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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)

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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 Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > Architecture
Depositing User: Nikolaos Karydis
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2016 20:34 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 18:28 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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