An architectural interpretation of the early Byzantine Great Palace in Constantinople, from Constantine I to Heraclius

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[Truncated abstract] This dissertation has been undertaken in an effort to better understand, from an architectural viewpoint, the early Great Palace of the Byzantine Emperors in Constantinople, a complex that remained in full or partial use from the fourth century to at least the end of the twelfth century, and was a key architectural monument bridging between the Late Antique and mediaeval periods. For the purposes of this study, the early period of the Great Palace is assumed to date from the foundation of Constantinople by Constantine the Great in 324 AD, through to and including the reign of Heraclius (610-641), in which period, it is argued, following Dark, typological forms of Roman architecture continued to be constructed in the Palace, long after they had disappeared in Western Europe, and which may be contrasted with the style and typology of the more familiar secular and ecclesiastical buildings of the Middle and Late Byzantine periods. This thesis approaches the problem of the topography of the Palace from multiple perspectives: an architectural and art-historical study of the historical development of particular building typologies and construction techniques, and symbolic forms and motifs evident in Late Antique and Early Byzantine architecture, and a study of the archaeological record of the known excavation sites of the Great Palace. Finally, I have made use of historical and philological studies of the Byzantine texts that refer to particular buildings within or adjacent to the Palace, notably the tenth-century Book of Ceremonies. In Part One, I will conclude that there was a close relation between particular building forms and ritual practices in the early Great Palace. It will be argued that the spatial sequences of the Great Palace were designed to heighten the impressiveness of processions and ceremonies through gateways, elevated passages, peristyle courtyards and triclinia. I propose that these architectural configurations derived from Late Antique Roman architecture, and in turn influenced other early mediaeval palatine complexes, and argue that these correspondences indicate a conscious desire to emulate the Roman past. The buildings and spaces did not form a neutral backdrop, but instead contributed to court ritual through their symbolic settings. While a continuity of meaning bridging the Imperial Roman and Early Byzantine periods is not proposed, it is argued that certain formal motifs within the Palace were ascribed with significance in support of the maintenance of an imperial tradition...
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


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