The Heartland of Byzantium

OVERVIEW

Northern Greece was crucial for the prosperity and security of the Byzantine Empire. Thessaloniki was the second most important city of the empire for many centuries and preserves astonishing examples of Byzantine religious architecture. The monasteries on Mount Athos guarded numerous ecclesiastical treasures; icons, liturgical objects, vestments, and holy relics. The end of the Iconoclastic controversy in the ninth century signified the beginning of a new era in Byzantine iconography and Macedonia was home to several great artists who created masterpieces of religious art under the patronage of influential bishops and abbots. This program uses the prism of iconography and architecture to explore key concepts of Byzantine history, art, and culture. After an introduction to the Iconoclastic controversy, the students will acquire the tools and skills to recognize the religious canons of the Middle Byzantine iconographic system and its links to the architectural requirements of the domed cross-in-square type.


Available throughout the year upon request


OVERVIEW

Northern Greece was crucial for the prosperity and security of the Byzantine Empire. Thessaloniki was the second most important city of the empire for many centuries and preserves astonishing examples of Byzantine religious architecture. The monasteries on Mount Athos guarded numerous ecclesiastical treasures; icons, liturgical objects, vestments, and holy relics. The end of the Iconoclastic controversy in the ninth century signified the beginning of a new era in Byzantine iconography and Macedonia was home to several great artists who created masterpieces of religious art under the patronage of influential bishops and abbots. This program uses the prism of iconography and architecture to explore key concepts of Byzantine history, art, and culture. After an introduction to the Iconoclastic controversy, the students will acquire the tools and skills to recognize the religious canons of the Middle Byzantine iconographic system and its links to the architectural requirements of the domed cross-in-square type.


Available throughout the year upon request


THE SYLLABUS

Fighting Images

This module presents the historical background of Iconoclasm with emphasis to the results on Byzantine iconography. Iconoclasm was the deliberate destruction of religious icons and started with a ban on religious images by Emperor Leo III. The first phase lasted for sixty-odd years, while the second phase (following a brief restoration of the images) lasted for an additional three decades. Iconoclasm resulted in the widespread and willful destruction of images and other monuments and caused friction with the Western church, where this movement never gained traction. Iconoclasm originated in the major political, social, ideological, and religious upheavals of the seventh century, when Islam spread across large parts of the Byzantine Empire, and exerted considerable influence on the development of Byzantine art.

Text and Image in Byzantium

Byzantine art is very distinct and a source of much scholarly debate regarding its relative merit. The naturalistic classical aesthetic was replaced by an abstract and symbolic approach that expressed new imperial and religious ideas. The finest examples of Byzantine monumental art survive in the interior decoration of churches, but another important genre of was the icon, a small-scale painting of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints. The illustration of manuscripts was also very important, with religious and secular texts being illuminated. This module investigates the relationship between text and image, leading to insights about religious experiences and patronage. Moreover, the analysis of religious texts will lead to the identification of the new iconographic cycles which prevailed since the Middle Byzantine period.

Monasteries of Mount Athos

Mount Athos is a promontory that juts out into the Aegean Sea, with few good natural harbors and little flat land. This isolated and densely forested peninsula attracted Byzantine monks in the early 9th century CE. Numerous monasteries soon appeared and Athos became known as the Holy Mountain. Today the monasteries preserve countless valuable works of medieval Christian art and books. This module offers an excellent opportunity to study the architecture and iconography of the Middle and Late Byzantine period, with particular emphasis on the groundbreaking work of Manuel Panselinos, a 13th-century painter from Thessaloniki, whose workshop attracted many followers and students.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

• Discover the natural beauty of the former Byzantine cities in Northern Greece

• Visit the monasteries of Meteora and walk on the rocky paths on top of magnificent cliffs

• Study the imperial majesty of the religious monuments of Thessaloniki and discover the vibrant life of Greece’s second largest city

• Visit spectacular natural environments, such as the Falls of Naousa and the Lake of Kastoria

• Indulge in the Middle Byzantine religious heritage through on-site seminars, guided tours, and workshops by specialized lecturers

LEARNING OUTCOME

✓ Debate on the iconoclastic controversy and reflect on the theology of images and iconographic cycles

✓ Gain a deeper knowledge regarding the genres of epigrams and ekphrasis.

✓ Identify the stylistic differences between the various schools that developed in northern Greece

✓ Display an understanding of the literary history of the Byzantine Empire

✓ Gain a deep insight into the history and purpose of the monasteries of Mount Athos.

PERKS & OPTIONS

What is included in our programs?

  • 3 US credits provided by the Hellenic American University
  • Accommodation in hand-picked and well-located superior class hotels
  • Breakfast and lunch
  • Professionals e.g. licensed guides, lecturers, and tour managers
  • Entrance fees to museums and archaeological sites
  • All land and sea transportation included in the itinerary of the specific program
  • Information material
  • Local taxes
  • Travel insurance
  • Transport to and from the airport in Greece

Optional

  • Airfares to and from Greece
  • Any custom request



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