A cross-in-square or crossed-dome plan was the dominant architectural form of middle- and late-period Byzantine churches. It featured a square centre with an internal structure shaped like a cross, topped by a dome.

The first cross-in-square churches were probably built in the late 8th century, and the form has remained in use throughout the Orthodox world until the present day. In the West, Donato Bramante's first design (1506) for St. Peter's Basilica was a centrally planned cross-in-square under a dome and four subsidiary domes.

In German, such a church is a Kreuzkuppelkirche, or ‘cross-dome church’. In French, it is an église à croix inscrite, ‘church with an inscribed cross’.

Panagia Chalkeon 2
Panagia Chalkeon, an 11th-century cross-in-square church in Thessaloniki. View from the north east.


Architectural form

Plan of a typical cross-in-square church; based on the 10th-century Myrelaion in Constantinople.

A cross-in-square church is centered around a quadratic naos (the ‘square’) which is divided by four columns or piers into nine bays (divisions of space). The inner five divisions form the shape of a quincunx (the ‘cross’).[1] The central bay is usually larger than the other eight, and is crowned by a dome which rests on the columns. The four rectangular bays that directly adjoin this central bay are usually covered by barrel vaults; these are the arms of the "cross" which is inscribed within the "square" of the naos. The four remaining bays in the corner are usually groin-vaulted. The spatial hierarchy of the three types of bay, from the largest central bay to the smallest corner bays, is mirrored in the elevation of the building; the domed central bay is taller than the cross arms, which are in turn taller than the corner bays.[2]

To the west of the naos stands the narthex, or entrance hall, usually formed by the addition of three bays to the westernmost bays of the naos. To the east stands the bema, or sanctuary, often separated from the naos by templon or, in later churches, by an iconostasis. The sanctuary is usually formed by three additional bays adjoining the easternmost bays of the naos, each of which terminates in an apse crowned by a conch (half-dome). The central apse is larger than those to the north and south. The term bema is sometimes reserved for the central area, while the northern section is known as the prothesis and the southern as the diakonikon.[3]

Although evidence for Byzantine domestic architecture is scant, it appears that the core unit of the cross-in-square church (nine bays divided by four columns) was also employed for the construction of halls within residential structures.[4]

Liturgical use

The architectural articulation of the distinct spaces of a cross-in-square church corresponds to their distinct functions in the celebration of the liturgy. The narthex serves as an entrance hall, but also for special liturgical functions, such as baptism, and as an honored site of burial (often, as in the case of the Martorana in Palermo, for the founders of the church). The naos is the space where the congregation stands during the service. The sanctuary is reserved for the priests. The altar stands in the central bay, or bema, which is sometimes provided with a synthronon, or bench, where the clergy may sit. The prothesis is used for the preparation of the eucharist, and the diakonikon houses liturgical vestments and texts used in the celebration of the Liturgy.[5]

Common variations

HSX Millingen 1912 fig 105
Plan of the Chora Church in Constantinople

The architectural form and liturgical function described above correspond to the "classic" type of the cross-in-square church, which is exhibited by a number of significant monuments (for example, by the Myrelaion in Constantinople). However, this classic type represents only one of a number of possible variations on the cross-in-square form.

Particularly in later Byzantine architecture, the core of the cross-in-square plan could be augmented through the addition of peripheral structures. An example is provided by the Chora Church in Constantinople. The original 11th-century cross-in-square was expanded in the 14th century through the addition of a second narthex to the west (exonarthex, or outer narthex) and by a side chapel (parekklesion) to the south, used for burials.[6] The ultimate plans of many other Byzantine churches resulted from a similar diachronic succession of additions about a central, cross-in-square, core; for example, Kalenderhane Camii in Constantinople,[7] Çanlı Kilise in Cappadocia,[8] and the Martorana in Palermo.[9] One particularly common subsidiary structure, witnessed, for example, at Kalenderhane, the Chora Church, and the Martorana, was a bell-tower.

Compact cross-in-square
Compact cross-in-square plan, based on the Cattolica in Stilo. The naos is the central liturgical area and bema the sanctuary.

On the other hand, a radically abbreviated, "compact" form of the cross-in-square existed, built without narthex and with the three apses adjoining directly onto the easternmost bays of the naos. This plan was particularly common in the provinces, for example in southern Italy,[10] in Sicily,[11] and in Cappadocia.[12] In this type of church, the templon barrier was often erected along the axis of the two eastern columns, thus enclosing the three easternmost bays within the sanctuary.

A particularly important variation on the cross-in-square is the so-called "Athonite" or "monastic" plan, in which the rectangular bays at the north and south of the naos also opened onto semi-circular apses, giving the church the appearance of a triconch. This plan, often held to be typical of monastic churches, seems to have developed on Mount Athos in the eleventh century; the lateral apses provided a space for the performance of antiphonal liturgical music by two monastic choirs.[13] An important example of this type outside of Athos is the 14th-century church known as "Profitis Elias" in Thessaloniki.[14]


The interior decoration of the cross-in-square church, usually executed in mosaic but also sometimes in fresco, evolved in close relationship to its architecture, and a "classical" system of decoration may be discerned, represented in particular by the great monastic churches of the eleventh century (for example, Daphni Monastery outside of Athens and Hosios Loukas in Boeotia). This system was defined in a classic study published in the 1940s by Otto Demus, which is summarized in the following account.[15]

The mosaic decoration of a cross-in-square church may be divided into three zones defined by the architectural articulation of the interior: an upper zone, which embraces the cupolas, high vaults, and the conch of the apse; a middle zone, including the squinches, pendentives, and upper parts of the vaults; and the lowest zone, composed of the lower or secondary vaults and the lower parts of the walls. The tripartite division has cosmographic significance: the uppermost zone corresponds to heaven, the middle zone to paradise or the Holy Land, and the lower zone to the terrestrial world.[16]

Meister von Daphni 003
The Baptism of Christ, at Daphni. The figures on either side of the Jordan face each other across the empty space enclosed by the squinch, which becomes the space of the scene.

In the uppermost zone, only the holiest figures of Christianity are represented (e.g. Christ, the Virgin, and angels) or scenes that are directly related to heaven. For example, the mosaics of the central dome almost invariably represent one of three scenes: the Ascension, Pentecost, or Christ Pantocrator.[17] The middle zone is dominated by narrative scenes representing the great Christological feasts (birth, presentation at the Temple, etc.).[18] The lowermost zone is occupied by the "choir of saints", mostly full-length standing figures, who in Demus's words "share the space" of the congregation.[19]

In the classic system, the mosaics were composed so as to be viewed from the west of the church; that is to say, they were oriented towards the lay beholder.[20] In accordance with this line of vision, the curved spaces of the vaults were employed to create an illusion of space when viewed from the intended angle. The decoration of the cross-in-square church was therefore integrally related to its architecture: "The Byzantine church itself is the 'picture-space' of the icons. It is the ideal iconostasis; it is itself, as a whole, an icon giving reality to the conception of the divine world order."[21]

Origins and development

Holy Wisdom Thessaloniki as Moslem Temple
Hagia Sophia in Thessaloniki, an example of the "cross-domed" type often cited as a precursor to the cross-in-square.
Fatih Cami
Fatih Camii in Tirilye

The cross-in-square church may be said to constitute a unique artistic development of the middle Byzantine period. Early Byzantine churches were predominantly basilical or centrally planned (e.g. cruciform tetraconch churches, octagons). The question of the origins of the cross-in-square form has therefore engaged art historians since the latter half of the 19th century, although no single account has ever received the unanimous assent of the scholarly community.

The most influential strands in the earlier research attempt to derive the cross-in-square church either from the early Christian basilica (a viewpoint advocated originally by Oskar Wulff, and followed by numerous scholars, including Alexander van Millingen and Charles Diehl)[22] or from the cruciform churches of late antiquity (a theory first advanced by Josef Strzygowski, and later followed in various fashions by Gabriel Millet and André Grabar, among others).[23] According to the basilical theory, the crucial intermediary buildings were the so-called "cross-domed" churches of the seventh and eighth centuries (e.g. Hagia Sophia in Thessaloniki and the Church of the Koimesis in Nicaea),[24] while according to the latter theory the corners of cruciform churches were simply "filled in" (as for example at Hosios David in Thessaloniki).

As the discipline of art history has moved away from an evolutionary approach, the question of the "parentage" of the cross-in-square church has receded somewhat, and attention has turned to the dating of the first fully developed examples of the type. Significant in this regard are the church today known as Fatih Camii in Trilye, Bithynia (dated to the early ninth century) and the so-called "Church H" in Side (probably before 800). It has been suggested that the type was developed in a monastic context in Bithynia during the late eighth and early ninth centuries;[25] for example, the church built at the Sakkudion Monastery in the 780s by Theodore the Studite and his uncle Platon, although known only from literary accounts, appears to have been a cross-in-square.[26]

AX Chernihiv Pyatnytska Church
Church of St. Paraskevi, Chernihiv, Ukraine. Built c. 1200; restored in the 20th century.

The influence of the Nea Ekklesia (New Church) in the Great Palace of Constantinople, built around 880, has often been described as crucial to the dominance of the cross-in-square plan in the medieval period;[27] however, the building has not survived, its actual form is much disputed, and it is by no means certain that it was a genuine cross-in-square.[28] Whatever the reasons, the cross-in-square had come to dominate church-building by the later ninth century,[29] perhaps in part because its relatively small scale suited the intrinsically "private" nature of Byzantine piety.[30] The achievements of later Byzantine architecture have been described as "the elaboration of a type of church that was, in its own way, perfect."[31] The near-universal acceptance of the cross-in-square plan in the Byzantine world does not, however, imply the stagnation of artistic creativity, as the numerous variations on the type (described above) demonstrate. These variations seem to represent, not so much a linear evolution of forms, as a series of sensitive responses to various local factors.[32]

Already during the Middle Ages, the cross-in-square plan had spread far beyond the political borders of the Byzantine Empire. The type was adopted and developed in Kievan Rus', and in the various independent kingdoms of the northern Balkans (for example, in the Serbian Empire[33]).

The cross-in-square church also outlived the political collapse of the Byzantine Empire, continuing to serve as a model for church construction both in Russia and in the Ottoman ("post-Byzantine") Balkans and Asia Minor. In the Balkans the plan remained common until c. 1700, especially the "Athonite" variation, a sign of the importance of monastic patronage in this period.[34] The maintenance of this architectural tradition, and its resistance to Turkish and Western influences, has been seen as a means of preserving a unique identity for the Orthodox Church.[35] Beginning in the eighteenth century, a greater variety of architectural forms were employed for church-building in the Ottoman Empire, including revivals of early Christian types (such as the basilica).[36] Although the neo-Byzantine architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries tended to draw on an eclectic set of historical references, the cross-in-square plan did play a role in the formation of "national styles" in the new, post-Ottoman states (for example, in the late 19th-century churches of Serbia[37]).

See also


  1. ^ Grossman, Peter (1991). Atiya, Aziz S., ed. Cross-in-Square. The Coptic Encyclopedia. New York: Macmillan.
  2. ^ Ousterhout, Master builders, 16.
  3. ^ Ousterhout, Master builders, 13-14.
  4. ^ Mathews and Mathews, "Islamic-style mansions."
  5. ^ Ousterhout, Master builders, 12-14.
  6. ^ Ousterhout, Kariye Camii.
  7. ^ Striker, Kalenderhane.
  8. ^ Ousterhout, Byzantine settlement.
  9. ^ Ćurčić, "Architecture".
  10. ^ For example, the Cattolica in Stilo, S. Marco in Rossano, and S. Pietro in Otranto. See Wharton, Art of empire, 139-45.
  11. ^ The original form of the Martorana in Palermo, S. Nicolò Regale in Mazara del Vallo, and S. Trinità di Delia in Castelvetrano. See Ćurčić, "Architecture", 29-30.
  12. ^ For example the original form of Çanlı Kilise, as well as many rock-cut churches. See Ousterhout, Byzantine settlement.
  13. ^ Mylonas, "Plan initial."
  14. ^ Papazotos, "Church."
  15. ^ Demus, Mosaic decoration.
  16. ^ Demus, Mosaic decoration, 16.
  17. ^ Demus, Mosaic decoration, 16-17.
  18. ^ Demus, Mosaic decoration, 22.
  19. ^ Demus, Mosaic decoration, 26-27.
  20. ^ Demus, Mosaic decoration, 18 and 24.
  21. ^ Demus, Mosaic decoration, 13.
  22. ^ Lange, "Theorien", 94-98.
  23. ^ Lange, "Theorien", 98-99.
  24. ^ Ousterhout, Master builders, 32.
  25. ^ Ousterhout, Master builders, 17-20; Mango, Byzantine architecture, 178-80.
  26. ^ Pratsch, Theodoros, 72.
  27. ^ Dark, "Byzantine church", 662-63.
  28. ^ Ousterhout, "Reconstructing", 118-24.
  29. ^ Ousterhout, Master builders, 15.
  30. ^ Ousterhout, "Apologia", 23.
  31. ^ Mango, Byzantine architecture, 249.
  32. ^ Ousterhout, "Apologia", 23-32.
  33. ^ See, for example, Ćurčić, "Thessalonike", 74-83.
  34. ^ Bouras, "Church architecture", esp. 108-9 and 114.
  35. ^ Bouras, "Church architecture", 109 and 119.
  36. ^ On the revival of the basilica, Mantopoulou-Panagiotopoulou, "Aghios Menas", 242 and n. 30.
  37. ^ Pantelić, "Nationalism", 22


  • Ch. Bouras, "The Byzantine tradition in the church architecture of the Balkans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries", in J.J. Yiannias, ed., The Byzantine tradition after the fall of Constantinople (Charlottesville, 1991), 107-49. ISBN 0-8139-1329-2
  • S. Ćurčić, "The architecture", in E. Kitzinger, The Mosaics of St. Mary's of the Admiral in Palermo (Washington, 1990). ISBN 0-88402-179-3
  • Ćurčić, Slobodan (2003). "The role of late Byzantine Thessalonike in church architecture in the Balkans". Dumbarton Oaks Papers. Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University. 57: 65–84. doi:10.2307/1291876. JSTOR 1291876.
  • O. Demus, Byzantine mosaic decoration: aspects of monumental art in Byzantium (London, 1947)
  • Lange, Dorothea (1986). "Theorien zur Entstehung der byzantinischen Kreuzkuppelkirche". Architectura. 16: 93–113.
  • C.A. Mango, Byzantine architecture (New York, 1976). ISBN 0-8109-1004-7
  • Mantopoulou-Panagiotopoulou, Thalia S. (1996). "The monastery of Aghios Menas in Thessaloniki". Dumbarton Oaks Papers. Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University. 50: 239–62. doi:10.2307/1291746. JSTOR 1291746.
  • Mathews, Thomas; Mathews, Annie Christine Daskalakis; Mathews, Daskalakis (1997). "Islamic-style mansions in Byzantine Cappadocia and the development of the inverted T-plan". The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. Society of Architectural Historians. 56 (3): 294–315. doi:10.2307/991243. JSTOR 991243.
  • Mylonas, Paul (1984). "Le plan initial du catholicon de la Grande Lavra au Mont Athos et la genèse du type du catholicon athonite". Cahiers archéologiques. 32: 89–112.
  • Ousterhout, Robert (1996). "An apologia for Byzantine architecture". Gesta. International Center of Medieval Art. 35 (1): 21–33. doi:10.2307/767224. JSTOR 767224.
  • R. Ousterhout, The architecture of the Kariye Camii in Istanbul (Washington, 1987). ISBN 0-88402-165-3
  • R. Ousterhout, A Byzantine settlement in Cappadocia (Washington, 2005). ISBN 0-88402-310-9
  • R. Ousterhout, Master builders of Byzantium (Princeton, 1999). ISBN 0-691-00535-4
  • R. Ousterhout, "Reconstructing ninth-century Constantinople", in L. Brubaker, ed., Byzantium in the ninth century: Dead or Alive? (Hampshire, 1998), 115-30. ISBN 0-86078-686-2
  • Pantelić, Bratislav (1997). "Nationalism and architecture: the creation of a national style in Serbian architecture and its political implications". The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. Society of Architectural Historians. 56 (1): 16–41. doi:10.2307/991214. JSTOR 991214.
  • Papazotos, Thanasis (1991). "The Identification of the Church of "Profitis Elias" in Thessaloniki". Dumbarton Oaks Papers. Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University. 45: 121–27. doi:10.2307/1291696. JSTOR 1291696.
  • T. Pratsch, Theodoros Studites (759-826): zwischen Dogma und Pragma (Frankfurt am Main, 1998). ISBN 3-631-33877-5
  • C. L. Striker, Kalenderhane in Istanbul (Mainz, 1997). ISBN 3-8053-2026-4

External links

Ancha monastery

Ancha (Georgian: ანჩის მონასტერი, anchis monasteri) was a medieval Georgian monastery and cathedral church of the Bishopric of Ancha, located near what is now the village of Anaçlı, Artvin Province, Turkey. Purportedly once a cross-in-square design, the church now lies almost completely in ruins.The earliest recorded information about the monastery of Ancha is found in c. 951 Vitae of Gregory of Khandzta by Giorgi Merchule, which dates the church roughly to the early 9th century. It functioned as one of the principal religious and cultural centers of the principality of Klarjeti, which was wrested of the Georgian control by the Ottoman Empire in the 1550s. By the middle of the 17th century, the church had been completely abandoned. Its surviving Christian relics, such as the venerated icon of the Savior, were transferred to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. Shortly after the Russian takeover of the Artvin province, the historical Georgian churches and monasteries of the area were visited, in 1879, by the Georgian scholar Dimitri Bakradze, who reported severe damage to Ancha. In 1904, Nicholas Marr reported that only a portion of the monastery’s north-western and northern walls and an altar apse with a fragment of the cupola had been survived. Nowadays, the building is almost completely ruined.

Bodrum Mosque

Bodrum Mosque (Turkish: Bodrum Camii, or Mesih Paşa Camii named after its converter) in Istanbul, Turkey, is a former Eastern Orthodox church converted into a mosque by the Ottomans. The church was known under the Greek name of Myrelaion (Greek: Eκκλησία του Μυρελαίου).

Byzantine architecture

Byzantine architecture is the architecture of the Byzantine Empire, or Eastern Roman Empire.

The Byzantine era is usually dated from 330 CE, when Constantine the Great moved the Roman capital to Byzantium, which became Constantinople, until the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. However, there was initially no hard line between the Byzantine and Roman empires, and early Byzantine architecture is stylistically and structurally indistinguishable from Roman architecture. This terminology was introduced by modern historians to designate the medieval Roman Empire as it evolved as a distinct artistic and cultural entity centered on the new capital of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) rather than the city of Rome and its environs.

Its architecture dramatically influenced the later medieval architecture throughout Europe and the Near East, and became the primary progenitor of the Renaissance and Ottoman architectural traditions that followed its collapse.

Church of Prophet Elijah (Thessaloniki)

The Church of Prophet Elijah (Greek: Ναός Προφήτη Ηλία) is a 14th-century church in Thessaloniki, Greece, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The church is located in the upper quarter of the old city, and dates to the Palaiologan period, but its original dedication is unknown. In Ottoman times, it was known as the Saraylı Mosque, and through a misinterpretation of this name came about its modern dedication to the Prophet Elijah. It has been traditionally identified as the katholikon of the Nea Moni monastery, built ca. 1360–1370 on the site of a former palace destroyed in 1342 by the Zealot uprising. Modern research, however, has cast doubt on this, since the Nea Moni continued to operate well into the Ottoman period, while the church of Prophet Elijah was converted into a mosque by Badrah Mustafa Pasha immediately after the city's capture in 1430. On the basis of its internal decoration, it has been suggested that the church was the katholikon of the important Akapniou Monastery.

Its architectural style, a variant of cross-in-square church known as the "Athonite type", is unique in the city, and was always reserved for katholika of monasteries. The careful masonry, of alternating courses of bricks and white ashlar, is also unusual for Thessaloniki and its region; it is copied from Constantinopolitan architecture. Fragments of the church's original decoration survive in the form of wall paintings, fine examples of late Palaiologan art, which influenced later paintings in Serbia.

Church of Saint Panteleimon (Thessaloniki)

The Church of Saint Panteleimon (Greek: Ναός Αγίου Παντελεήμονα) is a late Byzantine church in Thessaloniki, Greece, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The church lies in the eastern part of the old city, near the Tomb of Galerius (the "Rotunda"), at the junction of Iasonidou and Arrianou streets. Its current dedication to Saint Panteleimon was given to the church after the end of Ottoman rule in 1912, and its original dedication is therefore disputed. In Ottoman times, it was converted into a mosque in 1548 and became known as Ishakiye Camii ("Mosque of Ishak [Isaac]"), which in the prevailing scholarly interpretation points to an identification with the late Byzantine Monastery of the Virgin Peribleptos, also known as the Monastery of Kyr Isaac after its founder Jacob, who was the city's metropolitan bishop in 1295–1315 and became a monk with the monastic name of Isaac. A counter-argument however supports the theory that the present church is unrelated to the Peribleptos Monastery, and that it was converted into a mosque ca. 1500, when the city's kadı (judge), was Ishak Çelebi, whom the mosque was named after. However, the church's architecture and decoration, which date to the late 13th/early 14th centuries, appear to support the former view.

The church is of the tetrastyle cross-in-square type, with a narthex and a (now destroyed) ambulatory that is connected to two chapels (still extant). Very few of the building's original wall paintings survive. Ottoman remains include the base of the demolished minaret and a marble fountain.

Church of St Nicholas, Sapareva Banya

The Church of St Nicholas (Bulgarian: църква „Свети Никола“, tsarkva „Sveti Nikola“) is a small medieval Eastern Orthodox church in the southwestern Bulgarian town of Sapareva Banya, which is part of Kyustendil Province. Originally either the property of a local notable or attached to a larger church, it was constructed anytime from the 11th to the 14th century.

The church was built using red bricks and white mortar. Architecturally, it is of a simple Byzantine cross-in-square design, with a single nave and apse. The frescoes in the interior are only scarcely preserved. It was reconstructed in 1937 after falling into ruin, and it was listed as a monument of culture of national importance in 1968.


Cruciform means having the shape of a cross or Christian cross.


Droungos (Greek: δροῦγγος, sometimes δρόγγος, drongos) or drungus is a late Roman and Byzantine term for a battalion-sized military unit, and later for a local command guarding mountain districts. Its commander was a "droungarios" or "drungarius" (δρουγγάριος), anglicized as "Drungary".

History of Roman and Byzantine domes

The History of Roman and Byzantine domes traces the architecture of domes throughout the ancient Roman Empire and its medieval continuation, today called the Byzantine Empire. Domes were important architectural elements in both periods and had widespread influence on contemporary and later styles, from Russian and Ottoman architecture to the Italian Renaissance and modern revivals. The domes were customarily hemispherical, although octagonal and segmented shapes are also known, and they developed in form, use, and structure over the centuries. Early examples rested directly on the rotunda walls of round rooms and featured a central oculus for ventilation and light. Pendentives became common in the Byzantine period, provided support for domes over square spaces.

Early wooden domes are known only from a literary source, but the use of wooden formwork, concrete, and unskilled labor enabled domes of monumental size in the late Republic and early Imperial period, such as the so-called "Temple of Mercury" bath hall at Baiae. Nero introduced the dome into Roman palace architecture in the 1st century and such rooms served as state banqueting halls, audience rooms, or throne rooms. The Pantheon's dome, the largest and most famous example, was built of concrete in the 2nd century and may have served as an audience hall for Hadrian. Imperial mausolea, such as the Mausoleum of Diocletian, were domed beginning in the 3rd century. Some smaller domes were built with a technique of using ceramic tubes in place of a wooden centering for concrete, or as a permanent structure embedded in the concrete, but light brick became the preferred building material over the course of the 4th and 5th centuries. Brick ribs allowed for a thinner structure and facilitated the use of windows in the supporting walls, replacing the need for an oculus as a light source.

Christian baptisteries and shrines were domed in the 4th century, such as the Lateran Baptistery and the likely wooden dome over the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Constantine's octagonal palace church in Antioch may have been the precedent for similar buildings for centuries afterward. The first domed basilica may have been built in the 5th century, with a church in southern Turkey being the earliest proposed example, but the 6th century architecture of Justinian made domed church architecture standard throughout the Roman east. His Hagia Sophia and Church of the Holy Apostles inspired copies in later centuries.

Cruciform churches with domes at their crossings, such as the churches of Hagia Sophia in Thessaloniki and St. Nicholas at Myra, were typical of 7th and 8th century architecture and bracing a dome with barrel vaults on four sides became the standard structural system. Domes over windowed drums of cylindrical or polygonal shape were standard after the 9th century. In the empire's later period, smaller churches were built with smaller diameter domes, normally less than 6 meters (20 ft) after the 10th century. Exceptions include the 11th century domed-octagons of Hosios Loukas and Nea Moni, and the 12th century Chora Church, among others. The cross-in-square plan, with a single dome at the crossing or five domes in a quincunx pattern, as at the Church of St. Panteleimon, was the most popular type from the 10th century until the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Holy Trinity Church (Berat)

The Holy Trinity Church (Albanian: Kisha e Shën Triadhëst) is a medieval Byzantine church inside the Kalaja district on a hill of the city of Berat of Southern Albania. As part of the Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastër UNESCO World Heritage Site, the church has a cross in square plan with a dome. It is composed of the naos, narthex and the alter alcove. In the church have been skillfully used many Byzantine architecture features such as the inner organization of the volume and the decorative and illuminative systems.

This features together with the pyramidal shape, forms and proportions give to the church a picturesque view. The Byzantine architectural elements in the church have been combined with western architectural elements belonging to the same period. Inside has two columns with reused capitals (thought to have been taken from classical ruins in the city). In an inscription inside the church has been written the name of Andronicus Paleologus (Governor of the province of Berat) During 1302-1326. According to this inscription in the church must have been built during the 13th Century with the financial support of Andronicus Paleologus.

List of Byzantine inventions

This is a list of Byzantine inventions. The Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire represented the continuation of the Roman Empire after a part of it collapsed. Its main characteristics were Roman state traditions, Greek culture and Christian faith.

Little Metropolis

The Little Metropolis (Greek: Μικρή Μητρόπολη), formally the Church of St. Eleutherios (Άγιος Ελευθέριος) or Panagia Gorgoepikoos (Παναγία Γοργοεπίκοος, "Panagia Who Grants Requests Quickly"), is a Byzantine-era church located at the Mitropolis square, next to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens (the "Great Metropolis").

Macedonian art (Byzantine)

Macedonian art is the art of the Macedonian Renaissance in Byzantine art. The period followed the end of the Byzantine iconoclasm and lasted until the fall of the Macedonian dynasty, which ruled the Byzantine Empire from 867 to 1056, having originated in Macedonia in the Balkans. It coincided with the Ottonian Renaissance in Western Europe. In the 9th and 10th centuries, the Byzantine Empire's military situation improved, and art and architecture revived.

Matejče Monastery

The Monastery of the Most Holy Mother of God (Serbian: Манастир Пресвете Богородице), commonly known as Matejče (Матејче) or Matejić (Матејић), is a 14th-century Serbian Orthodox monastery located in the village of Matejče on the slopes of Skopska Crna Gora, near Skopje and Kumanovo. The village is inhabited by 89% Muslim Albanians and 10% Orthodox Serbs (2002 census).

The monastery was built in the 14th century on the ruins of an older, Byzantine Greek church built in 1057–59, evident in preserved Greek inscriptions. It was mentioned for the first time in 1300 in a chrysobull of Serbian king Stefan Milutin (r. 1282–1321). In the mid-14th century, Serbian emperor Stefan Dušan (r. 1331–55) started reconstructing the monastery, finished by his son Stefan Uroš V in 1357 (becoming his endowment). Coins of Uros V has been found at the site. Isaiah the Serb and Vladislav Gramatik lived in the monastery. In the 18th century the roof was removed by the Ottomans and put on the Eski Mosque in Kumanovo, after which it deteriorated. In 1926–34 the monastery was renovated.

It is designed in the cross-in-square plan (as is also Marko's Monastery and the Banja Monastery). The dome bears the same exonarthex technique as Hilandar. It was painted in 1356–57.The monastery was occupied by Albanian insurgents and used as a base during the Insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia (2001). Serbian Patriarch Pavle issued a statement to the UN regarding the destruction of Serbian monasteries in Kosovo, and the threat of destruction of monasteries in Macedonia. The church exterior was not damaged, however, the interior and inventory were stolen or burnt. The region saw emigration of Serbs during the conflict.

Pitareti Monastery

Pitareti Monastery (Georgian: ფიტარეთის მონასტერი) is a medieval Orthodox Christian monastery in Georgia, approximately 26 km southwest of the town of Tetritsqaro, Kvemo Kartli, southwest of the nation’s capital Tbilisi.

The Pitareti monastery consists of the Theotokos church, a belfry, the ruined wall and several smaller accessory buildings. The main church appears to have been built in the reign of George IV early in the 13th century. Its design conforms to the contemporary canon of a Georgian domed church and shares a series of common features – such as a typical cross-in-square plan and a single lateral porch – with the monasteries of Betania, Kvatakhevi, and Timotesubani. The façades are decorated, accentuating the niches and dormers. The entire interior was once frescoed, but only significantly damaged fragments of those murals survive.

The monastery was a property and a burial ground of the noble family of Kachibadze-Baratashvili and, since 1536, of their offshoots – the princes Orbelishvili. A 14th-century inscription mentions a ctitor – the royal chamberlain Kavtar Kachibadze. Another inscription, from a grave stone, records the name of Qaplan Orbelishvili who refurnished the monastery in 1671. The monastery thrived at Pitareti until 1752 when it was forced to close due to a marauding attack from Dagestan.


Ravanica (Serbian Cyrillic: Раваница) is a Serbian Orthodox monastery on Kučaj mountains near Ćuprija in Central Serbia. It was built in 1375–1377 as an endowment of prince Lazar of Serbia, who is buried there. The Ravanica church is called the birthplace of the new artistic movement "Morava school" because of architectural and artistic features. It is original blend of the Mount Athos and the cross-in-square five-domed model that became standard in the time of King Milutin.Ravanica was declared Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance in 1979, and it is protected by Republic of Serbia.

Samtavisi Cathedral

Samtavisi (Georgian: სამთავისი) is an eleventh-century Georgian Orthodox cathedral in eastern Georgia, in the region of Shida Kartli, some 45km from the nation’s capital Tbilisi. The cathedral is now one of the centers of the Eparchy of Samtavisi and Gori of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The cathedral is located on the left bank of the Lekhura River, some 11km of the town of Kaspi. According to a Georgian tradition, the first monastery on this place was founded by the Assyrian missionary Isidore in 572 and later rebuilt in the 10th century. Neither of these buildings has survived however. The earliest extant structures date to the eleventh century, the main edifice being built in 1030 as revealed by a now lost stone inscription. The cathedral was built by a local bishop and a skilful architect Hilarion who also authored the nearby church of Ashuriani. Heavily damaged by a series of earthquakes, the Cathedral was partially reconstructed in the 15th and 19th centuries. The masterly decorated eastern façade is the only surviving original structure.

The Samtavisi Cathedral is a rectangular 4-piered cruciform domed church. It illustrates a Georgian interpretation of the cross-in-square form which set an example for many churches built in the heyday of medieval Georgia. The exterior is distinguished by the liberal use of ornamental blind arcading. The apses do not project, but their internal position is marked by deep recesses

in the wall. In contrast to earlier Georgian churches, the drum of the dome is taller surmounted by a conical roof. Artistically, the most rounded portion of the church is its five-arched eastern façade, dominated by the two niches and enlivened by a bold ornate cross motif.

Beyond the main church, the Samtavisi complex includes a badly damaged two-storied bishop’s residence, a small church (5.8х3.2m), and a three-storied belltower (5.7х7.3m) attached to the 3-5m high fence made of stone and brick. All these structures date to the 17th-18th centuries.


A tetraconch, from the Greek for "four shells", is a building, usually a church or other religious building, with four apses, one in each direction, usually of equal size. The basic ground plan of the building is therefore a Greek cross. They are most common in Byzantine, and related schools such as Armenian and Georgian architecture. It has been argued that they were developed in these areas or Syria, and the issue is a matter of contention between the two nations in the Caucasus. Apart from churches, the form is suitable for a mausoleum or baptistery. Normally, there will be a higher central dome over the central space.

The Basilica of San Lorenzo, Milan (370) is possibly the first example of a grander type, the "aisled tetraconch", with an outer ambulatory. In middle Byzantine architecture, the cross-in-square plan was developed, essentially filling out the tetraconch to form a square-ish exterior. Either of these types may also be described less precisely as "cross-domed". In these types the semi-dome of the apse usually starts directly from the central domed space.

The ruined Ninotsminda Cathedral of c.575 in Georgia is perhaps the oldest example in that country. The Armenian and Georgian examples are later than some others but a distinctive and sophisticated form of the plan. They are similar to the cross-in-square plan, but in Georgia the corner spaces, or "angle chambers", are only accessible from the central space through narrow openings, and are closed off from the apses (as at Jvari monastery, see plan above). In Armenia, the plan also developed in the 6th century, where the plan of St. Hripsime Church, Echmiadzin (618) is almost identical to Jvari. Later a different plan was developed, with a tetraconch main space completely encircled by an aisle, or ambulatory in the terminology used for Western churches, as at the ruined mid-7th century Zvartnots Cathedral. The ruined so-called Cathedral of Bosra, of the early 6th century, is the earliest major Syrian tetraconch church, though in Syria the type did not remain as popular as in the Caucasus.

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna (425–30), world-famous for its mosaics, is almost a tetraconch, although there are short vaulted arms leading from the central space to each apse-end. These end in a flat wall with no semi-dome, and the entrance end is slightly longer.

A famous revival of the tetraconch formula in the West is Bramante's first design for the Basilica of St. Peter, Rome.


Timotesubani (Georgian: ტიმოთესუბანი) is a medieval Georgian Orthodox Christian monastic complex located at the eponymous village in the Borjomi Gorge, Georgia's Samtskhe-Javakheti region.

The complex consists of a series of structures built between the 11th and 18th centuries, of which the Church of the Dormition is the largest and artistically most exquisite edifice constructed during the "Golden Age" of medieval Georgia under Queen Tamar (r. 1184-1213). A contemporary inscription commemorates the Georgian nobleman Shalva of Akhaltsikhe as a patron of the church.

The church is a domed cross-in-square design built of pink stone, with three apses projecting on the east. Its dome rests upon the two freely standing pillars and ledges of the altar. Later, two – the western and southern – portals were added.

The interior was extensively frescoed in no later than 1220s. The Timotesubani murals are noted for their vivacity and complexity of iconographic program. These frescoes were cleaned and studied by E. Privalova and colleagues in the 1970s and underwent emergency treatment and conservation with aid from the World Monuments Fund and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in the 2000s.

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