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Art Ancient & Classical

Heaven on Earth

Art and the Church in Byzantium

edited by Linda Safran

Penn State University Press
Initial publish date
Jan 1998
Ancient & Classical, Religious, Antiquities & Archaeology, History, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 1997
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jan 1998
    List Price

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Out of print

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This easily accessible volume, which grew out of a series of lectures presented at the Smithsonian Institution in 1991, aims to provide a coherent introduction to Byzantine culture with a focus on the interconnected realms of art and religion. The eight participants have revised their lectures into chapters on Byzantine history, theology, icons and icon theory, church architecture, monumental painting, silver church furnishings, illustrated liturgical books, and pilgrimage. In addition to presenting current research on this range of topics, the chapters each contribute original scholarship from authors who are recognized experts in their respective fields.

The Introduction, by Linda Safran, deals with views and definitions of Byzantium over the course of its long history and considers why that civilization deserves our attention today. It underscores the essential unifying role of the Orthodox religion in a vast and fluid empire and clarifies how the experiential aspects of that religion—churches, liturgy, church arts and imagery, religious travel—open a window into Byzantine culture. Throughout the book, the past is made vivid by considering what Byzantine believers heard and said and did, as well as what they saw.

The book's chapters are cross-referenced and are complemented both by endnotes that cite primary and secondary sources and by "Suggestions for Further Reading" that include English and foreign-language references. There is no comparable art history text that combines this high-caliber range of current scholarship with more than 250 illustrations, including 16 pages of color plates, to introduce Byzantine culture to a broad readership.

Contributors are Joseph Alchermes, Susan A. Boyd, Anna Kartsonis, Henry Maguire, Robert Ousterhout, Eric D. Perl, Nancy Patterson Ševčenko, and Gary Vikan.


About the author

Linda Safran is Associate Professor of Art History in the department of Greek and Latin at The Catholic University of America. She is the author of San Pietro at Otranto: Byzantine Art in South Italy (1992).

Linda Safran's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“This most useful book is the product of a lecture series titled ’sailing to Byzantium: The Sacred Core of a Great Civilization’ sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution. . . . Each scholar writes with a clarity sufficient for someone new to the subject while raising issues at a level of sophistication and with a range of bibliography (and a useful glossary) that provoke further study for the more engaged reader. Consistent use of primary sources provides a vivid context for the concepts surrounding the works discussed. . . . The particular virtue of this book is the singular priority given to the church and its art as an expression of the Orthodox liturgy conducted within the sanctuary space, the essence of what unifies a vast and important part of the world even after the political apogee of the empire itself.”

—Elizabeth C. Parker, Church History