Justinian's Church of the Holy Apostles: a New Reconstruction Proposal

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Karydis, Nikolaos
  • Publisher: Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard University Press
  • Subject: CC | NA

With his remodelling of the church of the Holy Apostles, Justinian left his mark on the burial place of the Byzantine Emperors for almost a millennium. A major landmark of Constantinople, Justinian’s Apostoleion was one of the earliest cruciform domed churches and provided the model for numerous foundations with Apostolic dedications. Although the church was demolished after the Ottoman conquest, it was immortalized in a series of textual records, including the sixth-century account of Prokopios, and the poetic descriptions of Constantine of Rhodes (10th century) and Nikolaos Mesarites (12th century). Interpreting these sources helps to recapture aspects of this seminal building. But the evidence in our disposal is not only textual. Indeed, Prokopios’ claim that Justinian’s church of St. John at Ephesos was identical to the church of the Holy Apostles (Buildings V. i. 6) suggests that the former helps to understand how the Constantinopolitan church looked like. Further insights about the church of the Holy Apostles can be drawn from the basilica of San Marco in Venice, which seems to follow a similar architectural pattern. Enhancing our understanding of one of the most sophisticated vaulted churches of Constantinople, this paper helps to gain a better sense of the development of vaulted church architecture in the Early Byzantine period.
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