One of the greatest of Byzantine arts is the goldsmith's. This absorbed so much from Persian and Oriental schools as to become semi-barbaric. Under Justinian the transformation from Classical art was almost complete. Some few examples, like a silver dish from Cyprus in the British Museum, show refined restraint; on the other hand, the mosaic portraits of the emperor and Theodora show crowns and jewels of full Oriental style, and the description of the splendid fittings of St Sophia read like an eastern tale. Goldsmith's work was executed on such a scale for the great church as to form parts of the architecture of the interior. The altar was wholly of gold, and its ciborium and the iconastasis were of silver. In the later palace-church, built by Basil the Macedonian, the previous metals were used to such an extent that it is clear, from the description, that the interior was intended to be, as far as possible, like a great jewelled shrine. Gold and silver, we are told, were spread over all the church, not only in the mosaics, but in plating and other applications.

The enclosure of the bema, with its columns and entablatures, was of silver gilt, and set with gems and pearls.

The most splendid existing example of goldsmith's work on a large scale is the Paid d'Oro of St Mark's, Venice; an assemblage of many panels on which saints and angels are enamelled. The monastic church of St Catherine, Sinai, is entered through a pair of enamelled doors, and several doors inlaid with silver still exist. In these doors the ground was of gilt-bronze; but there is also record of silver doors in the imperial palace at Constantinople. The inlaid doors of St Paul Outside the Walls at Rome were executed in Constantinople by Stauricios, in 1070, and have Greek inscriptions. There are others at Salerno (c. 1080), but the best known are those at St Mark's, Venice. In all these the imagery was delineated in silver on the gilt-bronze ground. The earliest works of this sort are still to be found in Constantinople. The panels of a door at St Sophia bear the monograms of Theophilus and Michael (840). Two other doors in the narthex of the same church, having simpler ornamentation of inlaid silver, are probably as early as the time of Justinian.

The process of enamelling dates from late classical times and Venturi supposes that it was invented in Alexandria. The cloisonné process, characteristic of Byzantine enamels, is thought by Kondakov to be derived from Persia, and to its study he has devoted a splendid volume. One of the finest examples of this cloisonné is the reliquary at Limburg on which the enthroned Christ appears between St Mary and St John in the midst of the twelve apostles. An inscription tells that it was executed for the emperors Constantine and Romanus (948-959).

A reliquary lately added to the J. Pierpont Morgan collection at South Kensington is of the greatest beauty in regard to the colour and clearness of the enamel. The cover, which is only about 4½ by 3 ins., has in the centre a crucifixion with St Mary and St John to the right and left, while around are busts of the apostles. Christ is vested in a tunic. The ground colour is the green of emerald, the rest mostly blue and white. The cloisons are of gold. Two other Byzantine enamels are in the permanent collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum: one is a cross with the crucifixion on a background of the same emerald enamel; the other is a small head of St Paul of remarkably fine workmanship.

Ivory-working was another characteristic Byzantine art, although, like so many others it had its origin in antiquity. One of the earliest ivories of the Byzantine type is the diptych at Monza, showing a princess and a boy, supposed to be Galla Placidia and Valentinian III. This already shows the broad, flattened treatment which seems to mark the ivory work of the East. The majestic archangel of the British Museum, one of the largest panels known, is probably of the 5th century, and almost certainly, as Strzygowski has shown, of Syrian origin. Design and execution are equally fine. The drawing of the body, and the modelling of the drapery, are accomplished and classical. Only the full front pose, the balanced disposition of the large wings, and the intense outlook of the face, give it the Byzantine type.

Ivory, like gold-work and enamel, was pressed into the adornment of architectural works. The ambo erected by Justinian at St Sophia was in part covered by ivory panels set into the marble. The best existing specimen of this kind of work is the celebrated ivory throne at Ravenna. This masterpiece, which resembles a large, high-backed chair, is entirely covered with sculptured ivory, delicate carvings of scriptural subjects and ornament. It is of the 6th century and bears the monogram of Bishop Maximian. It is probably of Egyptian or Syrian origin.

So many fragments of ivories have been discovered in recent explorations in Egypt that it is most likely that Alexandria, a fit centre for receiving the material, was also its centre of distribution. The weaving of patterned silks was known in Europe in the classical age, and they reached great development in the Byzantine era. A fragment, long ago figured by Semper, showing a classical design of a nereid on a sea-horse, is so like the designs found on many ivories discovered in Egypt that we may probably assign it to Alexandria. Such fabrics going back to the 3rd century have been found in Egypt which must have been one of the chief centres for the production of silk as for linen textiles. The Victoria and Albert Museum is particularly rich in early silks. One fine example, having rose-coloured stripes and repeated figures of Samson and the lion, must be of the great period of the 6th century. The description of St Sophia written at that time tells of the altar curtains that they bore woven images of Christ, St Peter and St Paul standing under tabernacles upon a crimson ground, their garments being enriched with gold embroidery.

Later the patterns became more barbaric and of great scale, lions trampled across the stuff, and in large circles were displayed eagles, griffins and the like in a fine heraldic style. From the origin of the raw material in China and India and the ease of transport, such figured stuffs gathered up and distributed patterns over both Europe and Asia. The Persian influence is marked. There is, for example, a pattern of a curious dragon having front feet and a peacock's tail. It appears on a silver Persian dish in the Hermitage Museum, it is found on the mixed Byzantine and Persian carvings of the palace of Mashita, and it occurs on several silks of which there are two varieties at the Victoria and Albert Museum, both of which are classed as Byzantine; it is difficult to say of many of these patterns whether they are Sassanian originals or Byzantine adaptations from them.


A very complete bibliography is given by H. Leclercq, Manuel d'archéologie chrétienne (Paris, 1907). The current authorities for all that concerns Byzantine history or art are: - Byzantinische Zeitschrift ... (Leipzig, 1892 seq.); Oriens Christianus (Rome, 1900 seq.). See also Dom R.P. Cabrol, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne, etc. (Paris, 1902 seq.). The best general introduction is: - C. Bayet, L'Art byzantin (Paris, 1883, new edition, 1904). See J. Strzygowski, Orient oder Rom (Leipzig, 1901) and other works; Kondakov, Les émaux byz. (1892), and other works; C. Diehl, Justinien et la civilis. byz. (Paris, 1901), and other works; G. Millet, Le Monastère de Daphne, etc. (Paris, 1899), and other works; L.G. Schlumberger, L'Epopée byz. etc. (1896 seq.); A. Michel, Histoire de l'art, vol. i. (Paris, 1905); H. Brockhaus, Die Kunst in den Athos-Klostern (Leipzig, 1891); E. Molinier, Histoire générale des arts, etc. i., Ivoires (Paris, 1896); O. Dalton, Catalogue of Early Christian Antiquities...of the British Museum (1901); A. van Millingen, Byzantine Constantinople (1899); Salzenberg, Altchristliche Baudenkmaler etc. (Berlin, 1854); A. Choisy, L'Art de bâtir chez les Byzantins (Paris, 1875); Couchand, églises byzantines en Grèce; Ongania, Basilica di S. Marco; Texier and Pullan, L'Architecture b. 73 (1864); Lethaby and Swainson, Sancta Sophia, Constantinople (1894); Schultz and Barnsley, The Monastery of St Luke, etc. (1890); L. de Beylié, L'Habitation byz. (Paris, 1903). For Syria: M. de Vogüé, L'Architecture...dans la Syrie centrale (Paris, 1866-1877); H.C. Butler, Architecture and other Arts, etc. (New York, 1904). For Egypt: W.E. Crum, Coptic Monuments (Cairo, 1902); A. Gayet, L'Art Copte (Paris, 1902); A.J. Butler, Ancient Coptic Churches. For North Africa: S. Csell, Les Monuments antiques de l'Algérie (Paris, 1901). For Italy: A. Venturi, Storia dell' arte Italiana (Milan, 1901); G. Rivoira, Le Origini della architettura Lombarda (Rome, 1901); C. Errard and A. Gayet, L'Art byzantin, etc. (Paris,1903).

(W. R. L.)

[1] For Byzantine literature see Greek Literature: Byzantine.


Sixth century, the dome was rebuilt in the tenth century. The metal balustrades, pulpits, and the large discs are Turkish.


S. Apollinari, Ravenna. S. APOLLINARI, RAVENNA.
Sixth century. S. Mark, Venice. S. MARK, VENICE.
Eleventh century. S. Vitali, Ravenna. S. VITALI, RAVENNA.
Sixth century.


Small Medieval Cathedral, Athens. SMALL MEDIEVAL CATHEDRAL, ATHENS. Photo: Emery Walker. Interior of St. Luke's, near Delphi.


Showing a typical scheme of internal decoration. The lower parts of the walls are covered with marble, and the upper surfaces and vaults with mosaics and paintings. Eleventh century. From a Drawing by Sidney Barnsley.