There is one character of Byzantine work which, according to the time at which it was employed, may be considered as either fitting or unfitting it for distinctively ecclesiastical purposes; I mean the essentially pictorial character of its decoration. We have already seen what large surfaces it leaves void of bold architectural features, to be rendered interesting merely by surface ornament or sculpture. In this respect Byzantine work differs essentially from pure Gothic styles, which are capable of filling every vacant space by features purely architectural, and may be rendered, if we please, altogether independent of pictorial aid. A Gothic church may be rendered impressive by mere successions of arches, accumulations of niches, and entanglements of tracery. But a Byzantine church requires expression and interesting decoration over vast plain surfaces,—decoration which becomes noble only by becoming pictorial; that is to say, by representing natural objects—men, animals, or flowers. The Stones of Venice [10.124].

Left: Byzantine Capitals from Torcello. Capital of the Nave Pillar. Right: St. Mark's. Capital of shaft of the central Porch.. Middle: Byzantine Capitals. Convex Group. from The Stones of Venice. Right Capitals, Convex Group [Click on these images for larger pictures and additional information.]

Wall Veil Decoration: Ca' Trevisan and Ca' Dario, Venice.

Left: Stilted Archivolts, from a Byzantine Ruin in the Rio di Cà Foscari, Venice. Right: Byzantine Capitals. Convex Group

Last modified 22 February 2014