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Literature

Prof. Patricios on Sacred Architecture and Art of Four Byzantine Capitals

January 11, 2021

For those interested in Byzantine art and architecture, especially during these times when travel restrictions are still in place, books offer a wonderful opportunity to “travel” to sites and plan for future visits once the restrictions are lifted. Nicholas N. Patricios, Professor and Dean Emeritus at the University of Miami, School of Architecture, spoke with The National Herald about his latest book, Sacred Architecture and Art of Four Byzantine Capitals.

Professor Patricios told TNH, “Byzantine churches are special. They are special as their architecture, art, and liturgy are integrated and imbued with symbolism, and they do so in so many different ways. The best have impressive architectural exteriors and striking iconographic interiors. This book is a photographic record of specially selected churches of four Byzantine capitals which an interested reader can likewise visit.”

He continued, “The capitals of the Byzantine Empire were Constantinople (today Istanbul) on the Bosporus, the major capital city; Thessaloniki, located in northern Greece, the co-capital; Mystras in the central Peloponnese, a medieval capital; and Mount Athos on a peninsula in northeast Greece, still today the spiritual capital of Eastern Orthodox monasticism.”

“The aim of this book is to illustrate visually in color, with mostly one-page readable written descriptions, the architecture and iconography of the important churches, sixty-nine in all, of the four capitals of the Byzantine Empire,” Patricios said.

Of the churches included in the book, the author has personally visited all except five. The book features the floor plan for each church and 391 color photographs out of a total of 476 illustrations.

“These churches of the Empire’s heartland are most significant as they acted as models or prototypes for those built elsewhere in the Byzantine world. It is remarkable that the Byzantine-style church has continued to be built even after the Byzantine Empire ceased to exist in Greek and Eastern Orthodox communities throughout the world to the present day.”

When asked about his roots in Greece, Patricios told TNH, “My parents are from the island of Ithaka and so are my wife’s, so going to Greece every summer means we go to one place and do not have to split up! I am pretty fluent in Greek and have designed four built houses on the island and am currently designing one for my son. I wrote a book about the island in Kefallinia and Ithaki: A Historical and Architectural Odyssey.”

Of his interest in Byzantine architecture, he said, “I guess my interest in Byzantine architecture began more than a decade ago when I did the first sketch design for a Byzantine-style church to replace the current A-frame church of St. Andrew [Greek Orthodox Church in Miami] where I have been a member of the Parish Council for over twenty years and served as President twice. I discovered in the design process that I was not as familiar with the principles of Byzantine church architecture as I should be and thus began research that resulted in my first book The Sacred Architecture of Byzantium: Art, Liturgy and Symbolism in Early Christian Churches.”

Patricios continued, “The research was not only in the library but personal visits to churches in Italy, the Greek mainland and islands, and the Near East. I have also received spiritual guidance and renewal in my five visits to Mount Athos. The present book is intended to be visually focused and perhaps more accessible to interested readers.”

Sacred Architecture and Art of Four Byzantine Capitals by Nicholas N. Patricios and all his above-mentioned books are available online.

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