‘Archi-texts’ for contemplation in Sixth-Century Byzantium:\ud the case of the Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople

Gavril, Iuliana-Elena (2012)
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This thesis aims to contribute towards a better understanding of what the\ud Byzantines experienced in church spaces. By thoroughly mapping users’ encounters\ud with the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople in the sixth-century, it examines\ud whether the experience of the architectural space during the Eucharistic ritual\ud augmented a religious experience, which in turn, influenced the way the Byzantines\ud talked about their spiritual experience whilst being in a church, and thought of their\ud churches as ‘heaven on earth.’ It places textual evidence alongside architectural\ud evidence. The basic approach of this thesis is rooted in phenomenology and multisensory\ud perception of space.\ud \ud In the first chapter, I make a case for the necessity of studying the textual\ud evidence in light of the spatial experience of the building. I suggest that the concept of\ud ‘archi-text’ is key to answering the question of what was a church in sixth-century\ud Byzantium. Developed in three chapters, the textual analysis focuses on sixth-century\ud ekphraseis of Hagia Sophia written by Procopius of Caesarea and Paul the Silentiary, and\ud the inauguration kontakion composed for the church dedication. In the first two\ud chapters, I examine how the spatial perception of the church influenced the way Hagia\ud Sophia was described. In the next chapter, I explore how the Byzantines thought of the\ud church in symbolic and theological terms. The literary analysis concludes that Hagia\ud Sophia was perceived as a centralised space and represented as a ‘heaven on earth.’\ud These two points are further scrutinized all through the spatial analysis of the church.\ud The final chapter links the Byzantines’ symbolic representation of the church to the\ud architectural physicality of Hagia Sophia.

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