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What is it you can see in the Museum of Byzantine and Christian art in Athens

02 July 2010 / 18:07:58  GRReporter
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For the first time the Byzantine Museum in Athens attempts to present the period after the seizure of Constantinople and the fall of the Byzantine Empire by associating the exhibits with the social, cultural and political framework of the era from which they come. The collection "From Byzantium to the new era" there are 1000 new items exposed, dating from the seizure of Constantinople by the Ottomans to the 20th century. They are presented in three major sections: Spiritual and cultural mobility in the 15th century, from Byzantium to the new era and the Byzantine Empire and the newest art.

The second major section is dedicated to the art of the islands Crete and the Dodecanese, which were seized by the Venetians and it follows the mixing of Byzantine and Venetian culture. Among the works exhibited are distinguished those of Damascus, Angelos, Klondzas, Lambardos and Viktoras. In the halls we can look also at objects from the everyday life of the Byzantines, from the period of the Ottoman Empire, which testify to their daily lives but also to understand what was the role of churches and monasteries as places of professing of faith, but also as places for socializing. Separate section devoted to "the print in the new Hellenism" tells of the contribution of Greek and foreign printers for the formation of the identity of the new Hellenism.

Gradual loss of the territories of Byzantium after the 11th century with a peak time during the seizure of Constantinople in 1453, contributes to the creation of a complex social and political system in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean. The population living within the Byzantine Empire lives through the changes in various ways: in the areas that are occupied by Venetians the coexistence with the West leads to the creation of new social and cultural structures - the Byzantine tradition and Greek language are faced with the works of the early period of European Renaissance, and it shows in the islands of Greece - Crete, the Cycladic islands, of the Ionian Islands and the Peloponnese.

In the areas occupied by Turks the population is integrated into the administrative system of another empire. Within this framework, the Byzantines, as the Orthodox Christians were mostly called irrespective of their origin and language, are citizens of the Sultan, and their religious leader is the Ecumenical Patriarch. At that time the Orthodox Church becomes an institution of the Ottoman administration. But at the same time it preserves the Byzantine tradition, the Greek Orthodox education and the Greek language and in this way later it promotes the creation of the Greek national identity.

The social organization of the Orthodox who lived on Greek territory and in Asia Minor between 1453 and 1830 was based on the concept of community. In the core of these small communities for the people it mattered who is from where, what profession he has and his economic condition. The Orthodox populations had a common tradition associated with the religion and way of thinking and a determinant of their daily life was the church. The church determined the perceptions by which they interpreted the world around them, but at the same time, another way of thinking was forced by the pagan past of the Christians. All this was part of a unified system of thought which was in its essence medieval at least until the 18th  century.

The temples except for prayers were also used for social events such as weddings, baptizing, and discussions on social and political topics. On the other hand monasteries from the Byzantine era are spiritual centers that develop also as major producers. After the Ottomans enter on the Balkan Peninsula the churches which manage to retaing their territory and their properties continue to develop as an economic, spiritual and cultural centers, and some of them develop important for this time schools in fine art.

In the 18th century in the art still prevail the church orders and the forms are influenced by the Byzantine tradition, but are associated with various European and Ottoman elements. Then appears also the picturing of non-religious subjects which paintings started to adorn the houses of wealthy merchants, and sometimes even of the churches.

For the formation of Greek identity the printing houses played an important role, which operate from the 15th century and spread mainly religious publications. The Greek enlightenment also appears influenced by European and the revolutionary ideas of the Greek national poet Rigas Fereos find soil among the Byzantines. And so the revolution in 1821 leads to the creation of the Greek State, whose first ruler was King Othon the Bavarian and as the first capital of the new Greece is selected Nauplius and then Athens. The depiction of Orthodox religious topics turnes to the final three-dimensional picturing, which is ultimately considered the official way of depicting by the Greek Church. Parallel to that more traditional ways of iconpainting called 'folk'managed to survive. At the exhibition can be seen objects, paintings, icons, clothes, books that give the general sense of the epoch and its diversity.

Tags: history Bizantium museum printing houses icons paintings monastery
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