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What Did the Byzantine Empire Smell Like?

In the earliest years of Constantinople, the new emperor Constantine actually provided instructions about how perfume was to be used in his realm. As an example, take the book known as the Vita Silvestri of the Liber Pontificalis, which records his directions and budgets for the new Christian basilicas he had built throughout the Empire. Plans were customized to each basilica, but most often included a budget for spikenard oil to perfume the chandeliers, balsam oil for the Baptistries, and enough spices and incense to fill the holy days with holy smoke. For worship, scent mattered.

Saskia Wilson-Brown recently held a series of workshops on scent in Byzantium at the Getty. For a list of the most commonly used materials in Byzantine perfumery, browse her recent post in The Getty Iris. 


Posted on Jul 7, 2014 in Publications

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THE MARY JAHARIS CENTER
for Byzantine Arts and Culture

Founded in 2010 through a generous gift from the Jaharis Family Foundation, the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture is dedicated to the promotion and advancement of knowledge about the rich heritage of Byzantine art and culture.

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