Byzantine Empire culture combines Eatern and Western influence. Latin was the official languange at the beginning until Emperor Heraclius converted Greek in the official language. However, they used Roman Law.
Byzantine architecture was charaacaterized by:
- They used GreeK -cross ground plan (cross plan with all sides with the same length) and basilical plan with rectangular shape.
- They used semicircular arches. To cover the builidings they used domes.
- Wall were decorated with colorful mosaics.
The most important builindings were the churches such as Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and St. Mark´s Basilica in Venice.
The cathedral of Hagia Sophia is the masterpiece of architecture from the Byzantine Empire. The monument was built in the 6th century as a Christian church at Constantinople. It was later made into a mosque and is now a museum. The name Hagia Sophia means “Holy Wisdom” in Greek.
It is an enormous rectangular building covered by a huge dome with a diameter of nearly 32 meters. The dome is supported by curving triangular structures called pendentives as well as by two semidomes. In plan, the building is almost square. It has three aisles separated by columns. There are galleries above and great marble piers rising up to support the dome. The interior of the Hagia Sophia was lavis decorated with colored marble, gold, silver, and beautiful mosaics. However, much of the original decoration, including most of the mosaics from the upper parts of the walls and the roof, have not survived.
Byzantine art was characterized by its lack of realism. The artists did not try to make their paintings realistic, but focused on the symbolism of their art. Paintings were flat with no shadows and the subjects were generally very serious and somber. The subjects of the paintings were almost entirely religious with many paintings being of Christ and the Virgin Mary as well as saints.
Byzantines used mosaics to decorate walls in churches and palaces. They have vivid colors and are made of small pieces of colored stones or glass called tessels. They show religious topics as well as are portraits of emperors. The most important ones are found in Ravena (Italy).