Session I (Panel 3A)
Jelena Bogdanović (Iowa State University)
Triconch Churches Sponsored by Serbian and Wallachian Nobility, ca. 1350s–1550s
In contrast to the demise of monumental architectural activities in Constantinople after the 1330s, architectural activities of remarkable quality continued to thrive north of Byzantium under the sponsorship of Serbian and Wallachian nobility, even long after the fall of Byzantium and occasionally even in the territories under Ottoman rule. Triconch domed churches, strongly associated with the long-lasting legacy of Middle Byzantine architecture and, especially with monastic architecture on Mount Athos, shaped notions of shared Christian Orthodox identity among Serbs and Wallachians, as opposed to the Muslim Ottoman Turks. Several scholars (Millet, Ćurčić, Bogdanović) have already elucidated the important role that the Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos as well as Skopje —the two major cultural centers in the Balkans in ca. 1350–1400—played in the formation of the sumptuous architecture built under Serbian nobility in the Morava valley. This paper highlights the architectural experimentations and plastic treatment of triconch churches, built by Serbian and Wallachian nobility within and beyond the territories of their domain, as pervasive and strong statements of cultural, religious, and familial identity. By doing so, this essay questions established narratives of the autonomous national development of the so-called Morava-style churches and their linear influence on churches in Wallachia. By expanding the overview of the territorial and chronological domain of the triconch churches built by Serbian and Wallachian nobility during the period of the 1350s– 1550s, the paper shows that the national divides that have been used to define and explain these churches are modern and incorrect constructs, whereas a focus on the architectural design of these churches points to vibrant and enriching processes within the development of Byzantine and post-Byzantine architecture.
Several extraordinary and lavishly designed triconch churches exemplify the living Byzantine legacy and how it was transformed and reinterpreted north of Byzantium after the 1350s: the Church of the Holy First Martyr Stephen (1375–78, also known as Lazarica) in Serbia, built by Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović of Serbia (r. 1373–89); the Holy Trinity Church at Cozia Monastery (1387–91) in Wallachia, built by Voivode Mirçea I of Wallachia (r. 1386–95;
1397–1418); the Church of St. Nicholas in Lapušnja Monastery (1500–1510) in Serbia, built by Voivode Radu cel Mare (r. 1495–1508) and his wife, Princess Katalina Crnojević of Zeta, with the support of Joupan Gergina and Prince Bogoje and his family; the Church of the Assumption of the Mother of God at Govora Monastery in Wallachia, originally built by Voivode Radu cel Mare and restored under Wallachian Voivodes Mattei Basarab and Constantin Brâncoveanu in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; the katholikon of the Transfiguration of the Savior of the Great Meteoron Monastery (1356–1372) in Greece, founded by St. Athanasios and king and later monk Ioannis-Ioasaph Uroš Palaeologos (r. 1370–1373, d. 1387/8) and remodeled in the 1540s when the territory was under Ottoman authority; and the katholikon of the Transfiguration of the Savior (built in 1540) at the Koutloumousiou Monastery on Mount Athos during the Ottoman reign, and which had been established initially with support of Wallachian Voivodes Nicolae Alexandru (r. 1344–64) and Vladislav Vlaicu (r. 1364–77) around the 1350s–60s.
Maria Alessia Rossi (The Index of Medieval Art, Princeton University)
Co-organizer and chair
Alice Isabella Sullivan (Lawrence University)
Co-organizer and presenter
Cultural Interactions in Moldavian Art and Architecture
The principality of Moldavia—lying within the borders of northeastern modern Romania and the Republic of Moldova—emerged as a Christian frontier, indeed a bastions, in the decades after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Standing at the crossroads of western European, Slavic- Byzantine, and Ottoman cultures, the principality developed under princely patronage new visual forms in art and architecture. Local assimilation of select elements from distinct visual traditions became most evident in the painted and fortified Orthodox monastic churches built in the region under the aegis of two rulers: Stephen III “the Great” (r. 1457-1504) and Peter Rareş (r. 1527- 1538; 1541-1546), Stephen’s illegitimate son and heir.
These buildings display an eclecticism with respect to sources. The layouts, organizations, ritual customs, and image cycles of the Moldavian monastic churches reinterpret Greek-Orthodox examples alongside local traditions, while distinct architectural features reveal western Gothic prototypes. At these sites, moreover, architects and artists in collaboration with the patron and ecclesiastical officials developed something new: churches with extensive, brightly colored image cycles in multiple registers wrapping around the whole of the church both inside and outside. The mural cycles painted on the interior and exterior walls of these churches show religious scenes interspersed with historical narratives adapted to address contemporary anxieties about a perceived Ottoman threat against the region’s political independence and religious identity. These extensive image cycles, emulating Byzantine stylistic and iconographic patterns, were carefully conceived in dialogue with the distinctive architecture of the buildings and their interior image programs. They were also carefully designed to present a response to, and also a commentary on, contemporary political, military, religious, and princely concerns in the region. The distinctive architecture and iconographic programs of the Moldavian katholika under consideration elucidate local processes of image translations, the transfer of artistic ideas, and the particular dynamics of cultural contact in a region that developed at the crossroads of distinct traditions and took on a central role in the continuation and refashioning of Byzantine artistic and architectural forms after the events of 1453.
In examining the “hybrid” nature of these monastic churches expressive of complex social and religious politics, I address in this paper the ways in which the study of the Moldavian corpus can reveal aspects of how cross-cultural exchange and translation operated in frontier regions (like Moldavia) in moments of crisis, and how, in turn, these critical moments were articulated artistically.
Henry Schilb (The Index of Medieval Art, Princeton University)
Mutual Peripheries: Differentiating between the Byzantine Traditions of Wallachian and Moldavian Embroideries
Since Nicolae Iorga published his book Byzance après Byzance in 1935, the phrase “Byzantium after Byzantium” has come to be used almost interchangeably with the term “post-Byzantine.” Iorga’s project actually outlined a specifically Romanian history of Byzantium after Byzantium. Although somewhat misunderstood, Iorga’s phrase, if not his whole theory, has resonated with historians and art historians. Typically, however, when historians of post-Byzantine art discuss Romanian art of the first century or two after the end of the Byzantine Empire, the traditions of Wallachia and Moldavia are presented as though they were all but indistinguishable. Specialists will sometimes cite greater originality in Moldavian church art compared to the art of Wallachia, but Wallachia had its own distinctive set of cultural circumstances driving the transmission and transformation of the Byzantine tradition, even in ecclesiastical embroidery.
It is certainly true that the corpus of Moldavian embroideries of the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries is famously large, thanks especially to the patronage of the Stephen III of Moldavia (Ștefan cel Mare, 1457–1504). It is also true that Wallachia offers a very small sample size. There are, nevertheless, a few details worth contemplating on the examples of Wallachian embroidery that we do have. Aspects of style and technique used in an embroidery given by Neagoe Basarab (1512–21) to the Cathedral of Argeș recur in an epitaphios from the period of Vlad Vintilă (1532–35). Compositional features of the same tradition appear later still in an epitaphios associated with Șerban Cantacuzino (1678–88). While the tradition of Moldavian embroidery clearly owes a particular debt to the Serbian nun Jefimija, Wallachian embroidery seems to look toward Constantinople, Thessaloniki, and even Crete. The unusually extensive use of gold thread in some of these textiles suggests a possible connection to the tradition of the well-known Thessaloniki epitaphios. The image on the epitaphios dated to the period of Vlad Vintilă is similar in style and composition to one of the fourteenth-century wall paintings at the Church of Saint Nicholas at Curtea de Argeș, a cycle clearly influenced by the mosaics and paintings at the Kariye Camii in Constantinople. The composition is closer still to a sixteenth-century icon formerly at Curtea de Argeș. Possibly from Crete, the icon is at least in the Cretan tradition, a tradition that the Wallachian epitaphios therefore emulates.
Whether differences in the embroidery traditions of Moldavia and Wallachia parallel or illuminate differences in the political circumstances of the two principalities may be an impossible question to answer. Even if the answer to that question is “not really,” the respective embroidery traditions of the two principalities were distinctive nonetheless. This is not to suggest that Wallachian donors and embroiderers were self-consciously differentiating themselves from their Moldavian counterparts, only that there are, in fact, some differences to consider. By recognizing the distinctive characteristics of Wallachian transformations of the Byzantine tradition in embroidery, perhaps art historians can perceive Wallachian art, and Wallachia generally, as something more than Moldavia’s sidekick on the road to Byzantium after Byzantium.
Session II (Panel 4A)
Maria Alessia Rossi (The Index of Medieval Art, Princeton University)
Co-organizer and presenter
Early Fourteenth-Century Serbian Monumental Painting: Continuation or Rupture with Byzantium?
The fourteenth century was a turning point for the Serbian Kingdom. In particular, Milutin’s reign (1282–1321) was a time of military expansion, of wealth and of religious fervor. During the first years of his reign he enlarged the frontiers of the Serbian Kingdom, especially to the south at the expense of the Byzantine Empire. However, in 1299 a peace treaty was signed between Milutin and the Byzantine Emperor, Andronikos II. The former was not to continue his military attacks and, in exchange, all the territories he had conquered up till then were officially to come under Serbian jurisdiction. To seal this treaty, Milutin married the daughter of Andronikos II, the five-year-old Simonis, thus becoming the son-in-law of the Byzantine Emperor.
This union sanctioned a change in Serbian policies and opened the door to the so-called ‘cultural byzantinisation’ of Serbia. The geographic proximity, the numerous diplomatic missions, and the newly developed family ties between the Byzantine Empire and the Serbian Kingdom, allowed for literary and artistic exchanges. But how strong was the Byzantine cultural influence on its neighbor? Was the Serbian artistic production overwhelmed by the former? Or is it possible to identify instances where the Byzantine heritage was appropriated and transformed to shape a new visual rhetoric?
In order to address and answer these questions, this paper will focus on Christ’s miracle cycle in monumental decorations. The sudden proliferation of this iconography in both Byzantine and Serbian territories in the early Palaiologan period clearly suggests a link between these regions. Examples of Serbian churches housing this cycle, such as St George at Staro Nagoričino (1315–1317) and the katholikon of the monastery of Gračanica (1320–1321), will be compared with Byzantine instances. This paper will discuss similarities and dissimilarities, showing how this iconography was transmitted, exchanged, and altered in order to convey different meanings in different contexts. More specifically, a twofold interpretation of the treatment of the miracle cycle in Serbian churches will be suggested stemming from the desire to prove a shared Byzantine heritage and at the same time, a need for innovation as a means to express a newly developing identity.
Ida Sinkević (Lafayette College)
Dečani Between East and West
The katholikon of the monastery of Dečani, dedicated to Christ Pantokrator, is one of the most important monuments of medieval Serbia. It is a royal foundation distinguished both by its unique architecture and by the wealth, beauty and encyclopedic character of its painted decoration. Built between 1327 and 1335, the church was begun by the Serbian King Stefan Dečanski (1321–1331) and completed by his son, Stefan Dušan (1331-1355). It is a mausoleum of Stefan Dečanski who was interred there along with his wife. The inscription, located on the south portal of the church reveals the name and origin of the master builder, Fra Vita, a Franciscan friar from the town of Kotor on the Adriatic coast.
One of the most distinguishing features of this monument is a combination of Byzantine and western architectural and sculptural features. While painted decoration of the church is strongly rooted in the tradition of Byzantine monumental painting, its sculpture reveals western, mostly Romanesque stylistic tendencies. Western style is also apparent in the exterior articulation and decoration of the church. Façades of the church display white and pink marble and Romanesque decoration. Moreover, the church is a basilica composed of a large three-aisled narthex, five-aisled nave crowned with a dome, and a deep altar space. Notably, the basilican form of the church accommodates centralized space of the interior, so articulated to house the needs of the Orthodox liturgy.
The patron of Dečani, King Stefan Dečanski and his son, belonged to a distinguished line of the Nemanjić dynasty that ruled Serbia from c. 1166 to 1371. When founding Dečani, Stefan Dečanski chose a spiritual adviser, Archbishop Danilo II, who also assisted his father, King Milutin (1282-1321) in building another Nemanjić foundation, the church at Banjska (1313- 1315); the latter also combined western and Byzantine structural and esthetic features. Both Dečani and Banjska are related to the twelfth-century architectural and decorative design of the Church of the Virgin in the Monastery of Studenica (1183-96) often defined as a prototype for later royal foundations of the Nemanjić dynasty.
Due to the importance of this monument, its architecture, sculpture and painted decoration received considerable scholarly attention. It is a purpose of this paper to provide yet another reading of Dečani by looking at the elements of its architectural and decorative program as a reflection of the identity of its patrons and the messages that they intended to project by a significant number of unique esthetic and structural choices. Rather than extolling an analysis of individual iconographic and architectural features as a topic within itself, the paper will focus on major issues that illuminate personality and intentions of the patrons and their main advisor responsible for the building of the church, Archbishop Danilo II.
Alice Isabella Sullivan (Lawrence University)
Co-organizer and chair
Alexandra Vukovich (Dumbarton Oaks Research Library & Collection)
Performing History in Muscovite Ceremonies of Inauguration
The Grand Principality of Moscow or “Muscovy”—referring to an area that would eventually stretch from Western Ukraine to Central Asia in the period before 1700—rose to regional power in the fourteenth century following the weakening of the Mongol empire. From the early fifteenth century, the grand prince of Muscovy and his entourage consolidated power and conquered neighbouring principalities. The reigns of Ivan III (1462-1505), his son Vasilii III (1505-1533), and his grandson Ivan IV (1533-1584) demonstrated a new set of possibilities for governing this vast territory, many of which were centered on Byzantine notions of rulership and the political and moral authorities of the emperor. A diverse set of Byzantine sources (historical, homiletic, theological) became available in Muscovy in the wake of the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The court, the Church, and the literate elite all contributed to rendering accessible Byzantine court culture and notions of power, which were incorporated into Muscovite historiography and, in turn, informed practice. Much like other early-modern and Renaissance rulers, the Muscovite rulers sought legitimacy through intellectual and physical contact with the past, and the Eastern Roman Empire was a key source of legitimacy. Historians of Muscovy have tended to focus on notions of power and practice within the Muscovite state without examining the new historicism that developed through contact with the Byzantine world, for example by marriage (the daughter, Zoë-Sofiia Palaiologina, of the last Byzantine emperor was married to Ivan III).
This paper explores the development of a set of new political practices: ceremonies of inauguration that developed through the transmission and reception of Byzantine sources following the Ottoman conquest of the eastern Mediterranean. However, while the Byzantine past informed the shaping of the inauguration ritual in Muscovy, the performance and setting for ceremony were designed to respond to the local landscape. The first part of this paper will examine how Byzantine sources were used to inform the reshaping of historical narratives for the purpose of ceremonial enactment of rulership. The interplay between the transmission of Byzantine sources to Muscovy, their emendation and interpolation, followed by the reshaping of historical narratives and building of myth-history to inform practice. This intricate set of relations between text and practice responded to local requirements and the second part of this paper will discuss an example of such a ceremony, such as that engineered by Metropolitan Macarius for Ivan IV. This ceremony produced a hybrid set of legitimising referents that introduced foreign rituals, newly-created accoutrements, myth-histories, and adapted Byzantine practices to invent a ceremony that appeared ancient while articulating a new ideology of rulership, based on the symphony of political and spiritual authorities.
Justin L. Willson (Princeton University)
The Allegory of Wisdom in Hreljo’s Tower (1335) Seen in Light of Philotheos Kokkinos’s Discourse on Wisdoms
The point of departure for this paper is the fresco of Wisdom in the chapel in Hreljo’s Tower (1334) at Rila Monastery near Sophia. In the cupola of the chapel, Christ-Emmanuel is shown directing seven spirits represented as winged children reclining on white rhombuses. Below the cupola, at the western end of the drum, King Solomon points towards Christ and holds a scroll displaying the opening verse of Proverbs 9: “Wisdom has built her house, she has carved out her seven pillars.” Two angels at the eastern end of the drum are shown standing beside a table set with a large cup of wine and loaf of bread. Holding bowls in their outer hands, the angels signal an inscription with their inner hands: “Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine that I have mixed.” (9:5) Facing the three Hierarchs and a group of three apostles, the angels direct these saints, who reverently approach the table from the southern and northern ends of the drum, towards the table that Wisdom has prepared.
Scholarship on Wisdom iconography has stressed two major themes: Christ’s incarnation and the liturgy of the Eucharist. These themes were first elaborated by Nikolai Pokrovskii in the nineteenth century. Pokrovskii studied this iconography from the vantage point of seventeenth and eighteenth-century Russian pattern books. There, Christ is often shown with the Mother of God and is identified with Wisdom, adorned with wings as he serves the sacred meal. Later scholars including George Florovsky, Jean Meyendorff, L. Prashkov, and Karl Christian Felmy have developed Pokrovskii’s themes. However, the Rila fresco cycle fits uneasily into both of these interpretations. The painter does not show Christ with wings; nor does he show him with the Mother of God. Moreover, Rila is the only fresco cycle to feature Wisdom in a cupola, and it is the only cycle that shows Christ directing the seven spirits. These peculiarities reveal a different intention. However, since its discovery in the 1960s, the Rila cycle has only been discussed through iconographical lenses developed before it came to light.
This essay offers a different lens for the study of Rila’s Wisdom cycle. In order to contextualize its unique features, I introduce a little-studied discourse on the allegory of Wisdom written by Patriarch Philotheos Kokkinos. Interpreting these frescoes through a Greek author, I am assuming that this monument shares more in common with Wisdom discourse in Byzantium than it does with any contemporary monument in the Slavic world. Kokkinos focuses our attention on several themes. He explains that Christ-Emmanuel distributes the seven spirits of God. These spirits lead the mind that loves wisdom to the contemplation of God. Kokkinos takes as exemplary of contemplation the cup of wine that Wisdom serves. Kokkinos does not insist that Christ must serve the Eucharist. Nor does he say that Wisdom is merely the divine economy of Christ’s incarnation. In these regards, Kokkinos’s understanding of the allegory accords well with the Rila painter’s choices for how to illustrate the allegory. The painter does not show Christ-Emmanuel serving the meal of his body and blood, as he was shown elsewhere in the Balkans. Consequently, although a Eucharistic significance remains possible, yet the program resists being reduced to a ritual function. In a truly unique decision, the painter focuses, like Kokkinos, on the distinct corporeal forms of the spirits that go out from Christ and intersect the contemplative focal point of the cup of Wisdom. In sum, Kokkinos draws our attention to the very features of the allegory that interest the painter, revealing interpretive similarities between the Greek and Slavic worlds.