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Holy Trinity Church
Byzantine and Romanesque Architecture

 

taylor2.jpg (87203 bytes)The Byzantine form that the Holy Trinity Church embodies began in the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Empire was once a part of the vast Roman Empire and the area that the Byzantine Empire inhabited was also known as the Eastern Roman Empire. When the Roman Empire collapsed, the Byzantine Empire was able to remain intact due to its tight network of cities. This civic network not only allowed the Eastern Empire to stay intact, but it also contributed to the empire’s prosperity.

In addition to the civic network, the Eastern Empire’s conversion to Christianity was also a contributing factor to the prosperity of its culture. The Sixth Century Byzantine Emperor, Justinian, recognized the importance of Christianity in the Byzantine lifestyle and initiated a push for the betterment of Byzantine art. As Byzantine historian Thomas Mathews states in his book, The Early Churches of Constantinople, "new structural types, new decorative motifs, new styles in the figurative arts, all suddenly reach maturity in the early sixth century."(p 42) All throughout his empire, Justinian began the monumental task of rebuilding and building Christian Churches. In 537 AD, the traditional Byzantine form was born following the completion of the Church of Hagia Sophia.

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The Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) was built in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, and demonstrated the classic Byzantium dome. This dome sprouts upwards from a square joined by four arches. A pillar then supports each of these arches in order to provide an open area and unimpeded view of the altar. This significant Byzantine characteristic and method became the basis of Father Considine’s plan of the Holy Trinity Church during his reign as pastor.

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Marble Doors of South Gallery, detail

Marble Doors of South Gallery, detai

Underside of window mullion in South Gallery

Byzantine-Romanesque

There are indeed some anti-Byzantine features of the church. In addition to the use of "I.N.R.I" in the main crucifix,  the interior of the church contains a series of stained glass windows. Some may also argue that the church’s fašade is a Romanesque revival. Taking in consideration, the church’s urban and fiscal constraints, there is little doubt that this Romanesque contention is wrong. The church’s architect could not replicate the monumental size of the Hagia Sophia for he had not the space, nor the budget to erect such a project. As a result, the fašade may have been inspired by the great stone buildings of the Romanesque past. However, the fašade does also incorporate Byzantine themes, such as the small domes at both sides of the frontal towers and the restrained0 use of ornamentation. Therefore, the Holy Trinity is not strictly a Byzantine structure, but rather, is a modern adaptation of the Byzantine-Romanesque styles. Thus, the two statues of St. John and St. Peter also symbolize the union between the two art forms of the medieval east and the medieval west.

WWW Link: Byzantine Architecture [At Catholic Encylopedia]

WWW Link: Byzantine Studies Page

 

Medieval NewYork | Holy Trinity Main | Byzantine Architecture |  Exterior  | Interior