As the name suggests, this originated at Byzantium; its chief characteristic is the almost exclusive use of bricks as decorative objects. The materials resemble Roman bricks and usually bear inscriptions of various kinds. They were used with or without casing for walls and also for arches; for instance at Saint-Sophia in Constantinople, the cupola of which, 35 metres in diameter, is built of bricks.
The Greek churches of that period are adorned with very varied designs, worked in different dressings of bricks. This kind of decoration, which has a quite distinctive character, is also found in certain countries whose geographical positions have subjected them to the influence of Constantinople; for example, in Roumania and Russia.
In the latter country, Byzantine architecture has undergone transformations due to the influences of Persian and Hindoo art, but brick still remains the principal element in both construction and ornamentation.
The Arabs did not impress upon the nations whom they conquered such a personal character as did the Romans. While the latter gave to vanquished peoples their laws and their customs, the Arabs, on the other hand, were rather influenced by them themselves. As regards architecture, this difference is shown by the diversity of Turkish monuments according to the countries in which they were built. The architects allowed themselves to be influenced first by Byzantine art, and used the materials, stones and bricks, of which existing edifices were constructed.
In Egypt, the Turkish architecture was mainly Arab; in the mosques of the 9th and 10th centuries, brick, afterwards covered with stucco, plays a great part in the construction of the walls. The invasion of the Iberian peninsula by the Arabs introduced the Moorish style; and pottery was used extensively for building and adorning those magnificent edifices which still stand for the admiration of all. Such are the mosque of Cordova (8th and 9th centuries) and the Alhambra of Grenada, in which brick and faience form a large part of the ornamentation.
Asia Minor and Persia, in turn dominated by the Arabs, the Turks, and the Ottomans, had at first their religious buildings, which were afterwards changed into mosques; then the invaders raised other edifices in which we find Byzantine art modified by Arab or Persian taste. The most interesting of the monuments still remaining, such as the Green Mosque at Nicea (8th century); the Blue Medrece or religious school at Konieh in Lycaonia (12th century); the mosque of Baba-Souctah at Ispahan, etc., all exemplify the use of bricks of all shapes and varieties: raw, fired, enamelled. But their chief charm lies in the use of faience plaques decorated with that taste and skill which have made Persian faience one of the finest manifestations of decorative art.
Being derived directly from Roman art, this is especially developed in the north of Italy, in Lombardy, the region in which there was such an extensive use of brick. The chapel called Saint-Aquiliris and the church of Saint-Ambroise (4th and 5 th centuries) at Milan have walls and arches made of brick. The cupola of the latter building is crowned by a very curious terra-cotta cornice; it stands back a good deal from the remainder of the building. Fig. 319 represents a part of it.
At Pavia, the church of Sainte-Euphemie (5 th century), the church of Saint-Michael (11th century), the church of Saint-Theodore and Saint-Lanfranc (11th and 12th centuries), are almost entirely built of bricks; they offer remarkable examples of terra-cotta building and decoration, either alone or combined with stone and even marble.
Brescia, Venice, Padua, Pavia, and Crema with its cathedral almost entirely of brick, also possess monuments in which this material predominates. The architects of the period, by variety of form, contour, and colour, were able to avoid that uniformity and monotony always presented by large surfaces built of the same material. Fig. 320 represents a fragment of the crown of the frontal of the Crema Cathedral (13th and 14th centuries).
The celebrated Carthusian Monastery at Favia (1396; Fig. 317) is a brilliant example of the skill of the builders of that period. Brick walls, alone or alternated with stone, friezes, cornices, terra-cotta sculptures, all have resisted the march of time.
Fig. 317. Interior of the Carthusian Monastery at Pavia.
The state of preservation of these buildings, most of which are anterior to the13th century, shows that brick and terra-cotta bear easily the destructive action of time.
The north of Italy is very rich in brick-built work, and the neighbouring countries certainly do not offer as many examples of constructions of that kind. Nevertheless the Roman system of building in brick and stone lasted a long time, especially in Gaul, during the Gallo-Koman and Merovingian periods. Then, from about the 9th century, brick buildings disappeared from those countries in which stone was abundant, but persisted where it was lacking, as in Languedoc. The church of Saint-Sernin at Toulouse (Fig. 318), which dates from the 11th century and was partly restored by Viollet-Ie-Duc, is almost entirely built of bricks, stone being reserved for some special uses; by its beauty and harmonious combination it presents a striking example of what can be-obtained, without sculpture, with ordinary materials arranged in well-oalculated proportions. The belfry is of brick, with little stone columns at the angles; it has five storeys of double bays, three arched and two terminated by triangles at their upper part. It resembles the belfry of the Jacobin convent in the same town, one storey of whose bays is represented in Fig. 322.
Fig. 318. Saint-Semin's Church at Toulouse.