SPBS Study Day

Medieval Greek Liturgy and Liturgical Art: an exploration of the interaction between art and experience in religious life

Friday, 31 October 2014, 9:30am - 4:45pm

Sackler Room B, British Museum

This event examines the interaction between developments in liturgies (church ceremonies, hymns and processionals) and liturgical art (icons, crosses, church decoration) using a combination of presentations and the examination of liturgical art at the British Museum to explore the interaction between art and experience in religious life.  

Download the poster.

Programme (still subject to final confirmation)

9:30-10:00: Liz James – Introduction

10:00-10:40 Nadine Schibille – 'Liturgy in Space'

The sixth-century architectural design and interior decoration of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul carefully structured the aesthetic and spiritual experience of the faithful. The multi-coloured, yet non-figurative interior decoration in combination with an abundance of light visualised the concept of divine enlightenment. This visual experience served to reinforce the liturgical proceedings. Textual evidence attest to the mystical experience that link the perception of interior space of Hagia Sophia with a spiritual/epistemological journey, contributing to the identity of the Great Church as the ‘House of Wisdom’.

10:40-11:20 Mary Cunningham – 'Liturgical celebration of Mary, the Mother of God, in the Middle Byzantine period: the interaction between Church hymnography and devotional art'

This talk explores developments in Byzantine liturgical celebration of the Virgin Mary from the sixth century onward, including the addition of feast-days honouring events in her life, growing devotion, and dogmatic expression of her importance in Christological doctrine. All of these developments had an impact on religious art, including icons, church decoration, manuscripts, and more personal objects such as pectoral crosses. The talk will be illustrated by examples from the Byzantine collection in the British Museum.

11:20-11:35 Short break (refreshments provided by the British Museum)

11:35-12:15 Arik Avdokhin – 'Public Involvement in Early Byzantine (Para)Liturgical Practices: Participation in Hymns and Prayers in Churches and Elsewhere'

12:15-1:15 Handling Session – C. Entwistle

1:15-2:15 Lunch (at the attendees’ expense)

2:15-2:55 Heather Hunter-Crawley – 'Mirroring Heaven: The Experience of Eucharistic Silverware in Early Byzantium'

Silver was a common choice for Eucharistic implements in early Byzantine culture. In liturgical use, these objects’ mirroring effects were amplified. This paper will argue that the function and meaning of this effect was the mirroring of the heavenly Eucharist, enabling liturgical actors to witness and imitate divine presence in an atmosphere of mystery and awe. In this context, silverware took on the power ability to create liminal space, blurring the line between heaven and earth.

2:55-3:35 Cecily Hennessy – 'Monumental decoration in relation to the liturgy'

3:35-3:50 Short break (attendees may get refreshments at the Museum if they like)

3:50-4:30 Robin Cormack – 'The 14th century icon of the Triumph of Orthodoxy in the British Museum and the broader question of how to discover the use of icons in the liturgy'

4:30-4:45 Liz James – Closing


£15 for SPBS members

£20 for non-members