Elective Unit                             (Min. No. 8)

1st semester Tuesday evening

This unit studies the origins and growth of Christian art by exploring ways in which liturgy and devotions in the early church found expression in visual culture. Themes and topics to be presented will include: the art of the catacombs; the centrality of monasticism and of the city of Constantinople in Eastern Christianity; the mosaics of Ravenna and Rome; the emergence of new art forms such as the icon; the iconoclastic controversy; the impact of Byzantine art and architecture in the medieval West e.g. Monreale in Norman Sicily and San Marco in Venice.



Upon successful completion of this unit, it is expected that students will be able to:

  1. identify the central iconographic themes of Early Christian and Byzantine art
  2. demonstrate ability to use vocabulary of visual analysis and historical inquiry in written communication at a more advanced level
  3. demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the various lenses (historical, ideological, spiritual) through which the interpreter views visual images
  4. engage in critical analysis of a variety of methodological perspectives of art historical scholarship
  5. display appropriate research skills.


1500 word critical review (20%); 1 hour slide exam (30%); 3500 word essay (50%)


* = set texts recommended for purchase

Brubaker, Leslie, and Mary B. Cunningham. eds. The Cult of the Mother of God in Byzantium. Text and Images. Farnham, UK.: Ashgate, 2011.

Cormack, R. Writing in Gold: Byzantine Society and Its Icons. London: George Philip, 1985.

_______. Byzantine Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Finney, Paul Corbey. The Invisible God: The Earliest Christians on Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Grabar, A. Christian Iconography: A Study of Its Origins. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968.

Jensen, Robin M. Understanding Early Christian Art. London: Routledge, 2000.

Kessler, Herbert. Spiritual Seeing: Picturing God’s Invisibility in Medieval Art. Philadelphia, PN: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.

Kitzinger, E. Byzantine Art in the Making. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1977.

*Lowden, Ernst John. Early Christian and Byzantine Art. London: Phaidon, 1997.

Safran, Linda, ed. Heaven on Earth. Art and the Church in Byzantium. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002.

Spier, Jeffrey. ed. Picturing the Bible: The Earliest Christian Art. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.

Vassilaki, Maria, ed. Mother of God. Representations of the Virgin in Byzantine Art. Milan: Skira, 2000.