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Worship and its Architectural Setting


Worship and its Architectural Setting 4. GREEK EAST AND LATIN WEST Background info: The Church is impacted by factions. Councils meet and Creeds are written. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Worship and its Architectural Setting

Worship and its Architectural Setting
  • 4. Greek East and Latin West

Background info The Church is impacted by
factions. Councils meet and Creeds are written.
  • As Christianity expanded there came to be
    disagreements within the Church about the nature
    of Christ and the how to define the relationship
    between Father, Son and Spirit. Catholics (from
    katholikos, universal) believed in the divinity
    of Christ. Followers of a presbyter named Arius
    (ca. 250-336) taught that Christ was less than
    divine, but more than human. Later, there were a
    variety other heresies (from the Greek word for
    faction), leading to conflict within the wider
    Church, such as Nestorianism and Monophysitism.
  • Constantine believed that God wanted him to bring
    unity to the Catholic Church. Therefore, he
    called the first Ecumenical Council, an assembly
    of bishops who met at Nicea in 325 to define
    Christian doctrine. The first seven Ecumenical
    Councils were in 325, 381, 431, 451, 553, 680-1,
    and 787.
  • Ecumenical Councils tried, but did not succeed in
    eliminating divisions. Regional disunity and
    factionalism would remain a permanent state of
    affairs among Christians, though the majority
    would remain Catholic.

The Roman Empire was changing during the
centuries of most rapid Christian expansion.
Western Roman Empire
Eastern Roman Empire
The Roman Empire ca. AD 400.
By 400 the Empire was split into two halves with
two emperors. The richest and most populous part
had always been the largely Greek-speaking East.
Centralized imperial power was most effective
there the Western Empire proved unable to
maintain the same level of effective government
as the East, and it collapsed by 476.
Much effort was expended to defend the Empire
against invasions by barbarians (esp. Goths and
Germanic tribes) from the north and Persians from
the east.
Rome was plundered by the Goths in 410 and the
Vandals in 455. The barbarians (which simply
meant that they did not speak Greek) had already
adopted many Roman customs, and sooner or later
all became Christian. Unfortunately, some of the
most effective barbarians became Arians such
as the Goths, who took control of Italy and
Spain, and the Vandals, who took over N. Africa.
Although Goths and Vandals may have been
converted to Arian Christianity, their churches
in Italy or N. Africa looked no different from
Catholic churches except for the theology
conveyed in their art.
The church now known as San Apollinare Nuovo in
Ravenna was built by the Theodoric, the Gothic
king of Italy, an Arian, as his palace chapel
around 500-525. When it later was re-consecrated
as a Catholic church, mosaics with Arian
theological themes were removed or replaced.
(Arians rejected the Nicene definition of the
Trinity and regarded the Son as a creation of the
Singing was always a part of Christian worship
  • Biblical Psalms and new hymns were sung in
    Christian worship from the beginning.
  • The heretic Arius was accused of insinuating his
    ideas into his followers minds by writing hymns
    that were set to melodies derived from popular
    drinking songs and theatrical ditties. Use of
    popular tunes was frowned on by Catholics as
    unseemly and raucous.
  • Ambrose of Milan responded to Arian popular
    music by introducing to the West the style of
    congregational hymn and psalm singing then common
    in the East.
  • However, shaped by the court and the highly
    ornate eastern liturgies, choirs ultimately came
    to replace congregational singing in the East
    while congregational singing prevailed in the

Singing in the Greek East tended to be more
ornate and melismatic in the Latin West it was
syllabic and metrically simple (plainsong).
Catholic Christianity had become the state
religion of the Empire in 390 and paganism was
officially suppressed soon after. But. . .
  • In spite of official favor shown to Christianity
    in the 4th c. and after, there were no mass
  • Growth of the Church took place largely as
    families became Christian. The head of a family
    exercised great influence over kin and clients.
  • Well into the 5th century there were far more
    pagans than Christians, particularly in the West.

Baptism was meant to be a defining and mystical
  • In the political climate of a Roman world where
    Christianity was now a favored faith, it had
    become all the more necessary to ensure that the
    implications of a profession of faith in Jesus
    Christ as Lord were fully understood.
  • To deal with those who might want to become
    Christians so as to gain social or political
    advantage, the Church elaborated its
    already-existing strict requirements for
    pre-baptismal catechesis, renunciations, and
  • The Church wanted to preserve its moral and
    spiritual integrity amid radical social changes.

Baptistery of the Orthodox, Ravenna
The shape of the Eucharist continued to be the
same, West and East, though the ceremony grew
more elaborate.
  1. Liturgy of the Word, or Mass of the Catechumens
    Entrance litany and Kyrie, preparatory prayers,
    the Trisagion, hymns and psalms, lessons from
    Scripture concluding with an Epistle and Gospel,
    exhortations from presbyters and a sermon from
    the bishop, ending with the dismissal of everyone
    except the baptized.
  2. Liturgy of the Eucharist, or Mass of the
    Faithful 1. the Kiss of Peace, 2. Lift up
    your hearts.., etc. 3. Preface and Sanctus,
    Therefore with angels, etc. 4. Commemoration
    of the Words of Institution 5. the Oblation 6.
    the Great Prayer of Consecration (with epiklesis
    in the East) 7. Prayers for the Church on Earth
    and 8. Prayers for the Dead 9. The Lords Prayer
    and an expansion of it called the embolismos
    10. Breaking of the Bread 11. Holy things for
    holy people 12. Distri-bution of Holy
    Communion 13. Prayers of Thanksgiving 14.

The earliest written liturgies date from the
mid-4th c. But liturgical books did not become
usual for another century or more.
  • The first part of the liturgy to be written were
    the diptychs, two-part lists of the persons
    (living and dead) and churches for whom prayers
    were to be offered.
  • Next came the sacramentaries, books of prayers
    said by the Celebrant (usually the bishop).
  • Then books for the readers (synaxaria) and
    singers (antiphonaries, troparia).
  • Finally, books of directions for the ceremonies

A 12th c. Sacramentary
There were still liturgical families, but in
the West, nearly all were in Latin. In the
Greek East Greek was most widely used, but
there were various vernacular rites.
WEST (all Latin) Roman Ambrosian
(Milan) Gallican (Gaul) Celtic (Ireland,
Britain) Mozarabic (Iberia)
EAST Byzantine (Greek) Antiochene
() Alexandrian () Ethiopian
(vernacular) Syriac () Armenian
The Riha Paten (577), an imperial donation
showing the Communion of the Apostles, shows us
a 6th c. altar and a view of how Holy Communion
was distributed to the clergy in the apse.
Social pyramid of the Later Roman Empire
  • The social pyramid of the Later Roman Empire
    was very steep. The Emperor was at the top, far
    above everyone else, as Gods Chosen
    Representative. He had both absolute power and
    unlimited wealth.
  • Beneath the Emperor came senators (only .002 of
    the population), then patricians, imperial
    officials, generals, and (after Constantine)
  • Local civic dignitaries had some rank and status.
  • Elaborate ceremony and ritual attended all
    interaction with superior people, and most of
    all with the Emperor.
  • Ordinary people were of no social significance.
  • Everyone accepted this as Gods will. The rule
    of hierarchy was unquestioned, and it applied in
    the Church as well as in society at large.

Patricians, Imperial Officials, Governors, Genera
ls, Bishops
Local City officials
Everyone else
The dominant idea of hierarchy also drove the
arrangement of the interior of churches.
  • The Bishop sat on a throne in the apse, facing
    the people, with deacons standing at his right
    and left.
  • Presbyters sat beside him on tiers of elevated
  • Other deacons, ministers and singers sat in the
    schola cantorum.
  • Lay people stood outside the rails in the aisles.

Only the clergy could come near the altar.
By the late 6th and 7th c. the arcades and
railings which separated the presbyterium and
apse in the Latin West were becoming almost solid
in the Greek East.
Two churches in Salonika, orig. 6th century.
The arcade between the chancel and the body of
the church gradually became full barriers, first
with the insertion of curtains, then with
pictures (icons) and became the iconostasis,
hiding the altar from view.
After missionaries later carried Christianity to
what is now Russia in the 9th 10th c., the
iconostasis ultimately grew taller and more
Presnya Church, 15th c.
Church of the Holy Wisdom, Kiev. 12th c.
In some churches, curtains were hung around the
altar, from the ciborium, and these were closed
during the prayer of consecration during the
Eucharist. This came to be the rule in
Syria. This heightened the sense of mystery,
since the area around the altar was thought of as
the earthly counterpart to heaven.
Euphrasian Basilica, Porec, Croatia. 6th c.
African churches seem to have been an exception.
They continued earlier, Constantinian patterns,
placing the altar in the nave, nearer to the
This church from Tabarka near Tunis in N. Africa,
built ca. 400, shows features of the previous
Artists version of the church in the mosaic.
century. The apse, behind its triple arcade,
does not shelter the altar. The altar (clearly a
cube in the mosaic) is on the floor of the nave
and is shown with an altar cloth, antependium,
and three candles. Beneath the altar is the tomb
of a martyr. Devotion to martyrs was very
popular in N. Africa and not much less so in
Italy and Gaul.
Architectural styles began to diverge. The West
generally stayed more conservative.
Above Santa Sabina in Rome, 422-32. In the
West, the traditional basilican style continued
to dominate with only slight variations. This
kind of church continued to be built right down
to the Middle Ages, with changes as Romanesque
gave way to Gothic. This is illustrated by the
Carolingian basilica at Michelstadt, Germany, ca.
815, right.
By mid-6th century, domed churches and cross-
shaped churches were being built in the East.
After a fire destroyed the 4th c. basilica of
Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) in Constantinople,
the Emperor Justinian replaced it in 537 with a
new, vast and ever-afterwards imitated
multi-domed structure, which after the Muslim
conquest in 1453 became the favored model for
Ottoman mosques.
Today the Ayasofya is a museum.
Justinians great Hagia Sophia church was part of
the imperial palace complex. A fifteen foot high
templon, an arcade which was forerunner of the
iconostasis, divided the apse from the nave.
The central area was for liturgical processions
and ceremonies. The people stood on the sides or
in the galleries.
Hagia Sophia, built in 537 in Constantinople.
Innovative East versus Traditional West.
San Apollinare Nuovo, built ca. 510-525 in
But the modern style from the East also found
its way West, to Ravenna during the brief time
the Eastern Empire re-took Italy.
San Vitale was built 526-547.
There were Christians in Britain in the 4th c.,
and in Ireland in the 5th c., but the earliest
churches we know of date from the late 6th c.
1. The Gallarus Oratory, on the Dingle Peninsula
in Ireland. This was a chapel in a Celtic
monastery (6th-9th c).
2. The Church of St. Martin at Canterbury. The
chancel of the medieval church was the original
(580) church, which had once been a pagan Roman
temple. Here St. Augustine baptized Ethelbert,
the King of Kent, in 597.
The liturgy in a Greek or Russian Orthodox Church
today gives us a sense of what worship was like
in the Greek East in the 6th - 7th c. and after.
Little has changed between then and now!
The altar is behind the iconostasis. The priests
and deacons come through the gates of the
iconostasis several times during the liturgy.
There is a great deal of chanting, but there are
no musical instruments used.
The almost cubical altar of a Russian Orthodox
church today, seen here behind the iconostasis,
is much more like early Christian altars, both
East and West, than are the medieval-style,
oblong altars common in our churches.
11th c. fresco of St. Basil the Great celebrating
the Liturgy.
The Arab conquest and the spread of Islam after
622 had a definitive impact on Mediterranean
Christianity in general as the ancient
patriarchates of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and
Antioch all fell to the Arabs.
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