • “The pride of Christ’s Church consists in the life of the solitaries.” • St. Issac the Syrian (died around 700). • “Unless someone says in his heart, ‘In the world there is only myself and God,’ he will find no peace.” • The Sayings of the Desert Fathers • “Love the ease of solitude more than providing for the starving in the world and converting a multitude of heathen from error to the worship of God…Better is he that edified his own soul than he that edifies the whole world.” • St. Issac the Syrian.
“Life According to the Gospel”St. Basil • Monks are not exceptions or abberations of the gospel life, but are examples to the whole Church—a life withdrawn from the sinfulness of the world and in obedience to Scripture. • Monasticism, however, is regarded as a “second baptism”—a renewal of baptismal vows. • Monasticism is a “sacrament of love” where people devote themselves to loving God and loving their neighbor without reserve. • Monasticism is the life of continual repentance—a life of constantly renewed conversion. • St. Anthony: “This is our chief task: always to be mindful of our sinfulness in God’s sight.” • Abba Dioscorus (died 400) constantly weeps over sin in his cell.
Eastern Orientation • Eschatological: herald the coming of the new age by their radical detachment (renunciation) from the world. • Marriage is a “cataphatic” (affirmative) way of affirming the sacrament of love, but monasticism is a “apophatic” (negative) expression. • Marriage: “Grant, Lord, that in loving each other we may love you.” • Monks: express their love for God without the mediation of another human being—they love directly and wholly. • Monks thereby anticipate the eschatological reality—to live in the presence of God without marriage. • Thus, in later Byzantium only monks could become bishops as those dedicated to the “higher” form of life which is the goal of all Christians. • Monks become salt and light, examples of the kingdom of God.
Eastern Priorities • First Priority: The Living Flame of Prayer as Loving God. • St. Seraphim of Sarov (d. 1833): “Acquire inner peace, and thousands around you will find their salvation.” • The goal is to intercede for themselves, for others and seek union with God. • Secondary Priorities: Loving Neighbor • Scholarly and educational work • Evangelism and missionary work • Social and philanthropic work • Spiritual guidance and mentoring work
The image below left (from the Monastery of Dionysiou on Mt. Athos) shows monks ascending the Ladder to God (and some of them, unfortunately, falling off); the image on the right (from the Monastery of Esphigmenou on Mt. Athos) shows the "Life of the True Monk" -- with demons tormenting him, although he remains unmoved, with his whole body in the form of the Crucified Christ).
Irish (Celtic) Monasticism • Irish monasticism predates Benedict’s westernization of monasticism. • The first monks lived as hermits in “beehive” cells where the cold was their penance instead of the heat (Ireland instead of Egypt). • Irish monasticism has a tradition of spirituality similar to Eastern monasticism.
St. Benedict Established Monastery of Monte Cassino, 529 Benedictine Monasticism became model for all new orders in Middle Ages Goal: Purity, Model of Apostolic Church, Service Vows of Poverty, Chastity, Obedience Summary: “pray and work”
Monastery of Monte Cassino Restored after original monastery destroyed in Allied attack during World War II
The Benedictine Rule • Growing up near Rome, he experienced the chaotic life of an era embroiled in constant war. • In 529, Benedict (480-550) founded a monastery at Monte Cassino for which he wrote his Rule. • The Benedictine Rule emphasized poverty, chastity and solitude, but it also emphasized the importance of work (agriculture), learning and communal meals. • The Benedictine monastic tradition is the foundation of Western monastic life. • Monasteries became islands of learning; faith and order in Western Europe which was filled with disorder, war and insecurity.