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  In art history, the term Byzantine refers to the art and architecture of the Eastern Roman Empire, based, from the end of the 4th century onwards, on Constantinople, otherwise known as Byzantium. The architecture of the Christian Byzantine Empire combined the building traditions of Graeco-Roman classicism with the decorative traditions of the Arab world. It formed the basic style for church architecture in the Orthodox Christian World from the 5th century to the present day.

Perhaps the most significant building of this tradition was the church of Hagia Sofia, (‘Divine Wisdom’), built in the 6th century, which still survives in present-day Istanbul. It is thought to be the greatest vaulted space, without the interruption of intermediate supports, ever constructed. A central dome seems ‘suspended by a golden chain from heaven’ over the church. Hagia Sofia became the model for most subsequent Byzantine church architecture. JM

Further reading R. Krautheimer, Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture; , N. Pevsner, An Outline of Western Architecture.



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