The Byzantine Empire was often at the centre of profound geopolitical, cultural, and religious forces that threatened to pull it apart. When Byzantine forces suffered a terrible defeat at the hands of the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Manzikert for example, appeals to the West precipitated the First Crusade. In 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, Constantinople was conquered by the Crusader army. The dramatic siege and subsequent fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire is often seen as marking the end of the medieval period. The Byzantine Empire lasted for over a thousand years, created remarkable art and architecture and created a lasting cultural and religious legacy—even its decline and fall was to have ramifications that reached far beyond its borders. The fall of Constantinople which had been a key city on the ancient Silk Road, linking East and West led many to consider the prospect of opening up new lines of trade, sea exploration that would eventually lead to major new discoveries, new routes and new worlds.
The appreciation of early Christian and Byzantine Art as a sublime expression of religious thought and feeling is a comparatively modern phenomenon. Byzantine art is both static and dynamic: static in the sense that once an image was established it was felt that no improvement was necessary; dynamic in the sense that there was never one style and these styles or modes were constantly changing. The story is not only complex in its unravelling but ranges widely over various media: mosaic, wall painting and painted panels, sculpture in marble and ivory, manuscript illumination, gold, silver, and precious stones, jewellery, silk and rich vestments.
This classic account shows how the fall of Constantinople in May 1453, after a siege of several weeks, came as a bitter shock to Western Christendom. The city's plight had been neglected, and negligible help was sent in this crisis. To the Turks, victory not only brought a new imperial capital, but guaranteed that their empire would last. To the Greeks, the conquest meant the end of the civilization of Byzantium, and led to the exodus of scholars stimulating the tremendous expansion of Greek studies in the European Renaissance.
The church that the Venetians built to house the body of St. Mark, taken by them from Alexandria, is famous the world over. They spared no expense, and employed the most skilled artisans, to create a monument to their faith in their patron saint and to their commercial and artistic glory. Mosaics, marbles, pavements, sculptures, icons and decorations are unrivaled in their sumptuousness and as examples of Byzantine art at its apex. With an enormous number of high-quality color photographs, including many details and many full-page illustrations, this book provides complete documentation of the history and decorative program of the Basilica.
More than twenty mosques and tombs were built from the fifteenth to the early seventeenth centuries in Istanbul, Bursa, Edirne and Uskudar. They are the products of a bold, daring and refined civilisation at the height of its power. The photographs in Sacred Spaces are a testament to the exquisite taste and sophistication of Ottoman architecture. All these buildings and complexes reflect the spirit and social values of an entire society, as well as their taste and artistic ideals. The photographs pay tribute not only to a splendid array of mosques from different times and places but to the men and women who built them and to the faithful who still gather in their midst.