As it was, Byzantine architecture achieved its distinctive forms during the life of Justinian, who built four major churches in Constantinople, including: the Basilica of Saints Sergius and Bacchus (begun 526); the Basilica of Saint Irene (begun 532); the Basilica of the Apostles (536-46) - whose design was replicated in St Mark's Cathedral in Venice - and the greatest of all, the Basilica of Hagia Sophia (1532-37) (converted to a mosque in 1453, now a museum). Crowned by a massive dome whose weight was carried to corner piers by revolutionary concave triangular sections of stone, called pendentives, and decorated throughout with gold mosaics and multicoloured marble, the Hagia Sophia was the culmination of Roman architecture and a huge inspiration for later buildings throughout the Middle East, including the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.
Baroque architecture abandoned the balanced symmetry of Renaissance designs in favour of dramatic curved lines and surfaces that combined art and architecture into one dynamic entity, creating illusionary effects of light, colour and texture. Baroque churches were characterized by a combination of domes, decorated chapels, fresco quadratura, and other embellishments, as exemplified by these four structures.

With the fall of Rome and the disintegration of the Roman Empire, Western Europe entered the Dark Ages (400-800), a period of political uncertainty and cultural stagnation. The only possible unifying force was Christianity, but with Rome sacked and the Roman Church under pressure, its influence was limited. Only in Ireland, a country cut off from the European mainland, did Christianity flourish. In fact, Irish Monastic art and culture was critical in keeping alive the ideas of classical antiquity, as well as the message of the Bible. Early Medieval art in Ireland was dominated by the making of illuminated manuscripts, notably the Cathach of St. Columba (c.610), the Book of Durrow (c.650-80), the Lichfield Gospels (c.730), the Echternach Gospels (690-715), the Lindisfarne Gospels (698) and the stunning Book of Kells (800). Because of the country's ongoing tradition of Celtic art, most Irish manuscript illustrators used abstract Celtic designs, rather than figurative imagery preferred by Continental artists. Christian Wall Art
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