Byzantine Churches

Byzantine Churches, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, and the
Basilica of St. Clement
Byzantine Churches:
-First began to appear in the early 4th century AD during the reign of Constantine.
-Began as a continuation of Roman Architecture and eventually developed into a
distinct style, with Greek-cross churches becoming distinctly Byzantine.
-The Greek-cross plan included a square center with an internal structure shaped
like a cross, topped by a dome. However, the cross would have 4 equally sized bars
extending from the center in contrast to the better-known Latin model
-In Byzantine architecture, classical orders were used more freely, mosaics replaced
carved decoration, complex domes rested upon massive piers, and windows filtered
in light to illuminate the interior.
-Byzantine churches represent one of the greatest breakthroughs of Western
architecture when Justinian's architects invented a complex system providing for a
smooth transition from a square plan of the church to a circular dome (or domes) by
means of pendentives.
-All the churches had a small narrow entrance porch and a square court or atrium in
the front.
-Opposite the altar would be rows with rising seats, distributed into two parts by a
raised walkway at the center. This walkway is reminiscent of Roman basilicas, but
lacks the aisles to the sides.
-The apse is an important aspect of Byzantine architecture. It is the semicircular
recess that we have seen located behind the altar at many churches.
-Side walls were generally decorated with massive portrayals of saints and gods
Archbasilica of St. John Lateran
-This is the cathedral church of the Diocese of Rome and the official ecclesiastical
seat of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. In fact, it ranks above all other churches in the
Catholic Church, including St. Peter’s Basilica
-Consecrated in 324 AD
-Initially dedicated to Jesus Christ the Savior and rededicated to St. John the Baptist
and St. John the Evangelist
-The apse is lined with mosaics and preserves the memory of one of the most
famous halls of the ancient palace, the “Triclinium”.
-The Lateran Baptistry was the first of its kind and provided the model for many
others throughout Italy.
-Notably, there are six existing papal tombs, twelve niches containing sculpts of the
Apostles, and the Holy Stairs.
Basilica of St. Clement
-Contains an apse and mosaics representative of Byzantine architecture. The
mosaics include one of Jesus shepherding 12 sheep and a Roman triumphal arch.
-In the central nave, there is a 9th century fresco, the Ascension of Our Lord, which is
an excellent example of Byzantine style.
-Also displays a floor of ancient polychrome stones, in the style of opus alexandrium,
which is a Byzantine practice.