Greece Arts: from the Fourth Century to the Early Twentieth Century

By | August 11, 2021

Greece retains a rich heritage of medieval art. Of course it is not really “Greek” art, but the Byzantine art of Greece, in close relationship with that of the Balkans and Asia Minor, that is, the territories that with Greece constituted for a long time the fundamental nucleus of the Byzantine Empire.. In the period that goes from the century. IV to XV grew, alongside the ancient centers, numerous new cities (Arta, Giannina, Serre, Castoria, Naupatto, Monemvasia, Coroni, Methoni, Mistrà, Muchli, Chio, Paro, Mitilene, Candia), while monasteries arose everywhere outside the cities Orthodox, and entire locations were intended to holy places (the Mount Athos; the Meteor in Thessaly). A first phase of architectural activity dates back to the 12th century. V and VI and ends in practice with Justinian. Of the few surviving buildings from this period the most important are the churches of Thessaloniki, sumptuously decorated with marble slabs, sculptures and mosaics with a gold background that offer a fundamental testimony of the painting of this period. Remains of large basilicas have been brought to light by excavations in Philippi, Nicopolis, Athens, Corinth, Corfu, Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos, Delos, Rhodes, Crete. The most common type of basilica is the so-called “Hellenistic” one, with a protruding semicircular apse, trussed roof, three naves, transept, atrium, narthex communicating with the naves through free entrances with curtains (Philippi, Basilica A of Nicopolis, Athens, Crete, Corinth), but there are also basilicas with apsidal vaults and transepts (Epirus), with 5 naves (St. Demetrius of Salonicco; basilica B of Nicopoli), domed (Filippi, Gortina). The central plant, martýria), is rare in independent buildings (St. David in Thessaloniki, with a Greek cross inscribed). At the flowering of the sec. V and VI followed a period of stasis (VII-VIII centuries) corresponding to the Arab expansion and the iconoclastic crisis (726-843). Around the middle of the century. IX, with the advent of the Macedonian dynasty, began a new period of artistic flourishing (X and XI century), which continued in the century. XII under the Comneni and ended with the conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders (1204). In the sec. IX-X basilicas of the “Hellenistic” type continued to be built which testify to the recovery of the early Christian tradition. Alongside them, basilicas of the “Anatolian” type (with a vaulted central nave) spread. Starting from the sec. XI the most common type of church became the one with a Greek cross plan inscribed in the square and central dome. There are some variants. According to areacodesexplorer, the “Greek” or simple type (4 barrel vaults supported by two columns or pillars in the W and by two walls in the E) appeared for the first time in the Panaghia di Skripu (873) and was the most widespread (there are fine examples in Athens). The “Constantinopolitan” or complex type (4 barrel vaults on 4 isolated columns, presbytery with 3 spans and 3 apses), more rare, is found above all in Thessaloniki (Vergine dei Calderai, S. Pantalimon, SS. Apostoli, S. Caterina), but also in Athens (Kesariani), in Boeotia (Sagmata) and in the Peloponnese. The tricon type is very common, which established itself in the monasteries of Mount Áthos and became the classic type of convent church: the tetraconco churches (SS. Apostoli di Atene) are rarer. Finally, the octagonal plant should be remembered, especially common between the century. XI and XIII (Osios Lukas; Dafní; Sotira Likodimu in Athens, of the XI century; S. Sofia of Monemvasia, of the XII century; S. Theodore of Mistrà and S. Parigoritissa of Arta, of the XIII century). The Macedonian period was also the golden period of Byzantine monumental painting, of which the greatest surviving examples are found in Greece. For the mosaic painting we remember the cycles of S. Sofia of Salonicco (IX century), of Sotira Likodimu in Athens, of the century. XI; S. Sofia of Monemvasia, of the century. XII; S. Theodore of Mistrà and S. Parigoritissa of Arta, of the century. XIII). The Macedonian period was also the golden period of Byzantine monumental painting, of which the greatest surviving examples are found in Greece. For the mosaic painting we remember the cycles of S. Sofia of Salonicco (IX century), of catholicón of Vatopedi on mount Áthos, of the churches of Osios Lukas, of Nea Monì in Chios and of Dafní, all of the century. XI. Fresco painting was more widespread, which mostly followed the popular style of Osios Lukas, but which in the Castoria complexes (12th century) achieved considerable stylistic autonomy. In the period of Frankish domination (13th-15th century) motifs of western Gothic architecture spread, especially in Crete, in the Peloponnese, in Euboea, in the Ionian and Aegean islands. In the Ionian islands and in Crete the Venetians built Gothic Catholic churches; the “city of the Knights” was built in Rhodes (1309-1522); Fortifications were erected in Lesbos, Lemnos and Chios. In Mistrà, Arta, Giannina, Castoria, Verria, Thessaloniki, in Meteore, on Mount Áthos a Byzantine architecture flourished that continued the traditional one, albeit with richer exteriors and with simpler structures and plants (as in the free cross churches or inscribed but with joint roofs, without dome). In the field of painting the mosaic technique became rarer, while the fresco dominated. Thessaloniki became the center of diffusion of a moved and dramatic style, characterized by violent shapes and colors (“Macedonian school”). Trained in Neresi and Castoria in the century. XII, the Macedonian style dominated in northern Greece and Serbia in the century. XIII and in the first half of the XIV (Protaton, Chilandari and Vatopedi on Mount Áthos; Omorfi Ekklisia near Athens; Omorfi Ekklisia near Castoria). Starting from the middle of the century. XIV the Macedonian style was supplanted by a new idealizing wave of Constantinopolitan derivation (Mistrà), which transplanted to Crete in the sec. XIV-XV gave origin to the which transplanted to Crete in the sec. XIV-XV gave origin to the which transplanted to Crete in the sec. XIV-XV gave origin to the Cretan school. After the fall of Constantinople (1453), Greece gradually passed into the hands of the Turks: the artistic evolution was therefore different in the different areas: while in central-northern Greece a late-Byzantine architecture of medieval tradition continued, in the cities of the coast and of the islands controlled by the Venetians the western influence. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Venetians erected imposing fortifications against the Turks (the most beautiful are those of Crete, of the two Sanmicheli). In mainland Greece, Byzantine architecture continued, impoverished, in single-nave and barrel-vaulted churches and in Greek cross domed or conjoined roof churches. Only in Meteora and on Mount Áthos, which as holy places enjoyed particular privileges, were built conventual triconic churches of a richer type. In painting he dominated the Cretan School, which continued the Byzantine forms accentuating their abstractness and dogmatism. The Cretan School includes both the Cretan painters who decorated with frescoes the churches and monasteries of Meteora, Mount Áthos, Epirus etc., imprinting all the Greek painting of the sec. XVI and XVII, both the painters of icons active in Crete in the same period. The Cretan icons were exported all over the Orthodox world and through the Ionian islands and the Adriatic they also reached Venice, where in the century. XVI the Cretan “madonnari” worked. Late Byzantine sacred architecture, which was expressed mainly in country monasteries, was practically not influenced by that of the Turkish rulers, who erected mosques and fountains in the cities (Athens, Nafplio, Crete, Chios, Paros, etc.). On the other hand, the Muslim influence in the field of private architecture was very strong, especially in the 10th century. XVII and XVIII and in the cities of the north (Giannina, Arta, Verria etc.). With independence (1830) German and Danish architects arrived in Greece who imported the neoclassical style (Royal Palace, University and Academy of Athens; expansion of the new capital). Thus a solid neoclassical tradition was formed which lasted until the early twentieth century, especially by local architects.

Greece Arts - from the Fourth Century to the Early Twentieth Century