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Building with the Relics of Antiquity – the Early Byzantine Use of Spolia in the Vaulted Churches of West Asia Minor

Karydis, Nikolaos (2010) Building with the Relics of Antiquity – the Early Byzantine Use of Spolia in the Vaulted Churches of West Asia Minor. In: 15th Annual Medieval Postgraduate Student Colloquium: Past Histories & Afterlives of Medieval Art and Architecture, 6 February 2010, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, London, UK. (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:59653)

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The remains of the early Byzantine churches of west Asia Minor are real repositories

of reused Classical, Hellenistic and Roman Architectural elements, which often have a

delicate sculptural ornamentation. Omnipresent in the vaulted basilicas of Ephesus, Sardis,

and Priene, reused elements have the potential to give information about early Byzantine

construction technology and attitudes towards architectural heritage.

The realisation of this potential has led to attempts to interpret the use of spolia on

ideological and symbolic grounds (R. Cormack, 1990, R. Ousterhout, 1999). However, the

study of the structural role of reused elements and the constructional reasons for their

incorporation in early Byzantine church structures is still insufficient (I. Leggio, 2003).

My documentation of the use of spolia in St. John and St. Mary at Ephesus, Building

D at Sardis, and the basilicas of Priene and Pythagorion seeks to fill this lacuna. The

investigation of the origins of spolia, as well as the study of the way in which antique

architectural elements were incorporated in massive walls and supports, illuminates a crucial

aspect of church construction in some of the most creative centres of the early Byzantine

period (H. Buchwald, 1984).

My research has revealed the co-existence of two general attitudes towards the reuse

of architectural elements. The first championed the skilful integration of spolia into the new

structure according to their original nature and role. This sometimes led to strong

architectural statements that emphasized historical continuity. However, such uses of spolia

were quite rare. The most frequent attitude was profoundly utilitarian: it ignored the age

value and form of antique elements, attributing to them no greater attention than the one

given to any stone block, old or new.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Uncontrolled keywords: Spolia, Reuse, Early Byzantine Architecture, Asia Minor
Subjects: N Visual Arts > NA Architecture
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Kent School of Architecture and Planning
Depositing User: Nikolaos Karydis
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2016 20:34 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:24 UTC
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