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Byzantine Art

330 - 1453

Middle Ages

Byzantine Art

On a cold day in February 313 CE, Licinius the First and Constantine the First met in Milan. Licinius and Constantine were both emperors of Rome, embroiled in what would later be called the Civil wars of the Tetrarchy. Constantine would eventially triumph, and hang Licinius eleven years later, but for now the competing emperors were at peace, meeting to sign the Edict of Milan. The Edict was a radical document — a statement of religious freedom, ending centuries of persection of fringe religions within the Roman Empire, granting: "to the Christians and others full authority to observe that religion which each preferred."

And so began the Byzantine age, which was defined by the extrordinary growth of the Christian religion out from the Byzantine empire's heart on Constantinople, and the development of Christian icons, churches and artwork throughout Europe and modern-day Turkey. Byzantine art evolved significantly over the course of it's more than 1000 year run, and is now broken down into three periods. Early Byzantine (c. 330–750), saw a departure from the naturalism of Roman art, and a fixation of the heavenly. Flat-faced saints float on gilded etherial backgrounds. Middle Byzantine (c. 850–1204) was heavily influenced by the beginnings of Russian Orthodox Christianity, and economic prosperity encouraged more elaborate architecture and decorative objects. Late Byzantine (c. 1261–1453) was a twilight time for the Byzantine empire, after the invasion of European crusaders damaged trade and infrastructure. 

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For the sake of the peace of our times, each one may have the free opportunity to worship as he pleases

The Edict of Milan

Constantine I, Licinius313

Hagia Sophia

Anthemius and Isidore the Elder537
Floor Mosaic with Ktisis

Floor Mosaic with Ktisis

500-550
Casket with Warriors and Dancers

Casket with Warriors and Dancers

1000
Portable Icon with the Virgin Eleousa

Portable Icon with the Virgin Eleousa

1300