Art and liturgy in the later Byzantine Empire

NANCY P. SEvCENKO

It is generally assumed that by the eleventh century the text of the Byzantine liturgy was well established and was performed in a consistent manner throughout much ofthe Greek-speakingworld. Forthe Eucharist, this assumption is essentially true, though some evolution was still to take place with the widespread adoption of the Eucharistic liturgy of John Chrysostom in preference to that of St Basil and with the expansion of the prothesis rite, that is, the prefatory rite before the beginning of the Eucharist. For the feasts of the church year, however, this is less true, as new poetic pieces were still being composed for, and saints being added to, the basic calendar of commemorations even after the end of the empire. Of most importance for the history of the liturgy in this period was the merging of the liturgy of the Great Church of Constantinople with Palestinian monastic rites: a process which started in the ninth century and was only completed in the twelfth. The pomp and circumstance of the former was enriched by the poetic hymnody of the latter. However, even as late as the fifteenth century, the church of Thessalonike continued to preserve elements of the Asmatike akolouthia, as the liturgy of the Great Church was known. Its elaborate ceremonies had some influence on the art of the Balkans in the fourteenth century.1

Defining the relation of middle and late Byzantine art to this liturgy is a challenge, in that so much of Byzantine art surviving from this period is i For a succinct survey of the developments, see R. F. Taft, The Byzantine rite: a short history (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1992) and his articles collected in his Liturgy in Byzantium and beyond (Aldershot: Variorum, 1995). See also T. Pott, La reforme liturgique byzantine: etude du phénomène de l'évolution non-spontanee de la liturgie byzantine (Rome: CLV - Edizioni liturgiche, 2000); S. Janeras, Le Vendredi-saint dans la tradition liturgique byzantine: structure et histoire de ses offices [Analecta liturgica 13; Studia Anselmiana 99] (Rome: Pontificio Ateneo S. Anselmo, 1988); H.-J. Schulz, The Byzantine liturgy: symbolic structure and faith expression (New York: Pueblo Publishing, 1986); G. Bertoniere, The historical development of the Easter Vigil and related services in the Greek church [OCA 193] (Rome: Pontificium institutum orientalium studiorum, 1972); A. Schmemann, Introduction to liturgical theology (London: Faith Press, and Bangor, Maine: American Orthodox Press, i966).

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