BYZANTINE ARCHITECTURE, a style of architec ture bordering on the Romanesque, which prevailed in Geece.and its dependencies during the early ages of Chris t hni i t y.
This style may be said to have commenced with the estab lishment of the Eastern empire, when Constantine trans ferred the seat of government from Rome to Byzantium, from the name of which city it also derives its distinguishing appellation. Some writers indeed have gone so for as to state that the first Christian emperor removed from the ancient city for the sole purpose of obtaining greater freedom in the establishment of his new religion ; solici tous for its purity, that it might remain unpolluted by any mixture with the ancient rites, distinct from pagan ism even in its architecture. hope. to whom we are indebted for much intbrmation on the subject, states this as his opinion, and says that Constantine, having evaded the restraints which his new creed was subject to at Rome by his removal to Byzantium, set himself diligently to work to establish it on a firm basis: one great object which pre sented itself to his notice, was the erection of appropriate places of worship, which were much needed, the number of Christians exceeding that of pagans, and there being no previous edifices either of a civil or religious character, which could be conveniently adapted to the purpose. Arehi. teets, therefore, were left entirely to their own resources, unless indeed they were willing to copy that class of edifices adopted in the old metropolis ; but this does not seem to have been their object, they desired rather to form an entirely new style of building ; there were besides no existing edifices of any note, whose materials might tempt their removal to the new structures, and so, to a certain extent, determine their construction, as had been the case at Rome. Under such circumstances originated the peculiar style of architec ture which has been since denominated Byzantine.
We have before noticed that the Christians had already outnumbered their heathen adversaries in this city, and as their religion was daily acquiring more and more proselytes, the want of churches must have been daily more appa rent; it would be reasonable to suppose, therefore, that a vast number must have been at once erected. and such indeed seems to have been the case, for we are told that no less than eighteen hundred were endowed between the reigns of Constantine and Justinian, a period of little more than two hundred years. Few of these, however, remain : many
of the oldest of them were destroyed by earthquakes and principally in the reign of Zeno; and all that sur vived that period, in the sedition of A. D. 53.2. This out break happened in the time of Justinian, %vim set zealously to xvork to repair the losses which had been sustained, and vied with his illustrious predecessor in the erection and restoration of Christian churches.
It must not be supposed that this style of building was all this time confined to its original locality ; it had spread rapidly throughout the Eastern empire; where the Eastern churches extended, there also did its architecture extend, from the city of the chief bishop through the whole patriarchate under his jurisdiction. It is remarkable, however, how rarely it found its way into Western Christendom ; the first instance of' its appearance in that. quarter, was the church of S. Nazareo e Celso, at Ravenna, in the year A. D. 440. This church was erected by Galla Plaeidia, daughter of Theodosius, afterwards married to Constantius C.'tesar, and mother of Valentinian ; she was regent. of the Western empire for some time during the minority of her son, and seems to have been a zealous promoter of the Christian reli gion ; the erection of many churches is attributed to her, amongst which are three or four in this same city of Ravenna. The next we hear of Byzantine architecture in Italy is A. D. 547, at Ravenna again, in the church of S. Vitale, which was erected by Julianus, the treasurer. under the direction of Justinian. The reign of this prince is remark able for the number of buildings of all kinds erected ; bridges, aqneduets, roads, fortresses, and a variety of works of public utility were undertaken throughout the provinces. but the number of churches erected surpassed that of all other struc tures ; new ones were constructed, and old ones re-edified. of which last a great number, as already stated, had been destroyed in the insurrection which occurred in this reign. Of all the restorations which this emperor ell'ected, the most remarkable is that of S. Sophia, at Constantinople ; this church he entirely rebuilt, preserving, however, as it would appear, the original plan.