Byzantine Hoop-trundling Mosaic

Byzantine Hoop-trundling Mosaic

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The Second Largest Mosaic In Syria, Belonging To An Early Byzantine Church, Discovered

The remains of a large mosaic belonging to the early Byzantine period have been unearthed at the Uqayribat archaeological site, around 65 kilometers north of the Hama province in central Syria. Measuring about 450-square-meters in area, it is believed to be the second largest mosaic fragment found in the country, after the one discovered in Taybat al-Imam.

As per the Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), the mosaic was once part of a church floor dating back to circa 5th century AD. The limestone church building, parts of which exist even today, consists of three major sections: a main area in the middle flanked by two pavilions, one on each side.

Made of small pieces of colored stones, the uncovered mosaic depicts a variety of figures that seem to bear religious significance. Elaborating further, DGAM director Mahmoud Hamoud said –

The scenes show a variety of rare geometric, vegetative and animal forms with known religious connotations, including peacocks, hippos, terrestrial pigeons, sheep and deer, as well as the life-tree scenes of fertility and renewability.

Apart from the artwork, the Byzantine church mosaic also features 14 pieces of text, written in the Greek language and placed inside geographical frameworks. The texts, according to Hamoud, refer to the names of the people who funded the work.

Situated in the Salamiyah District of Syria’s Hama Governorate, Uqayribat (also spelled Uqeirbat or Uzeiribat) is considered to be the site of the Roman-era town of Occaraba. Captured by ISIS in 2014 as part of the Syrian Civil War, the town was regained by the Syrian Arab Army in September 2017.

The archaeological site at Uqayribat was uncovered three months ago by the Syrian army, with excavation works currently underway. As stated by Hamoud, the artifacts unearthed at the site are being transferred to the Hama National Museum.

Syria: Home To Some Of The World’s Oldest Mosaics

It must be noted that Syria is home to some of the world’s oldest mosaics, with some going as far back as circa 1500 BC. Although created using different materials, ranging from colored stones to glass and even shells, Syrian mosaics can largely be categorized into two types: stone mosaics and wood mosaics. Archaeological evidence points to stonework being the original tradition.

On the other hand, the more recent wooden mosaics are believed to go back some 300 years. Many of the mosaic fragments discovered over the years are now kept at Syria’s Maarrat al-Numan Museum, which incidentally is the largest mosaic museum in the Middle East. As a result of the ongoing Syrian Civil War, however, much of the country’s famous mosaics have been destroyed.

In March last year, for instance, a group of archaeologists stumbled across a 2,600-year-old palace entrance beneath a shrine that was demolished by ISIS (back in 2014). The 12th century Nabi Yunus shrine was one of the ruinous names in a deplorably long list of historical casualties brought upon by ISIS. This mosque, which served as a church earlier, was locally revered as the final resting place of prophet Jonah, known as Yunas in the Qur’an.

Quite to their surprise, while assessing the damage caused by Daesh terrorists, archaeologists discovered a previously unknown temple and (possible) palace entrance, dating back to a period some 2,600-years ago, thus corresponding to the epoch of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

The Byzantine Institute and Dumbarton Oaks fieldwork records and papers

This collection contains fieldwork records and papers produced by the staff of the Byzantine Institute and Dumbarton Oaks, as well as Thomas Whittemore and Paul Underwood, between the 1920s and 2000s. It is comprised of correspondence, minutes, financial records, logbooks, fieldwork notebooks, research notes, ground plans, maps, oversize drawings, tracings, paintings, photographs, films, newspaper clippings, and publication materials. The collection is organized by the method of creation and medium in chronological or fieldwork order. It is divided into 2 major subgroups: Administrative Records and Fieldwork Papers.

The bulk of the collection spans the decades between the 1930s and 1980s, with the largest portion of materials relating to projects conducted at Hagia Sophia and Kariye Camii in Istanbul, as well as later projects in Turkey, Cyprus, and present-day Macedonia. The arrangement of this collection illustrates the early operations and development of the Byzantine Institute through Thomas Whittemore’s death in 1950, the Institute’s dissolution in 1962, and the fieldwork operations supported by Dumbarton Oaks from the 1960s to 2000s. It also captures the administrative affairs and day-to-day fieldwork activities that centered on the conservation and restoration techniques employed by the fieldworkers.

There is an Addendum of available research materials compiled by ICFA staff.



Language of Materials

Physical Description

Conditions Governing Access

Conditions Governing Use


Additional Description

Historical Note

The Byzantine Institute (commonly known as the Byzantine Institute of America) was founded by Thomas Whittemore in 1930. On May 23, 1934, the Byzantine Institute officially became the Byzantine Institute, Inc. when it was issued a charter from the State of Massachusetts. Its mission was to conserve, restore, study, and document the Byzantine monuments, sites, architecture, and arts in the former Byzantine Empire. The first official project undertaken by the Institute was the examination and documentation of wall paintings at the Red Sea Monasteries in Egypt, which occurred between 1929 and 1931. By capturing select Byzantine iconography from the walls of St. Anthony and St. Paul, Vladimir Netchetailov produced oversize watercolor paintings of saints (Saints George, Mercurius, and Theodore Strateletes) and religious scenes (The Resurrection and Deësis).

In June 1931, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first President of the Republic of Turkey, permitted Whittemore and the Byzantine Institute to uncover and restore the original mosaics in Hagia Sophia, which had been covered in Islamic motifs when the church was converted into a mosque in 1453 by the Ottoman Turks. With approval from the Turkish government, the Institute began the conservation and restoration campaign in December 1931. While fieldwork primarily focused on sites within Istanbul, such as Hagia Sophia and Kariye Camii, conservation efforts were also expanded to Cyprus and present-day Macedonia.

In June 1950, Thomas Whittemore, founder of the Byzantine Institute, died while en route to the State Department office of John Foster Dulles. Subsequently, Paul Atkins Underwood was appointed as the Fieldwork Director of the Byzantine Institute, a position he held until his death on September 22, 1968. While this marked a transition period for the Institute, Underwood assumed the oversight of repair and restoration in Hagia Sophia and Kariye Camii. These endeavors resulted in the uncovering of the 7th century pavement in the Church of the Pantocrator (Molla Zeyrek Camii), the restoration of mosaics in Fethiye Camii (Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos), and finally the repair work in Fenari Isa (Lips Monastery). The projects also led to several publications, such as The mosaics of Hagia Sophia at Istanbul, the portrait of the Emperor Alexander: a report on the work done by the Byzantine Institute in 1959 and 1960 by Paul A. Underwood and Ernest J. W. Hawkins. Because of insufficient funding, the Byzantine Institute officially terminated its administrative and fieldwork operations in 1962 and transferred its assets to Dumbarton Oaks. In January of 1963, Dumbarton Oaks and the trustees of Harvard University assumed all fieldwork activities formerly initiated by the Institute. Dumbarton Oaks directed and sponsored new fieldwork projects in Turkey (Church of St. Polyeuktos), Cyprus (Church of the Panagia Amasgou at Monagri), Syria (Dibsi Faraj), and present-day Macedonia (Bargala).


Other Finding Aids

Custodial History

The fieldwork records and papers of the Byzantine Institute were transferred to Dumbarton Oaks in two shipments in the 1950s and were initially stored in various locations, such as Paul Underwood’s office, Dumbarton Oaks Archives, and the Research Library. From the Byzantine Institute Library in Paris, the first shipment in May 1952 included archaeological papers, notebooks, photographs, negatives, diagrams, and drawings. In January 1957, the second shipment contained oversize plans and drawings from the Red Sea Monasteries, cramp charts from Hagia Sophia, films, negatives, Coptic textiles, and specimens of mosaic cubes. In December 1995, it was discovered that 14 fieldwork notebooks were stored at the American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT-Istanbul). The transfer of the notebooks from ARIT to ICFA was finally approved in January 1997 by the Board of Directors and Anthony Greenwood, Director of ARIT-Istanbul.

In the mid-1990s, Professor Bentley Layton, Goff Professor of Religious Studies (Ancient Christianity) and Professor of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations (Coptic) at Yale University, returned the water-color copies of Egypt’s St. Anthony Monastery, which he had requested in order to conduct a photographic survey of Coptic paintings in churches with Fr. Leroy and Professor Paul van Moorsel in Egypt.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Between 1993 and 2012, ICFA received the rest of the Byzantine Institute and Dumbarton Oaks fieldwork files from the Dumbarton Oaks Archives and Research Library. Items were arranged in folders by the name of the individual, institution, or project in alphabetical order at the time of receipt. Overall, because there is little documentation, it is difficult to determine the collection’s overall acquisition history.

ICFA received additional Kariye Camii materials from Robert Ousterhout in September 2012. Materials include oversize drawings, architectural building plans, notes, and reports.

Existence and Location of Copies

  1. Red Sea Monasteries, Egypt (photographs) - See the online exhibit entitled "Before Byzantiium: The Early Archaeological Activities of Thomas Whittemore (1871-1931),"
  2. Red Sea Monasteries, Egypt (motion picture film) - and the online exhibit entitled "A Truthful Record: The Byzantine Institute Films,"
  3. Conservation of Mosaics at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (photographs) -
  4. Conservation work at Hagia Sophia and Kariye Camii, Istanbul (motion picture films) - and the online exhibit entitled "A Truthful Record: The Byzantine Institute Films,"

Releated units of description at Dumbarton Oaks

  1. Dumbarton Oaks Archives.
  2. Dumbarton Oaks Museum.
  3. Early Archaeological Projects Associated with Thomas Whittemore, 1910s-1930s, MS.BZ.017. Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives.
  4. Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (i.e., Black and White Photograph Collection, Site Books, Leica Binders, and Curator's Office Files).
  5. Paul Atkins Underwood Research Papers, ca. 1936-1950, MS.BZ.019. Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives.
  6. Thomas Whittemore Papers, ca. 1875-1966, MS.BZ.013. Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives.
  1. Archives Th. Whittemore. Musée du Louvre, département des antiquités égyptiennes, section copte. Paris, France.
  2. Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European Culture. Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries. New York, NY.
  3. Bernard and Mary Berenson Papers (1880-2002). Biblioteca Berenson, Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Renaissance Studies. Florence, Italy.


  • Aleksova, Blaga, and Cyril Mango. “Bargala: A Preliminary Report.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 25 (1971): 265-281. doi:10.2307/1291311.
  • Belting, Hans, Cyril A. Mango, and Doula Mouriki. The Mosaics and Frescoes of St. Mary Pammakaristos (Fethiye Camii) at Istanbul. Dumbarton Oaks Studies 15. [Washington] : Locust Valley, N.Y: Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies, 1978.
  • Boyd, Susan, Richard Anderson, Victoria Jenssen, Lawrence Majewski, and Arthur Seltman. “The Church of the Panagia Amasgou, Monagri, Cyprus, and Its Wall paintings.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 28 (1974): 277-349. doi:10.2307/1291361.
  • Byzantine Institute of America. The Mosaics of Haghia Sophia at Istanbul Third Preliminary Report, Work Done in 1935-1938 the Imperial Portraits of the South Gallery. Boston, MA: Printed by J. Johnson at the Oxford University Press, 1942.
  • Byzantine Institute of America. Bulletin. Vol. 1. Boston, MA: Byzantine Institute, 1946.
  • Byzantine Institute of America. Coptic Studies in Honor of Walter Ewing Crum. Bulletin. Vol. 2. Boston, MA: Byzantine Institute, 1950.
  • Byzantine Institute of America. Mosaics of Hagia Sophia at Istanbul. Boston, MA: Byzantine Institute, 1950.
  • Byzantine Institute of America, and (Turkey) Istanbul. The Archaeological Park in Istanbul Memorandum. Boston, MA, 1948.
  • Carr, Annemarie Weyl. “Dumbarton Oaks and the Legacy of Byzantine Cyprus.” Near Eastern Archaeology 71, no. 1/2 (2008): 95-103. doi:10.2307/20361353.
  • Carr, Annemarie Weyl, and Andreas Nicolaïdès, eds. Asinou Across Time: Studies in the Architecture and Murals of the Panagia Phorbiotissa, Cyprus. Dumbarton Oaks Studies 43. Washington, D.C. and Cambridge, MA: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2012.
  • Constable, Giles. “Dumbarton Oaks and Byzantine Field Work.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 37 (1983): 171-176. doi:10.2307/1291485.
  • Cormack, Robin, and Ernest J. W. Hawkins. “The Mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul: The Rooms Above the Southwest Vestibule and Ramp.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 31 (1977): 175-251. doi:10.2307/1291407.
  • Galatariotou, Catia. The Making of a Saint: The Life, Times, and Sanctification of Neophytos the Recluse. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  • Harper, Richard P., and Tony J. Wilkinson. “Excavations at Dibsi Faraj, Northern Syria, 1972-1974: A Preliminary Note on the Site and Its Monuments with an Appendix.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 29 (1975): 319-338. doi:10.2307/1291379.
  • Harrison, R. Martin. “A Constantinopolitan Capital in Barcelona.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 27 (1973): 297-300. doi:10.2307/1291345.
  • Harrison, R. Martin. Excavations at Saraçhane in Istanbul. 2 vols. Princeton, NJ and Washington, D.C.: Princeton University Press and Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1986.
  • Harrison, R. Martin, and Nezih Firatli. “Excavations at Saraçhane in Istanbul: First Preliminary Report.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 19 (1965): 231-236. doi:10.2307/1291232.
  • Harrison, R. Martin, and Nezih Firatli. “Excavations at Saraçhane in Istanbul: Second and Third Preliminary Reports.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 20 (1966): 223-238. doi:10.2307/1291247.
  • Harrison, R. Martin, and Nezih Firatli. “Excavations at Saraçhane in Istanbul: Fourth Preliminary Report.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 21 (1967): 273-278. doi:10.2307/1291267.
  • Harrison, R. Martin, Nezih Firatli, and John W. Hayes. “Excavations at Saraçhane in Istanbul: Fifth Preliminary Report, with a Contribution on A Seventh-Century Pottery Group.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 22 (1968): 195-216. doi:10.2307/1291282.
  • Hawkins, Ernest J. W. “Further Observations on the Narthex Mosaic in St. Sophia at Istanbul.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 22 (1968): 151-166. doi:10.2307/1291278.
  • Hayes, John W. Excavations at Saraçhane in Istanbul. 2 vols. Princeton, NJ and Washington, D.C.: Princeton University Press and Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1992.
  • Hjort, Øystein. “The Sculpture of Kariye Camii.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 33 (1979): 199-289. doi:10.2307/1291438.
  • Kitzinger, Ernst. “Paul Atkins Underwood: (1902-1968).” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 23/24 (1969): 1-6. doi:10.2307/1291287.
  • Labrusse, Rémi, and Nadia Podzemskaia. “Naissance d’une vocation: aux sources de la carrière byzantine de Thomas Whittemore.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 54 (2000): 43-69. doi:10.2307/1291832.
  • MacDonald, William L. “The Uncovering of Byzantine Mosaics in Hagia Sophia.” Archaeology 4, no. 2 (1951): 89-93.
  • Macridy, Theodore. “The Monastery of Lips and the Burials of the Palaeologi.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 18 (1964): 253-277. doi:10.2307/1291214.
  • Mainstone, Rowland J. “The Reconstruction of the Tympana of St. Sophia at Istanbul.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 23/24 (1969): 353-368. doi:10.2307/1291296.
  • Mango, Cyril. “The Monastery of St. Abercius at Kurşunlu (Elegmi) in Bithynia.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 22 (1968): 169-176. doi:10.2307/1291279.
  • Mango, Cyril, and Ernest J. W. Hawkins. “Additional Notes.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 18 (1964): 299-315. doi:10.2307/1291216.
  • Mango, Cyril, and Ernest J. W. Hawkins. “Report on Field Work in Istanbul and Cyprus, 1962-1963.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 18 (1964): 319-340. doi:10.2307/1291217.
  • Mango, Cyril, and Ernest J. W. Hawkins. “The Apse Mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul. Report on Work Carried Out in 1964.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 19 (1965): 113-151. doi:10.2307/1291228.
  • Mango, Cyril, and Ernest J. W. Hawkins. “The Hermitage of St. Neophytos and its Wall Paintings.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 20 (1966): 119-206. doi:10.2307/1291245.
  • Mango, Cyril, and Ernest J. W. Hawkins. “Additional Finds at Fenari Isa Camii, Istanbul.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 22 (1968): 177-184. doi:10.2307/1291280.
  • Mango, Cyril, and Ernest J. W. Hawkins. “The Mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul. The Church Fathers in the North Tympanum.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 26 (1972): 1-41. doi:10.2307/1291315.
  • Mango, Cyril, Ernest J. W. Hawkins, and Susan Boyd. “The Monastery of St. Chrysostomos at Koutsovendis (Cyprus) and its Wall Paintings. Part I: Description.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 44 (1990): 63-94. doi:10.2307/1291618.
  • Mango, Cyril, and Ihor Ševčenko. “Remains of the Church of St. Polyeuktos at Constantinople.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 15 (1961): 243-247. doi:10.2307/1291183.
  • Mango, Cyril, and Ihor Ševčenko. “Some Churches and Monasteries on the Southern Shore of the Sea of Marmara.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 27 (1973): 235-277. doi:10.2307/1291343.
  • Megaw, Arthur H. S. “Byzantine Architecture and Decoration in Cyprus: Metropolitan or Provincial?” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 28 (1974): 57-88. doi:10.2307/1291355.
  • Megaw, Arthur H. S. “Notes on Recent Work of the Byzantine Institute in Istanbul.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 17 (1963): 333-371. doi:10.2307/1291197.
  • Megaw, Arthur H. S. “The Original Form of the Theotokos Church of Constantine Lips.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 18 (1964): 279-298. doi:10.2307/1291215.
  • Megaw, Arthur H. S. “Supplementary Excavations on a Castle Site at Paphos, Cyprus, 1970-1971.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 26 (1972): 323-343. doi:10.2307/1291325.
  • Megaw, Arthur H. S. Kourion: Excavations in the Episcopal Precinct. Dumbarton Oaks Studies 38. Washington, D.C. and Cambridge, MA: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Distributed by Harvard University Press, 2007.
  • Megaw, A. H. S., and Ernest J. W. Hawkins. “The Church of the Holy Apostles at Perachorio, Cyprus, and its Frescoes.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 16 (1962): 277-348. doi:10.2307/1291165.
  • Megaw, A. H. S., and Ernest J. W. Hawkins. The Church of the Panagia Kanakariá at Lythrankomi in Cyprus: Its Mosaics and Frescoes. Dumbarton Oaks Studies 14. Washington, D.C. and Locust Valley, NY: Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies, Trustees for Harvard University, 1977.
  • Oates, David. “A Summary Report on the Excavations of the Byzantine Institute in the Kariye Camii: 1957 and 1958.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 14 (1960): 223-231. doi:10.2307/1291151.
  • Oikonomides, Nicolas. “Leo VI and the Narthex Mosaic of Saint Sophia.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 30 (1976): 151-172. doi:10.2307/1291393.
  • Oikonomides, Nicolas. “Some Remarks on the Apse Mosaic of St. Sophia.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 39 (1985): 111-115. doi:10.2307/1291518.
  • Ousterhout, Robert G. The Architecture of the Kariye Camii in Istanbul. Dumbarton Oaks Studies 25. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1987.
  • Papacostas, Tassos, Cyril Mango, and Michael Grünbart. “The History and Architecture of the Monastery of Saint John Chrysostomos at Koutsovendis, Cyprus.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 61 (2007): 25-156. doi:10.2307/25472047.
  • Rosser, John. “Excavations at Saranda Kolones, Paphos, Cyprus, 1981-1983.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 39 (1985): 81-97. doi:10.2307/1291516.
  • Sheppard, Carl D. “A Radiocarbon Date for the Wooden Tie Beams in the West Gallery of St. Sophia, Istanbul.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 19 (1965): 237-240. doi:10.2307/1291233.
  • Striker, Cecil L., and Doğan Kuban. “Work at Kalenderhane Camii in Istanbul: First Preliminary Report.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 21 (1967): 267-271. doi:10.2307/1291266.
  • Striker, Cecil L., and Doğan Kuban. “Work at Kalenderhane Camii in Istanbul: Second Preliminary Report.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 22 (1968): 185-193. doi:10.2307/1291281.
  • Striker, Cecil L., and Doğan Kuban. “Work at Kalenderhane Camii in Istanbul: Third and Fourth Preliminary Reports.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 25 (1971): 251-258. doi:10.2307/1291309.
  • Striker, Cecil L., and Doğan Kuban. “Work at Kalenderhane Camii in Istanbul: Fifth Preliminary Report (1970-74).” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 29 (1975): 307-318. doi:10.2307/1291378.
  • Striker, Cecil L., Doğan Kuban, Albrecht Berger, and J. Lawrence Angel. Kalenderhane in Istanbul: Final Reports on the Archaeological Exploration and Restoration at Kalenderhane Camii 1966-1978. Mainz: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1997.
  • Teteriatnikov, Natalia B. Mosaics of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul: The Fossati Restoration and the Work of the Byzantine Institute. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1998.
  • Underwood, Paul Atkins. “First Preliminary Report on the Restoration of the Frescoes in the Kariye Camii at Istanbul by the Byzantine Institute 1952-1954.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 9/10 (1956): 253-288. doi:10.2307/1291098.
  • Underwood, Paul Atkins. “Notes on the Work of the Byzantine Institute in Istanbul: 1954.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 9/10 (1956): 291-300. doi:10.2307/1291099.
  • Underwood, Paul Atkins. “Second Preliminary Report on the Restoration of the Frescoes in the Kariye Camii at Istanbul by the Byzantine Institute 1955.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 11 (1957): 173-220. doi:10.2307/1291107.
  • Underwood, Paul Atkins. “Third Preliminary Report on the Restoration of the Frescoes in the Kariye Camii at Istanbul by the Byzantine Institute, 1956.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 12 (1958): 235-265. doi:10.2307/1291122.
  • Underwood, Paul Atkins. “Notes on the Work of the Byzantine Institute in Istanbul: 1955-1956.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 12 (1958): 269-287. doi:10.2307/1291123.
  • Underwood, Paul Atkins. “Fourth Preliminary Report on the Restoration of the Frescoes in the Kariye Camii at Istanbul by the Byzantine Institute, 1957-1958.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 13 (1959): 185-212. doi:10.2307/1291133.
  • Underwood, Paul Atkins. “Notes on the Work of the Byzantine Institute in Istanbul: 1957.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 13 (1959): 215-228. doi:10.2307/1291134.
  • Underwood, Paul Atkins. The Kariye Djami. Vols. 1-4. Bollingen Series 70. New York: Bollingen Foundation, 1966.
  • Underwood, Paul A., and Ernest J. W. Hawkins. “The Mosaics of Hagia Sophia at Istanbul: The Portrait of the Emperor Alexander: A Report on Work Done by the Byzantine Institute in 1959 and 1960.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 15 (1961): 187-217. doi:10.2307/1291180.
  • Underwood, Paul A., and Lawrence J. Majewski. “Notes on the Work of the Byzantine Institute in Istanbul: 1957-1959 The Conservation of a Byzantine Fresco Discovered at Etyemez, Istanbul.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 14 (1960): 205-222. doi:10.2307/1291150.
  • Wellesz, Egon, and Institute of America Byzantine. Eastern Elements in Western Chant: Studies in the Early History of Ecclesiastical Music. Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae. Subsidia, v. 2, American Series no. 1. Oxford: Printed at The University Press, Oxford, for the Byzantine Institute, 1947.
  • Whittemore, Thomas. The Mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul: Preliminary Report on the First-fourth Year’s Work, 1931/1932-1934/38. Paris: Printed at the Oxford University Press for the Byzantine Institute, 1933.
  • Whittemore, Thomas. The Mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul. Second Preliminary Report. Work Done in 1933 and 1934. The Mosaics of the Southern Vestibule. Paris: Oxford University Press for the Byzantine Institute, 1936.
  • Winfield, David C. “Reports on Work at Monagri, Lagoudera, and Hagios Neophytos, Cyprus, 1969/1970.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 25 (1971): 259-264. doi:10.2307/1291310.
  • Winfield, David C. Byzantine Mosaic Work: Notes on History, Technique & Colour. Lefkosia, Cyprus: Moufflon Publications, 2005.
  • Winfield, David C., and Ernest J. W. Hawkins. “The Church of Our Lady at Asinou, Cyprus. A Report on the Seasons of 1965 and 1966.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 21 (1967): 261-266. doi:10.2307/1291265.
  • Winfield, David C., and June Winfield. The Church of the Panaghia Tou Arakos at Lagoudhera,Cyprus: The Paintings and Their Painterly Significance. Dumbarton Oaks Studies 37. Washington, D.C: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2003.

Addendum: Accumulated Research Materials by ICFA Staff

  1. Folder 1: Document/item removal forms and archives transfer forms
  2. Folder 2: Finding aid (black book) by Jeff Schlossberg, ca. 1982 (Folder 1 of 4)
  3. Folder 3: Copy of the finding aid (red binder) by Jeff Schlossberg, ca. 1982 (Folder 2 of 4) - Folder 4: Copy of finding aid by Jeff Schlossberg, ca. 1982 (Folder 3 of 4)
  4. Folder 5: Copy of finding aid by Jeff Schlossberg, ca. 1982 (Folder 4 of 4)
  5. Folder 6: Draft of finding aid by Jeff Schlossberg, ca. 1982
  6. Folder 7: Copies of inventories, 1950s - Photocopies of inventory lists and correspondence regarding the transfer of materials from the Byzantine Institute Library in Paris to Dumbarton Oaks
  1. Folder 8: Thomas Whittemore and the Byzantine Institute, historical and literary sources - Contains copies of articles or excerpts that pertain to Thomas Whittemore, from the Dumbarton Oaks Papers, the Harvard Crimson, and other sources. Also includes copies of: “Convoy to West Africa” by Graham Greene, “Remote People” by Evelyn Waugh, “The Elusive Mr. Whittemore, the Early Years,” by Holger Klein, and others. Also contains photocopies of correspondence relating to Whittemore from the Robert Van Nice collection, also in ICFA.
  2. Folder 9: Notes produced by Natalia Teteriatnikov - Contains photographs of Thomas Whittemore, correspondence with William MacDonald and others, internal memos, and various notes about the collection including its conservation. Teteriatnikov was the former curator of the Byzantine Photograph and Fieldwork Archive from 1986 to 2007.
  3. Folder 10: “Inventory of Samples taken from Hagia Sophia by the Byzantine Institute”
  4. Folder 11: Copies of articles related to Alexandre Piankoff - Contains “Deux peintures de Saints Militaires au Monastère de Saint Antoine,” Les Cahiers Coptes 10 (1956): 17-25.
  5. Folder 12: Materials related to the Byzantine Institute from the Dumbarton Oaks Archives - Contains meeting summaries and correspondence, [ca. 1945-1962]
  6. Folder 13: Butler, Lawrence, “REPORT TO THE DIRECTOR: On holdings at Dumbarton Oaks of material pertaining to the church of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul” - Contains a report submitted by Lawrence Butler to Robert W. Thompson in February 1985
  7. Folder 14: Correspondence from the Papers of Robert Woods Bliss and Mildred Barnes Bliss, ca. 1860-1969, Harvard University Archives - Contains copies of correspondence between Thomas Whittemore and Robert and Mildred Bliss from 1937 to 1941

Processing Information

Inventory, collection arrangement, and processing were initially undertaken by Jeff Schlosberg, ICFA Intern, between 1981 and 1982. The collection was organized in chronological order and then by site. Between 1990s and 2000s, the collection was re-organized and re-processed by former staff members and interns of ICFA, including Natalia Teteriatnikov, Gerrianne Schaad, and Rebecca Bruner. The collection was re-ordered by the author’s last name and then by location.

In the Summer of 2010, Rona Razon, Archivist, Anna McWilliams, and Sharon Ke (former ICFA interns) completed digitization of the Kariye Camii black and white photographs to provide better access to the images. They have been cataloged in ICFA’s legacy cataloging software called OLIVIA.

In September 2010, Rona Razon, Archivist, and Laurian Douthett, Archivist Assistant, evaluated the existing finding aid and collection arrangement. The ICFA staff decided to re-organize the collection, once again, in chronological order and then by site based on Schlosberg’s inventory and original transfer lists from the Byzantine Institute. The ICFA staff believe that the collection should be organized chronologically or by the order of fieldwork projects in order to bring back the items to its original arrangement and to fully highlight the organizations’ administrative and fieldwork history.

Collection assessment, arrangement, inventory, and a draft finding aid were completed in September 2012 by Razon and Douthett. Archival processing was completed by Elizabeth Bayley, Archivist Assistant, in February 2013. The finding aid was edited by Rona Razon, Shalimar White, Manager of ICFA, Günder Varinlioğlu, former Byzantine Assistant Curator, and Fani Gargova, Byzantine Research Associate, and was finalized in April 2013.

In February 2014, Gargova, and Megan Cook, ICFA Research Associate, completed digitization of the Red Sea Monasteries photographs from the Site Books nos. 18-20 to provide better access to the images.

Mosaics At Ravenna – At the Beginnings of Christian Art

In the Old Testament, the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed his message to Judah and Jerusalem between c742 – 701 BCE, before the Christ event.

His words, not only foretold many of the events of the life of Jesus the Christ, but also provided a vision of the assured hope about what those words would mean to a vast majority of people.

Christianity, Judaism and Islam all share one thing in common, a monotheistic faith in other words, a belief in one supreme God of all.

‘Arise, shine: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee…and the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising…all they from Seba and Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense and they shall shew forth praises of the Lord’.

Christianity arose out of a collective experience of Jesus the Christ as God by a great many people who met or listened to him and heard his words first hand.

It is an experience that has been enriched and enlarged over a very long time.

The faith of Judaism was expressed in the teachings and writings of the prophets of the Old Testament. They ultimately found fulfillment in those of the New Testament.

Christians, unlike their Jewish colleagues who did not convert to the new religion, believed they had ‘witnessed’ the fulfillment of a prophecy written in the Old Testament that God would become flesh and dwell among us.

The stunning mosaic image of Christ Pantocrator (Almighty, All Powerful) in the Byzantine Church of St. Saviour in Chora (now a mosque) in Istanbul presents Jesus as the saviour of mankind.

He is the bringer of a new law, one he holds firmly in his left hand, with his right hand raised in a gesture of blessing.

Jesus the Christ proclaimed, by his actions, that God’s love and forgiveness was available to everyone and unconditional. This great revelation gave intense impetus to the founding of the early church and the style of art produced.

Creating images from small pebbles to ornament the floors of buildings was a technique developed in ancient Greece, which the Romans turned into a technical tour-de-force at Ravenna.

They used glass and other semi-precious and precious materials, including gold glass to create sensational special effects.

The message they gave was that Jesus lived and was subject to our human frailty, which was reflected in his humanity while at the same time embodying his divinity.

The City of Ravenna in Italy, in a number of its most notable buildings, conserves the most intact set of Roman mosaics preserved from the days of the Roman Empire.

They are there because the western Roman Emperor Honorious (385-423) moved there from Milan when he heard the Visigoths were descending on Italy in 402 to conquer all its lands.

It remained there until 476 when the overthrow of the last western Roman emperor.

Ravenna was strategically located, protected by a ring of marshes and strong fortifications and its mosaics were at the beginnings of Christian art.

The scriptures had said of Jesus ‘that in him the fullness of humanity and divinity was pleased to dwell’. His complete obedience to the divine put him on a direct collision course with the authorities of his day and ultimately led to his execution by crucifixion on the hill at Calvary, the cities garbage tip.

On the walls and ceilings of the Catacomb of Priscilla at Rome, where the early followers of the way gathered to retell his stories and talk about the miracles he had performed there are many painted images.

A faded image above an arch of the ‘Adoration of the Magi’, the three ‘wise’ men, who came to witness the birth of the promised ‘Son of God’, is symbolic of how important was this message of love and hope, representing the community of the faithful coming before the throne of God.

The gifts they brought were the key to their identity in the ancient texts….‘The Kings of Tarshish and of the Isles shall bring presents the Kings of Arabia and Saba shall bring gifts’.

When the Roman Emperor Constantine embraced Christianity and located his new capital in the East at Byzantium he determined to make it another Rome, although far more magnificent if possible, than the old one.

Under his direction Constantinople became unquestionably the leading centre of a culture that while it paralleled the Middle Ages in Europe in the East it provided ‘a golden bridge joining East and the West’ and this refers to art, no less than to any other sphere of activity.

Constantine and his successors saw Christianity as vital to the unity of the Empire and their determination to dominate the Church set them eventually on a collision course with the Popes who were now the spiritual leaders of the Church at Rome.

However, we digress, Constantine had works of ancient art transferred to his new city.

He introduced Christian emblems such as crosses and relics and, it was during his reign that the Virgin Mary became official protector of his city, which became an enormous repository for Christian art works.

An image of Gregory the Great (590-604) at his writing desk depicts him as an inspired teacher and guide – the bird whispering in his ear represents the holy spirit while a bevy of scribes copy his words.

During the three centuries between the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ and the official recognition of the church by the Roman Emperor Constantine, Christianity acquired the main elements that still characterise it today.

Vines heavy with bunches of grapes were a symbol of the former Greek God of Wine Dionysus and they writhe and intertwine through early Christian imagery in every medium, including mosaics.

Jesus had said of himself, ‘I am the true vine‘. So if he was the vine then the faithful were the branches and the vine becomes an image that represents, or is symbolic of the Church.

The early church was blessed with many brilliant minds with a genius for organization, including St. Paul, who was perhaps the greatest organizer of all.

Men of power and influence’ they could not only inspire and motivate their communities, but also were able to put in place a mechanism of administrative skills that would ensure the traditions they established would continue for two thousand years, an impressive result by anyone’s definition.

They also established an iconography so that Christians were able to express their faith in visual terms, drawing at first for that purpose upon imagery already available to them from the pagan society and culture they had lived most of their lives within.

This was important, because the major proportion of the population was illiterate, which was another barrier to spreading the words stories of Jesus, and the gospels written by his apostles.

A mosaic in the Church of SS Cosmas and Damian at Rome dates from the mid sixth century.

It depicts the Lamb of God raised in the centre on a small mound from, which issue the four rivers of Paradise.

Many were able to ‘read the pictures’ and receive the message because they knew the stories so well because they had been passed on in an established oral tradition.

What does Justinian's Mosaic in San Vitale depict?

This mosaic thus establishes the central position of the Emperor between the power of the church and the power of the imperial administration and military. Like the Roman Emperors of the past, Justinian has religious, administrative, and military authority.

Similarly, what is the major theme of the mosaic Emperor Justinian and his attendants? A major theme of this mosaic program is the authority of the emperor in the Christian plan of history.

Also to know is, who was the empress portrayed in a mosaic at San Vitale?

What is the political significance of the Justinian mosaics of Ravenna?

Explanation: Created in the sanctuary of the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna Italy, this mosaic depicts the Emperor Justinian I as the central authority between the church and the military-bureaucracy of the empire. The halo around the emperor's head reinforces the concept of his divine authority.

Byzantine Hoop-trundling Mosaic - History

The Peoples of Sicily: A Multi­cultural Legacy . Full of Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Germans and Jews, the most signif­icant general history of Sicily ever pub­lished is about much more than an island in the sun. Can the eclectic medieval experience of the world's most conquered island be a lesson for our times? Find out as you meet the peoples! (368 pages on acid-free paper, ebook available) Read more.

Women of Sicily: Saints, Queens & Rebels . Meet a time­less sister­hood of pious Roman maidens, stead­fast Sicilian queens, and a Jewish mother who faced the horrors of the Inquisi­tion. Find an island's feminine soul in the first book about Sicily's historical women written in English by a Sicilian woman in Sicily. (224 pages on acid-free paper, ebook available) Read more.

Some Terms
A.D. - Anno Domini. After the traditional birth of Jesus Christ. Also C.E. for "common" era.
B.C. - Before the traditional birth of Jesus Christ. Also B.C.E., before the "common" era.
Barbarians - Roman term for most foreigners.
Byzantine - Pertaining to Byzantium or its culture. Relating to medieval successor of the Eastern Roman Empire until 15th century.
Byzantium - Constantinople (see below).
Christianity - Religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ (c. 4 BC- c. AD 28) as Son of God (and Messiah), revealed particularly through the Bible, including the New Testament.
Constantinople - Later name for Byzantium, city founded by Greeks on the Bosporus strait.
Dark Ages - "Early Middle Ages" from circa AD 476 until circa 700.
Goths - Germanic tribe of central and eastern Europe, divided into Ostrogoths and Visigoths.
Islam - Religion founded by Muhammad (570-632) in Arabia as Prophet of Allah (God), whose message is revealed in the Koran. Islam is Arabic for "surrender" or "submission."
Jews - People whose religion is rooted in Judaism (see below). Often, those whose ethnic origins are Hebrew and Jewish.
Judaism - Monotheistic religion of the Hebrews, based on the Biblical Old Testament and Talmud. From "Judea," a kingdom and later a Roman province.
Latin - Language of Rome, also Italic culture of Rome, the Western Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church.
Longobards - Tribe of Baltic origin that settled in northern Italy (Lombardy).
Middle Ages - Period dated from fall of Rome (AD 476) to Goths until fall of Constantinople to Turks (1453), or from 500 to 1500.
Moors - Also Saracens. Arab peoples, usually Muslim, who conquered medieval Sicily, Spain and northwestern Africa.
Normans - People of Frankish and Nordic (Viking) origin in Normandy who conquered parts of Italy and Britain in 11th century.
Orthodoxy - Relating to the original Christian Church and its traditional teachings, as opposed to the Roman Catholic Church.
Roman Catholic - Church of Rome, particularly following the Schism of 1054.
Romans - Citizens of the extended Roman Empire.
Vandals - Migratory Germanic tribe originally from Scandinavia.

Born of the society of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire lasted throughout the Middle Ages - its traditions and culture at once Greek and Latin. During Europe's "Dark Ages" (the earliest medieval period from circa AD 476 until around 700), Constantinople (the former Byzantium) shone like a beacon in an era of shadow. The Byzantine Empire preserved older Roman traditions while creating new "Byzantine Greek" ones. It emerged to become the most important and influential Christianized region of the Early Middle Ages. Unlike the Roman Empire, converted to Christianity in its final centuries but founded upon vague pagan philosophies, the medieval Byzantine state was essentially Christian from its very beginning, though religious tolerance (for Jews, pagans and eventually Muslims) usually existed there. It was the Roman Emperor Constantine "the Great," a charismatic leader of eastern origins, who made Christianity acceptable in Roman law early in the fourth century. In most ways, this was a form of worship very similar to what is still preserved in the Orthodox Churches, the Roman Catholic Church having altered much of its theology and liturgy since the eleventh century (more about this later). The defining Byzantine artistic movements were Christian ones.

It has often been said that the Byzantines were Greek, but they were much more. Ethnically, the earliest Byzantines were, in fact, essentially Greek, with Roman, Balkan, Armenian, Slavic and western Asian strains. They called themselves "Romans" and spoke Greek, though Latin was also spoken in some quarters. Linguistically and culturally, their society was not very different from that of the Sicilians in the sixth century. As time went on, Byzantine society encompassed various eastern Mediterranean cultures to a large extent. Throughout most of its history, the Byzantine Empire was a monarchy --though not always a strictly hereditary or absolute one-- having legislative bodies and other democratic institutions considered exceptional in the Early Middle Ages. Over the centuries, Byzantine society and culture greatly influenced eastern Europe, and particularly the Kievan state which became Russia, as well as the cultures of the Caucasus to the east of the Black Sea, facilitating the introduction of Christianity in these regions.

In AD 324, when Constantine I (the Great) became emperor of the Roman Empire, Byzantium was little more than a Greek town (founded before 500 BC) on the Bosporus strait. In 330, he made it the capital of the Empire, which was now essentially Christian. Byzantium was eventually renamed Constantinople and is now Istanbul in Turkey. Constantine sponsored the Council of Nicea (a town in Turkey) in 325. With participation of hundreds of bishops from across the Empire, it codified much of the theological and canonical substance of the early Christian Church still followed by Orthodox and Catholics today.

Straddling Europe and Asia, Byzantium was destined to play a key role in early-medieval history. In 395, when the Empire was divided into east and west, this growing city became capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and resisted the raids of "Barbarians" (Germanic tribes and Huns) which destroyed the Empire in the West (Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, Britain, Spain, Morocco, etc.), leaving Rome to fall to the Goths in 476.

The Byzantine Empire was geographically its largest under Justinian I (ruled 527-565), who extended it to include Sicily and Peninsular Italy, seizing power from the Ostrogoths. Following a brief period of rule by the Vandals and Ostrogoths, Sicily, which --at least nominally-- was previously part of the Western Empire, was conquered (actually liberated) by the Byzantine general Belisarius in 535 as part of a Gothic-Byzantine war. Carthage, which was controlled by Vandals, had been conquered by the Byzantines a year earlier.

Italian society immediately prior the Byzantine conquest had actually flourished under the Ostrogoth leaders Odoacer and Theodoric, who governed a quasi-Roman state there and in Sicily, but the Byzantines brought these regions under their administration and controlled parts of it well into the twelfth century. In addition to their defense of Christianity, the Byzantines preserved ancient Greek and Roman thought and traditions. Justinian's legal code (sometimes called the "Code of Justinian") is the basis for many legal systems still used today, but in his own time Justinian himself was viewed as an extremist whose defense of Christianity led to intolerance. This policy, though exceptional in the Byzantine Empire in successive years, resulted in the persecution of heretics, pagans and Jews.

Byzantine art was a major influence in Sicily and elsewhere. Often, as in Christian iconography, it was more representational than realistic. Geometric motifs were common, and the use of mosaic was highly developed. Churches and palaces were usually built in the Romanesque style, sometimes with cupolas (domes). The crafts such as jewelry making and silk weaving flourished. Works of literature and history were widely appreciated.

Not all Sicilians were Christians. Sicily had numerous Jewish communities, even in certain small and remote towns. In Sicily, the Jews dominated certain fields, particularly some of the textile trades. Though (largely by choice) they lived in certain districts, the Jews were not very different, socially speaking, from the Orthodox Christians of Sicily. The serious persecution of Sicilian Jews was essentially a late medieval development in Sicily, encouraged from Papal and Spanish circles. As their urbanized population was small and productive, they attracted little negative attention from the Byzantines, Arabs and Normans.

In Sicily, the few centuries of Byzantine rule were peaceful and prosperous, though taxation was high. The Byzantine cultural influence lasted well into the Arab and Norman eras. Under the Byzantines, as under the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Greek language was still widely spoken in Sicily. This was an evolving medieval Greek, not that of the ancients. Vulgar Latin was also spoken, though it was far less prevalent than Greek. Eventually, this Italic language, with Greek, Arabic and Norman French influences, became the medieval Romance language known as Sicilian. Linguistic evolution was a slow process, however, and Greek was still spoken throughout Sicily's Arab and Norman periods into the eleventh century.

By 600, the Lombards (Longobard descendants in Lombardy in northern Italy) were gradually occupying much of the Italian peninsula, though pockets of Byzantine influence remained --at least for a time-- in Venice, Ravenna and Bari, and a growing "Papal State" increased its influence around Rome and beyond, owing much to the efforts of Pope Gregory the Great, who believed in the independence of the Papacy from the collegial traditions espoused by the other patriarchs. Developments in Italy did not immediately affect Sicily, where the Emperor Constans decided to establish his capital in 660. Syracuse, still the island's most important city, became his residence until his untimely assassination in 668. The Emperor's tryannical demeanor and costly maintenance did not endear him to the Sicilians.

Islam was growing, and Muslim Arab armies controlled Egypt, Syria and Palestine by 642. By 652, Muslim-Arab pirates based in Tunisia were undertaking isolated raids on the Sicilian coast. By 750, the Byzantine Empire, though influential, was greatly reduced in size, encompassing Asia Minor (Turkey), Greece, Sicily, and parts of the Balkans and peinsular Italy. Following a revolt against Constans, the capital was restored to Constantinople and Sicily found herself open to attack from abroad.

In Islam's advance westward through Arab efforts, Carthage fell in 689. Muslim conquest often resulted in mass conversion of the conquered. In keeping with Koranic principles, the religious freedom of Jews and Christians was usually respected, but Muslims were accorded greater civil rights. Within two decades, several islands under Sicilian influence (such as Pantelleria) were occupied. Though the Sicilians traded with the Arabs (sometimes called "Saracens" or "Moors"), coastal raids became commonplace. These diminished somewhat after 750 owing to internal struggles among the Muslims.

By 800, there were Arab merchants living in several Sicilian cities. In 805 and again in 813, the governor of Sicily signed trade treaties with the Aghlabids of Tunisia. Matters in Constantinople were not so serene. In 827, the Emperor ordered the arrest of Euphemius, governor of Sicily and a distinguished general. This prompted a revolt in which the general declared himself emperor. Faced with further dissension, Euphemius sought help from the Aghlabid emir, offering him Sicily (a profitable source of tax revenue) in return. The emir accepted, and soon a multi-ethnic force of at least ten thousand Persians, Berbers, Arabs and Spaniards occupied the western city of Mazara.

Bal'harm (Palermo), formerly Panormus, was taken in 831 and soon became capital of one of the island's several emirates. Syracuse fell only in 878, and Taormina, the last Byzantine stronghold, in 902.

Beginning in 867, the Emperor Basil and his descendants promoted a period of prosperity and scholarship in Constantinople. The Empire continued to exist as an important force in the Mediterranean, but only as a shadow of its former self. Some Italian cities remained under Byzantine control, at least nominally, but Sicily was lost. (Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, a date considered by many scholars to indicate the end of the Middle Ages.)

Byzantine culture was not simply a question of Byzantine rule. In Sicily and elsewhere, Byzantine society and culture melded with Arabic culture. Indeed, Arabic and Islamic art and society were greatly influenced by Byzantium. Mosques were constructed, often with the help of Byzantine craftsmen, and in Sicily the Church, formally under the Patriarchate of Constantinople from 732, remained solidly Orthodox into the early years of Norman rule, when the beginnings of Latinization took place.

The Schism between the Patriarch of Rome and the patriarchs of the East occurred in 1054, when Sicily was ruled by Muslim emirs. Long before this date zealous Patriarchs of Rome (the Popes) were already encouraging Norman knights in southern Italy to conquer Sicily, thus bringing it into a sphere of influence which was not only Christian but specifically Latin. The reasons for the Schism were political as well as theological. In the wake of this bitter separation, the "Catholic" Church of Rome was to grow further away from the "Orthodox" Church of Constantinople and the entire East. Catholic theology, doctrine and liturgy became increasingly altered. The Normans conquered Messina in 1061 and took Palermo a decade later. In Sicily, the introduction of Latin clergy, and the use of the Latin language in liturgy, were gradually introduced in the years following. By the time Frederick II ascended the throne as a young man early in the thirteenth century, little remained of Orthodoxy in Sicily except a few icons. The new Latinization attenuated the importance of Byzantine culture generally --even linguistically. In Frederick's Palermo, Greek and Arabic were still spoken. This soon changed, however. Generation by generation, the Greek language was cast aside, and Sicilian emerged as a solidly Latin (Romance) tongue, albeit with Arabic and Greek influences. (This Latinization of the Sicilian vernacular was not unlike the Normans' Latinization of English during the same period.)

Yet, in the context of a society made up of several cultures, Byzantine art flourished in Sicily well into the twelfth century. Bearing the marks of Orthodoxy, the Normans' earliest Roman Catholic churches, featuring mosaic icons and other Byzantine elements, look more Eastern than Western. (The Martorana of Palermo, and the cathedrals of Monreale and Cefalù come to mind, but also numerous smaller churches and monasteries, particularly in "Byzantine" northeastern Sicily.)

Byzantine rule did not result in a mass "colonization" of Sicily like those of the ancient Greeks or medieval Arabs, but there was certainly immigration and trade. Constantinople's lasting effects in Sicily far transcended her waning political influence.

About the Authors: Luigi Mendola is the History Editor of Best of Sicily and author of several books. Palermo native Vincenzo Salerno, who contributed to this article, has written biographies of several famous Sicilians, including Frederick II and Giuseppe di Lampedusa.

Israel's motley mosaics

2. Cornucopia and gratitude: The church mosaic uncovered at Kibbutz Beit Kama is one of several all over the Negev, dating back to the time when Christian pilgrims crisscrossed that region. In the northern Negev, near Kibbutz Nirim (off of Road 241 or 242) is another beautiful “stone carpet.” Restored by the Jewish National Fund, this sixth-century mosaic on the ancient site of Maon, like many ancient synagogue and church mosaics, features an inscription mentioning the names of the donors (some things never change) as well as intricate depictions of agricultural motifs such as grape-harvesting and brimming baskets of fruit, animal and birds.

(To visit the first of these ever discovered, the sixth-century Shellal mosaic, will require a little more fuel than a trip to the Negev – after its discovery during World War I it was eventually taken to Canberra, Australia, where it is on display at the war museum there.)

3. The Bird Mosaic of Caesarea and other fauna: Birds are a common motif in mosaic floors, and in fact, have given their name to the Bird Mosaic of Caesarea.
Some of them, like storks and pelicans, still cross Israel’s skies. Others are fanciful or humorous, road-runner style. Around them are wild animals and repeating geometric patterns that would put an Amish quilting bee to shame. The Bird Mosaic is clearly signposted, on the way to the aqueduct in Caesarea. It is special in that it is not from a church or a synagogue, but rather from a room in the villa of a wealthy Byzantine-era Caesarean.

4. A cross on the floor: Most mosaics are famed for the detail of their depictions of animals, plants and human figures. But the beauty of the mosaics at Mamshit National Park, which contains two churches, is in their simplicity. A rare depiction in Byzantine Christian art of a cross on the floor of the eastern churches reveals its antiquity, since after the 427 CE crosses were prohibited as floor decorations.

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5. Thanks to the antiquities robbers? Other Christian artistic and religious symbols include fish and peacocks. Both can be found on the mosaic floor of the Byzantine church at Horvat Midras, southwest of Jerusalem, not far from Beit Guvrin National Park. Ancient pilgrims apparently marked the tomb of the prophet Zechariah at the site. This magnificent mosaic was discovered in 2011 – “thanks” to an illegal dig by antiquities robbers. The Israel Antiquities Authority subsequently mounted an excavation, unearthing the floor featuring depictions of animals. Complex geometric patterns create beautiful frames on this floor.

6. The curse of the balsam makers: Birds also appear in the mosaic floor of the ancient synagogue at Ein Gedi near the Dead Sea, whose dominant colors seem to mimic the surrounding desert scenery – shades of beige and brown, with green highlights, recalling the oasis home of the community that built it. Like other synagogues the mosaic reveals that the community was wealthy enough to pay the designer, the mosaic master and his extensive team – no small outlay, as you’ll learn at the charming audiovisual presentation at Beit Alfa National Park’s mosaic.

In the case of Ein Gedi, the wealth came from the cultivation of balsam, used in cosmetics and medicines. Because producing these products was so lucrative, it was apparently kept under close wraps. The long inscription in its synagogue mosaic brings down a curse on anyone who reveals the “secret” – presumably the coveted, eyes-only balsam recipe.

7. The sacrifice of Isaac: Some mosaic artisans outdid themselves in human depictions. Not everyone approved of such depictions, because some of them, like the sun god Helios or the signs of the Zodiac, were pagan or had been adapted by Christians. In fact, at one point in the history of the synagogue in Tiberias (Hamat Tverya National Park), the building was renovated, including a wall right across the beautiful floor, obviously to hide what some new building committee considered offensive.

At Beit Alfa National Park, discovered back in the 1920s, you’ll find an entire Bible story depicted in stone– the Binding of Isaac, right down to the altar, Abraham holding the knife, and a hand emerging from a cloud, with the first words of the fateful verse: “Lay not thy hand upon the lad” (Gen. 22:12).

Here and elsewhere people are amazed to find they can recognize some of the ancient Jewish symbols. Flanking the mosaic depiction of the doors of the Holy Ark is the seven-branched candelabrum, one of Judaism’s most enduring symbols, as well as a shofar, lulav and etrog. The only symbol most people can’t quite make out is the incense pan, which, like the candelabrum and the shofar, commemorated worship at the Jerusalem Temple, long destroyed by the time these mosaics were created.

8. Mosaic as story teller: At Tzippori National Park, you’ll find the mosaic-as-story reaching new heights. The Binding of Isaac is there, too, but alongside the sacrificial scene a remnant of the mother of the “offering” – Sarah – appears. The story continues up the mosaic to the Zodiac, where, as in many other synagogue mosaics, the names appear in Hebrew.

The four seasons are also shown, named and bearing their appropriate symbols, such as a bowl of grapes for summer or water for the rainy winter season. These were educational devices, scholars tell us, dating from a time when what some consider “merely” astrology today was a scientific pursuit. In the Tzippori mosaic, the design includes the symbol of the sun, often associated in Psalms with redemption, as well as the Temple symbols. The entire story reminded worshippers that redemption, first promised to Abraham, would shine like the sun, and the Temple would be rebuilt.

9. Jewish symbols at Susya: At Susya, in the southern Hebron Hills (which is over the Green Line, reached from Road 31 in the northern Negev) lies another synagogue floor replete with Jewish symbols. Here, too apparently the synagogue board decided to replace their Zodiac with a more “conservative” geometric pattern. The Bible story here depicts Daniel in the lion’s den.

10. When even King Herod observed the law: Finally, the relatively simple mosaic at the Herodian Mansions in Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter may be among the most poignant in Israel. It once decorated a Jewish home during the Second Temple period, when even King Herod observed the Jewish law proscribing human or animal images. What this mosaic with its simple geometric pattern lacks in color and designs compared to others, it makes up in the history it brings alive: on it are the charred remains of a wooden beam that fell from the mansion’s ceiling and burned itself to cinder on the floor, together with the rest of the magnificent Jewish homes of Jerusalem’s Upper City one month after the Temple’s destruction in 70 CE.

Phone Numbers (sites not listed are not gated and open 24/7):
National Park sites are open from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. in winter 8-5 in summer site closes one hour earlier on Friday entry up to one hour before closing time

Mamshit National Park: 08-6556478
Inn of the Good Samaritan: Tel 02-6338230
Susya (Sunday-Thursday 10–5 Friday 10–2): 02-9963424 (Hebrew)
Beit Alfa National Park: 04-6542004
Hamat Tverya National Park: 04-6725287
Herodian Mansions (Sunday–Thursday 9– 5 Friday 9-¬1): 02-6283448

(Information courtesy of Tourism Ministry website.)

Bird at Mamshit. Miriam Feinberg Vamosh

Yale Lectures in Late Antique and Byzantine Art and Architecture

This lecture series is organized by Robert S. Nelson, Robert Lehman Professor in the History of Art, and Vasileios Marinis, Associate Professor of Christian Art and Architecture at the ISM and YDS. Support is provided by the Department of Classics and the Department of the History of Art.

Zoom lectures begin at 12 noon Eastern Time registration is required. You can register at any time to join a lecture. Your registration is valid for the whole series attend as many as you like.

Register for each Zoom webinar by clicking on the lecture title.

September 11
Visual Epitome in Late Antique Art
Jaś Elsner, University of Oxford
Respondent: Maria Doerfler, Yale

February 12
From Domestic to Divine: The Mosaics of Late Antique Syria
Sean Leatherbury, University College, Dublin
Respondent: Örgü Dalgıç, Yale

April 9
Auro, argento, aere perennius: Byzantine Art in and through Coins 4 th –15th Centuries
Cécile Morrisson, CNRS and Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres
Respondent: Benjamin Dieter R. Hellings, Yale

Incredible 1,500-year-old Christian mosaic uncovered in Israel

Conor Powell reports on the ancient discovery dating back to the early days of Christianity.

Archaeologists in Israel have uncovered a stunning 1,500-year-old Christian mosaic that was once the floor of a church or monastery.

Experts found the mosaic during an excavation in the ancient Mediterranean coastal city of Ashdod-Yam, now part of the modern city of Ashdod. The discovery, which was made in August, was announced Thursday by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

An inscription in Greek dedicated to the structure’s builders offered archaeologists a vital clue. The inscription mentions a date on the ancient Georgian calendar, enabling experts to date the building.

The mosaic and the inscription. (Photo: Sasha Flit, Tel Aviv University)

"[By the grace of God (or Christ)], this work was done from the foundation under Procopius, our most saintly and most holy bishop, in the month Dios of the 3rd indiction, year 292" it reads. The year 292 corresponds to 539 A.D. “This is the earliest appearance of the use of the Georgian calendar in the Land of Israel, many years before it was used in Georgia itself,” explained Dr. Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who deciphered the inscription, in a statement.

Experts from the Israel Antiquities Authority, Tel Aviv University, and the University of Gottingen and Leipzig University in Germany also participated in the project.

Ashdod-Yam was an important city during the Byzantine period. Long hidden under sand dunes, the city is now revealing its secrets. “As far as we know, Ashdod is now home to the largest community of Jews of Georgian origin in the world,” said Dr. Alexander Fantalkin of Tel Aviv University, Dr. Balbina Bäbler of the University of Göttingen, and Sa’ar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in the statement. “Testimony to the presence of the actual Georgians in the Land of Israel as far back as the Byzantine period has been found dozens of kilometers from Ashdod – in Jerusalem and its surroundings. But this is the first time that a Georgian church or monastery has been discovered on the Israeli coast.”

A close-up shot of the mosaic. (Photo: Anat Rasiuk, Israel Antiquities Authority)

The archaeologists note that, according to historical sources, the fifth-century Georgian Prince and Bishop Peter the Iberian lived in Ashdod-Yam.

Archaeologists are now working to raise additional funds to continue their excavation of the site.

The Ashdod-Yam mosaic floor is just the latest fascinating Christian archaeological find in Israel. An ancient Greek inscription, for example, was recently found on a 1,500-year-old mosaic floor near the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. The inscription mentions the Byzantine emperor Justinian, who ruled in the 6th century A.D., and commemorates the building’s founding by a priest called Constantine.

The mosaic and the inscription. (Photo: Sasha Flit, Tel Aviv University0

In 2015 a 1,500-year-old church was discovered at a Byzantine-era rest stop between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In 2014 the remains of another church from the same period were uncovered in southern Israel.

Experts also believe they have found the lost Roman city of Julias, formerly the village of Bethsaida, which was the home of Jesus' apostles Peter, Andrew and Philip.

Byzantine Hoop-trundling Mosaic - History

In 330 AD, Constantine the Great transferred the capital of the Roman Empire to the city of Byzantion on the shores of the Bosporus. During the early Byzantine period (330-700), the Empire included Eastern Europe, the Roman Near East, Egypt and portions of North Africa. The Arab conquests of the seventh century would greatly reduce this area, but the Byzantine world would soon extend into areas of Russia, which were never before Romanized. With the exception of the Latin Conquests, when crusaders captured the imperial capital (1204-61), Constantinople remained as the geographic and symbolic center of this cultural and political sphere until its conquest and collapse (1453).

The Byzantines thought of themselves as the heirs of the Roman Empire, Greek remained the lingua franca of their domain, for example, as it had in this area under Roman rule, and we may approach their architecture from this position. One may interpret the works of civic architecture&mdashthe great walls and gates of the capital city, the Aqueduct of Valens, the Hippodrome, cisterns, fora and royal palaces&mdashin light of Imperial functions, rituals and symbols. The public spaces and structures of Constantinople functioned within a complex ideology finding its expression in ceremonial and architectural monumentality.

But approaching any work of Byzantine architecture outside of its deep connection to religion gives us an incomplete picture of this tradition. While the Byzantines were the heirs of the Roman Empire, they turned away from the gods of antiquity to embrace Christianity.

Although the Empire was religiously diverse, by the late fourth century Christianity became the official religion of the Empire, and faith would help maintain the authority and prominence of Constantinople through its decline from political significance. Much of Byzantine architecture was created to express religious experience and mediate between the believer and God. Taken in its architectural context, the iconographic program of the mosaics and frescoes of the Kariye Camii envelopes the believer within scenes of the Old Testament and the lives of Christ and Mary Mother of God. Visual expressions of faith within the context of the Eucharist and other religious ceremonies then provide layers of meaning, even the primary context, to the architectural heritage of the Byzantine world.

Building: Hosios Lukas (Church of St. Luke)
Date: 10th–early 11th century

Watch the video: Byzantine Mosaic Art (June 2022).


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