The combination of the basilica with symmetrical central-plan (circular or polygonal) religious constructions produced the distinctive Byzantine Greek-cross-plan church, with a square center mass and four equal-length arms. The domed roof was the most distinguishing feature. The interior walls were covered in mosaics: colored glass and stone tiles used to decorate buildings and churches during the early Islamic period (7th century AD). These were destroyed by invaders who burned or dismantled much of the city after it fell into Christian hands in 1204. The remaining fragments are kept in museums all over Europe.
Byzantium was also known as "the pearl of the East" because of its beautiful materials and craftsmanship. It was famous for its silk fabrics, gold jewelry, and elaborate wooden furniture. The city's name comes from the Greeks who inhabited the area before Constantine the Great converted to Christianity in A.D. 300. They called themselves Byzantionians and their capital city Byzantium.
Constantine the Great wanted to make Constantinople the new capital of his empire and built many large cities including Nicaea, which is today's Iznik in Turkey. But he died before they were complete so his son Justinian took over. He too wanted to make Constantinople an imperial capital and built more cities including Ephesus, which is today's Aegean Sea town.
Byzantine architects were eclectic, leaning largely on Roman temple characteristics at initially. These churches followed Roman precedents in using columns to support their roofs.
But soon after 11th century, other types of buildings began to appear, including monasteries. They were usually located near towns or major crossroads, and they often had dining rooms where food was served by monks to travelers stopping by for the night. These restaurants are what give rise to the name by which they are known today: "kyoavlidiotes" (κύω αβλητιάδους), meaning "eaters of bread."
Because monks lived mostly on bread and water, they needed places where they could get fed regularly. Therefore, these restaurants became more common as time went on. They also tended to be large, with rooms for guests upstairs and downstairs. Each room had its own entrance so people didn't have to share spaces.
In addition to hotels, kyoavlidia were used by travelers looking for a place to rest before moving on. There were usually beds in each room, so people could sleep there if they wanted to.
The most prevalent types were mosaics and icons. Byzantine church architecture is often central rather than longitudinal, with pendentives supporting the center dome (surrounded by clusters of lesser or semi-domes). The structure is made of bricks laid in ornamental patterns and mortar. Walls were usually covered with stucco and painted.
Byzantium was the name given to the eastern part of the Roman Empire from AD 330 to 1453. It was originally a province of Turkey, but after 1071 it was under Byzantine rule.
The iconography of medieval Byzantium was primarily Christian, but there also were images of rulers, events, and others. Icons were used in place of pictures because they were considered more effective for spiritual purposes. They could convey messages beyond what words could say. Icons first appeared in the mid-5th century and became popular among the aristocracy. There are examples of soldiers fighting off demons with icons, as well as saints protecting people who asked them for help. Icons still play an important role in Orthodox Christianity.
Mosaics were used in place of paint because they were considered more effective for spiritual purposes. Mosaics first appeared in the mid-5th century and became popular among the aristocracy. They tell stories through colored glass and stone, and include animals and humans. There are examples of saints, angels, and other religious figures.
The church hierarchy enforced no formal church layout, but the cross-in-square plan became the most prevalent, with a dome erected over four supporting arches employing pendentives—curved triangular forms that bridge the space between consecutive arches and turn a square foundation into a circular one. The first three arches support the narthex or porch, which leads into the central aisle of the church; the fourth arch carries the dome itself.
Byzantium was the last major empire in Europe, and its influence can be seen in many parts of the continent. One of the features that set it apart from other cultures at the time were the highly decorated buildings that arose in its cities. Many of these structures are still standing today, having been preserved as museums or used for other purposes. They include ancient monuments such as the Acropolis in Athens, the Vatican Museums in Rome, and the Great Mosque in Istanbul.
In addition to their aesthetic value, these buildings also play an important role in understanding how people lived in the past. Using information about the location of rooms and doors, as well as details such as decorations and colors, archaeologists can build detailed models of how people lived in different times and places. This type of research is useful for discovering how ancient peoples built their communities, moved objects around, and organized themselves in work groups.
The architecture of Byzantium was unique because it combined Roman ideas with native traditions.
Basilicas are usually rectangular structures with a central nave flanked by two or more longitudinal aisles, and a two-level ceiling that is higher in the center over the nave to enable a clerestory and lower over the side-aisles. The word comes from Latin basi, meaning "base" or "foundation". They were used as churches or cathedrals until the 11th century, when they were replaced by the Gothic style. Today, many buildings around the world have been reconstructed or redesigned based on knowledge learned from studying examples in Rome.
A basilica's central aisle runs between its nave and sanctuary, which is at the far end of the building from the entrance. The altar of a basilica is always located in the sanctuary, which is also where the priest lives during services. A typical basilican church will have a large central nave with aisles of narrower columns down the sides. There may be a second, shorter nave across the front of the building with an aisle along one side and no aisles the other three. In a larger church, there might be more than two naves. Sometimes there are more than one sanctuary, one next to the other. Sometimes there are also transepts connecting the nave to the aisles. Transepts are often built as extensions of the nave, containing additional rooms such as chapels or offices.