Architecture Pg 2


If inspiration, awe and provocation of an emotional experience were requirements for Architecture, Christianity had more than met those requirements, starting from the beginnings of Christendom.


Through the ages, we will explore the achievements and contributions to architecture from Christianity. 

Years 527-1200

Byzantine: 527-565

Romanesque: 800-1200


"Byzantine architecture is the architecture of the Byzantine Empire, also known as the Later Roman or Eastern Roman Empire." 

"Early Byzantine architecture drew upon earlier elements of Roman architectureStylistic drifttechnological advancement, and political and territorial changes meant that a distinct style gradually resulted in the Greek cross plan in church architecture."

"Buildings increased in geometric complexitybrick and plaster were used in addition to stone in the decoration of important public structures, classical orders were used more freely, mosaics replaced carved decoration, complex domes rested upon massive piers, and windows filtered light through thin sheets of alabaster to softly illuminate interiors. Most of the surviving structures are sacred in nature, with secular buildings mostly known only through contemporaneous descriptions."


List of other Significant Architecture-Churches:

Byzantine: 527-565

Hagid Sophia: Yr  537

Church of San Vitale: Yr 547

Sant' Apollinaire in Classe: Yr 549

Palace of Aachen: Yr 790








A possible reconstruction of Charlemagne's palace

The Palace of Aachen was a group of buildings with residential, political and religious purposes chosen by Charlemagne to be the centre of power of the Carolingian Empire. The palace was located at the north of the current city of Aachen, today in the German Land of North Rhine-Westphalia. Most of the Carolingian palace was built in the 790s but the works went on until Charlemagne's death in 814. The plans, drawn by Odo of Metz, were part with the programme of renovation of the kingdom decided by the ruler. Today much of the palace is destroyed, but the Palatine Chapel has been preserved and is considered as a masterpiece of Carolingian architecture and a characteristic example of architecture from the Carolingian Renaissance.

Historical context

The scholars of the Carolingian era presented Charlemagne as the "New Constantine"; in this context, he needed a capital and a palace worthy of the name. He left Rome to the Pope. The rivalry with the Byzantine Empire led Charlemagne to build a magnificent palace. The fire that destroyed his palace in Worms in 793 also encouraged him to follow such a plan.


Importance of the project entrusted to Odo of Metz
Historians know almost nothing about the architect of the Palace of Aachen, Odo of Metz. His name appears in the works of Eginhard (c. 775–840), Charlemagne's biographer. He is supposed to have been an educated cleric, familiar with liberal arts, especially quadrivia. He had probably read Vitruvius' treatise on architecture, De Architectura.

Works began in 794 and went on for several years. Aachen quickly became the favourite residence of the sovereign.

The geometry of the plan chosen was very simple: Odo of Metz decided to keep the layout of the Roman roads and inscribe the square in 360 Carolingian feet, or 120 metres-side square. The square enclosed an area of 50 acres divided in four parts by a North-South axis (the stone gallery) and an East-West axis (the former Roman road, the decumanus). To the north of this square lay the council hall, to the south the Palatine Chapel. The architect drew a triangle toward the East to connect the thermae to the palace complex. The two best-known buildings are the council hall (today disappeared) and the Palatine Chapel, included into the Cathedral. The other buildings are hardly identified. Often built in timber framing, made of wood and brick, they have been destroyed. Lastly, the palace complex was surrounded with a wall.

The arrival of the court in Aachen and the construction work stimulated the activity in the city that experienced growth in the late 8th century and the early 9th century, as craftsmen, traders and shopkeepers had settled near the court. Some important ones lived in houses inside the city. The members of the Palace Academy and Charlemagne's advisors such as Eginhard and Angilbert owned houses near the palace.


Council Hall






Location of the hall within the Palace (red)

Located at the North of the Palace complex, the great Council Hall was used to house the speeches delivered by the Emperor once a year. This occasion gathered the highest officials in the Carolingian Empire, dignitaries and the hierarchy of the power: counts, vassals of the king, bishops and abbots. The general assembly was usually held in May. Participants discussed important political and legal affairs. Capitularies, written by amanuenses of the Aachen chancellery, summed up the decisions taken. In this building also took place official ceremonies and the reception of embassies. Describing the coronation of Louis, son of Charlemagne, Ermold the Black states that there Charlemagne "spoke down from his golden seat."

The Constantine Basilica in Trier, Germany was probably used as a model for Aachen's Council Hall

The dimensions of the hall (1,000 m2) were suitable to the reception of several hundreds of people at the same time: although the building has been destroyed, it is known it was 47,42 metres long, 20,76 metres large and 21 metres high. The plan seems to be based upon the Roman 'aula palatina of Trier. The structure was made of brick, and the shape was that of a civil basilica with three apses: the largest one (17,2 m), located to the West, was dedicated to the king and his suite. The two other apses, to the North and South, were smaller. Light entered through two rows of windows. The inside was probably decorated with paintings depicting heroes both from the Ancient times and contemporary. A wooden gallery girdled the building between the two rows of windows. From this gallery could be seen the market that was held North of the Palace. A gallery with porticos on the southern side of the hall gave access to the building. The southern apse cut though the middle of this entrance.

Palatine Chapel:











Section of the Palatine Chapel

The Palatine Chapel was located at the other side of the palace complex, at the South. A stone gallery linked it to the aula regia. It symbolized another aspect of Charlemagne's power, religious power. Legend has it that the building was consecrated in 805 by Pope Leo III, in honour of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ.

Several buildings used by the clerics of the chapel were arranged in the shape of a latin cross: a curia in the East, offices in the North and South, and a projecting part (Westbau) and an atrium with exedrae in the West. But the center piece was the chapel, covered with a 16,54 meters wide and 31 meters high octagonal cupola. Eight massive pillars receive the thrust of large arcades. The nave on the first floor, located under the cupola, is surrounded by an aisle; here stood the Palace servants.

The two additional floors (tribunes) open on the central space through semicircular arches supported by columns. The inner side takes the shape of an octagon whereas the outer side develops into a sixteen-sided polygon. The chapel had two choirs located in the East and West. The king sat on a throne made of white marble plates, in the West of the second floor, surrounded by his closer courtiers. Thus he had a view on the three altars: that of the Savior right in front of him, that of the Virgin Mary on the first floor and that of Saint Peter in the far end of the Western choir.

Charlemagne wanted his chapel to be magnificently decorated, so he had massive bronze doors made in a foundry near Aachen. The walls were covered with marble and polychrome stone. The columns, still visible today, were taken from buildings in Ravenna and Rome, with the Pope's permission.

The walls and cupola were covered with mosaic, enhanced by both artificial lights and exterior light coming in through the windows. Eginhard provides a description of the inside in his Life of Charlemagne (c. 825–826):

Hence it was that he, Charlemagne, built the beautiful basilica at Aachen, which he adorned with gold and silver and lamps, and with rails and doors of solid brass. He had the columns and marbles for this structure brought from Rome and Ravenna, for he could not find such as were suitable elsewhere. He provided it with a great number of sacred vessels of gold and silver and with such a quantity of clerical robes that not even the doorkeepers who fill the humblest office in the church were obliged to wear their everyday clothes when in the exercise of their duties.



Odo of Metz applied the Christian symbolism for figures and numbers. The building was conceived as a representation of the heavenly Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God, as described in the Apocalypse. The outer perimeter of the cupola measures exactly 144 Carolingian feet whereas that of the heavenly Jerusalem, ideal city drawn by angels, is of 144 cubits. The mosaic of the cupola, hidden today behind a 19th-century restoration, showed Christ in Majesty with the 24 elders of the Apocalypse. Other mosaics, on the vaults of the aisle, takes up this subject by representing the heavenly Jerusalem. Charlemagne's throne, located in the West of the second floor, was placed on the seventh step of a platform.

Other buildings

The treasury and archives of the palace were located in a tower tied to the great hall, in the North of the complex. The chamberman was the officer liable for the rulers' treasury and wardrobe, which was great and of grandeur.







Location of the gallery within the Palace (red)


The covered gallery was a hundred meters long. It linked the council hall to the chapel; a monumental porch in its middle was used as the main entrance. A room for legal hearing was located on the second floor. The king dispensed justice in this place, although affairs in which important people were involved were handled in the aula regia. When the king was away, this task fell on the count of the Palace. The building was also probably used as a garrison.








Location of the thermae (red)

The thermal complex, located in the Southeast, measured 50 acres and included several buildings near the sources of the Emperor and Quirinus. Eginhard mentions a swimming pool that could accommodate one hundred swimmers at a time:

Charlemagne enjoyed the exhalations from natural warm springs, and often practised swimming, in which he was such an adept that none could surpass him; and hence it was that he built his palace at Aix-la-Chapelle, and lived there constantly during his latter years until his death. He used not only to invite his sons to his bath, but his nobles and friends, and now and then a troop of his retinue or body guard, so that a hundred or more persons sometimes bathed with him.

Other buildings for other functions

The other buildings are not easy to identify because of the lack of detailed enough written accounts. Charlemagne's and his family's apartments seem to have been located in the north-eastern part of the palace complex; his room may have been on the second floor. Some of the servants of the palace must have lived in the western part, and some in the city. The Emperor is said to have owned a library but its exact location is hard to assess. The palace also housed other areas dedicated to artistic creation: a scriptorium that saw the writing of several precious manuscripts (Drogo Sacramentary, Godescalc Evangelistary…), a goldsmith workshop and an ivory workshop. There was also a mint that was still operational in the 13th century.

The palace also housed the literary activities of the Palace Academy. This circle of scholars did not gather in a definite building: Charlemagne liked to listen to poems while he was swimming and eating. The Palace school provided education to the ruler's children and the "nourished ones" (nutriti in Latin), aristocrat sons that were to serve the king.

The place was frequented everyday by crowds of people: courtiers, scholars, aristocrats, merchants but also beggars and poor people that came to ask for charity. Internal affairs were the task of officers such as butler, le seneschal, the chamberman.

Symbolic interpretation of the Palace


Roman legacy and Byzantine model









San Vitale Basilica in Ravenna was one of the models for the Palatine Chapel

Charlemagne did not intend to restore the Roman Empire but to found a Christian and Frankish empire. However the palace borrows several elements of Roman civilization: the 'aula palatina follows a basilical plan; basilicas in ancient times were public buildings where the city affairs were discussed. The chapel follows models from ancient Rome: grids exhibit antique decorations (acanthus) and columns are topped by Corinthian capitals. The Emperor was buried in the Palatine Chapel within a 2nd-century marble sarcophagus decorated with a depiction of the abduction of Proserpina. Scholars of Charlemagne's time nicknamed Aachen «the Second Rome».

Charlemagne wished to compete with the other emperor of the time, the Basileus of Constantinople. The cupola and mosaics of the chapel are Byzantine elements. The plan itself is probably inspired by the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna built by Justinian I in the 6th century. Other experts point at similarities with the Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus and Constantinople's Chrysotriklinos, the main throne room in the Great Palace of Constantinople. During religious offices, Charlemagne stood in the second floor gallery, as did the Emperor in Constantinople.

Odo of Metz was also likely inspired by the 8th-century Lombard palace of Pavia where the chapel was decorated with mosaics and paintings. Although he may have travelled to Italy, it is unlikely that he may have been to Constantinople.

Frankish style


Although many references to Roman and Byzantine models are visible in Aachen's buildings, Odo of Metz expressed his talent of Frankish architect and brought undeniably different elements. The palace is also distinguishable from Merovingian architecture by its large scale and the multiplicity of volumes. The vaulting of the chapel illustrates an original Carolingian expertise, especially in the ambulatory topped with a groin vault. Whereas Byzantine emperors sat in the East to watch offices, Charlemagne sat in the West. Last, wooden buildings and half-timbering techniques were typical of Northern Europe.

Charlemagne's palace was thus more than a copy of Classical and Byzantine models: it was rather a synthesis of various influences, as a reflection of the Carolingian Empire. Just like Carolingian Renaissance, the palace was a product of the assimilation of several cultures and legacies.

After Charlemagne


Model for other palaces?

Inside Ottmarsheim's dome, Alsace


It is difficult to know whether other Carolingian palaces did imitate that of Aachen, as most of them have been destroyed. However, the constructions of Aachen were not the only ones undertaken under Charlemagne: 16 cathedrals, 232 monasteries and 65 royal palaces were built between 768 and 814. The Palatine Chapel of Aachen seems to have been imitated by several other buildings of the same kind: The octagonal oratory of Germigny-des-Prés, built in the early 9th century for Theodulf of Orléans seems to have been directly related. The Collegiate church of Liège was built in the 10th century following the plan of the palatine chapel. Ottmarsheim church in Alsace also adopts a centered plan but was built later (11th century). The influence of Aachen's chapel is also found in Compiègne and in other German religious buildings (such as the Abbey church of Essen).







View of the cathedral today


Art History, by Marilyn Stokstad, Michael W. Cothren, 4th edition, Vol 1​


Romanesque: 800-1200

St. Marks: Yr 828

St Mark's Basilica

Saint Mark's Basilica viewed from Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy

The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark commonly known as Saint Mark's Basilica is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, northern Italy. It is the most famous of the city's churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. 

The architecture is Italo-Byzantine and Gothic, groundbreaking: 978, and completed: 1092.

For its opulent design, gold ground mosaics, and its status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, from the 11th century on the building has been known by the nickname Chiesa d'Oro (Church of gold).

Original facade of St. Mark's Basilica


Detail of the gable showing Venice's patron apostle St. Mark with angels. Underneath is a winged lion, the symbol of the saint and of Venice.

The first St Mark's was a building next to the Doge's Palace, ordered by the doge in 828, when Venetian merchants stole the supposed relics of Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria, and completed by 832; from the same century dates the first St Mark's Campanile (bell tower). The church was burned in a rebellion in 976, when the populace locked Pietro IV Candiano inside to kill him, and restored or rebuilt in 978. Nothing certain is known of the form of these early churches. From perhaps 1063[4] the present basilica was constructed. The consecration is variously recorded as being in 1084–85, 1093 (the date most often taken), 1102 and 1117, probably reflecting a series of consecrations of different parts.[5]











Plan diagram, showing different phases of construction


The basic shape of the church has a mixture of Italian and Byzantine features, notably "the treatment of the eastern arm as the termination of a basilican building with main apse and two side chapels rather than as an equal arm of a truly centralized structure".[9] In the first half of the 13th century the narthex and the new facade were constructed, most of the mosaics were completed and the domes were covered with second much higher domes of lead-covered wood in order to blend in with the Gothic architecture of the redesigned Doge's Palace.

The basic structure of the building has not been much altered. Its decoration has changed greatly over time, though the overall impression of the interior with a dazzling display of gold ground mosaics on all ceilings and upper walls remains the same.


The succeeding centuries, especially the period after the Venetian-led conquest of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade of 1204 and the fourteenth century, all contributed to its adornment, with many elements being spolia brought in from ancient or Byzantine buildings, such as mosaics, columnscapitals, or friezes.[10] Gradually, the exterior brickwork became covered with marble cladding and carvings, some much older than the building itself.

By the 13th century, the narthex or porch embraced the western arm of the basilica on the three sides; when it was first built is uncertain but was probably the 13th century.

The narthex prepares the visitors’ eyes for the atmosphere of the gilded interior, just as the Old Testament stories represented in its 13th-century mosaic ceiling prepare them for the New Testament decoration in the interior.











View from the main crossing dome to the eastern apse


The interior is based on a Greek cross, with each arm divided into three naves with a dome of its own as well as the main dome above the crossing. The dome above the crossing and the western dome are bigger than the other three. This is based on Constantine's Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.












Overview of mosaics, looking east




Dome with Pentecost and pendentives with angels


List of  other IMPORTANT  ARCHITECTURE: Churches :

Imperial Abbey Corvey: Yr 844

Hosios Loukas: Yrs 959-963

St. Cyriakys Gernrode: Yr 1014

Chora Church: Yrs 1077-1081

Plan of St. Gall: Yr 1042