Introduction

The Eastern Orthodox traditions in art and architecture may date back to earliest Christianity, but they received their initial codification only in the opening decades of the fourth century. This is particularly true of the time when Emperor Constantine the Great endorsed Christianity as an official religion of the Roman Empire and moved its capital from pagan Rome, in the West, to Byzantium, in the East, which he renamed Constantinople. The Eastern Roman Empire, or the Byzantine Empire as it became subsequently known, served as the cradle of Orthodox art and Christianity and survived for over a millennium until its capital, Constantinople, was captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Although losing much of its imperial prestige and patronage, the Eastern Orthodox traditions in art and architecture continued to flourish during the period of occupation and continue to the present day.

Many of the Slav countries of Eastern Europe inherited the Eastern Orthodox traditions in art virtually at the moment of their conversion to Christianity, and Byzantine painters and architects followed Byzantine missionaries, clergy and imperial diplomats. In each of these countries, over time, local national traditions emerged and built on the foundations of Byzantine architectural and iconographic conventions, which led one scholar to describe the phenomenon as a Byzantine commonwealth (Obolensky 1971).

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