Chapter 3 is loaded with facts and information.
Summary: The rule of Justinian and the order of worship and customs for emperors, the iconoclast controversy, the decoration of the Hagia Sophia and the beginning of the Second Golden Age.
The very long reign of Emperor Justinian, as the de facto ruler of Constantinople, was from 518 to 527, and as de jure ruler, from 527 until his death in 565 at the age of eighty-two. He saw “his self-appointed task was the renewal…. of all of the Western Empire, which had fallen sway to the barbarians.” He was “heir of the Caesars and as the elect of God.” Kinross begins to address the empire’s political aspirations and failures, as well as the role of Theodora, the emperor’s wife. In the case of Theodora, Kinross explains that she transitioned from the rank of “theatrical prostitute” of the circus (an influential group, not unlike the Hollywood crowd of today if one would like to make something of a comparison). Later she became the concubine of the Emperor Justinian, who then, through a change in law, made her his wife. He elevated her to the rank of empress and co-sovereign. She “shared her husband's ruthless ambition and taste for power.” Her influence was “on balance, beneficial.” ~to continue click read more....
While Justinian “emerged as the great champion of Orthodoxy”, Theodora was an “Oriental” meaning that she was a “Monophysite” -that is “a person who holds that in the person of Jesus Christ there is only one nature (wholly divine or only subordinately human), not two.” She worked to convert subjects to her beliefs and even tried to persuade the Western Pope when he visited Constantinople. Eventually this heresy lead to the Fifth Council in 553 which was held in the Secretariat of Hagia Sophia. The problem was never resolved. Kinross notes that “had the influence of Theodora prevailed, the empire..might have achieved greater solidarity between East and West” and resisted the forthcoming invasions from the East. But that was an impossible compromise for Justinian because Hagia Sophia and the empire “lived as the heart, pulse and nerve center of Byzantine Christendom”.
“Taking the precious gift in his hands, he kisses the Patriarch, and descending the steps and crossing three times, he partakes of the holy bread. He ascends the steps once more, the ostiaries (1) spread the holy cloth before him , and her receives the wine from the Patriarch. He steps down and prays. Emperor and Patriarch bow deeply to one another. Then the emperor returns to the metatorion (2) and breakfasts with patricians and other dignitaries whom he has invited.”
Pilgrims from Russia and other countries visited Hagia Sophia to see the great wonder and worship within its walls. The basilica housed countless relics including one in every column of the church according to an anonymous chronicler. There was even a “sweating column, where moisture exuded through the holes.” Anthony, Archbishop of Novgorod, attributed this column to St. Gregory of Thaumaturgus. Miraculous oil from another holy relic was said to have cured Justinian himself. Holy images were also held in high esteem.
The veneration of images and relics became a serious theological problem and under Emperor Leo IiI in 726 a brutal crack-down began. Leo himself “destroyed a figure of Christ over the gate of his palace and it was later replaced with a large cross and an inscription: ‘The emperor cannot endure that Christ should be represented by a mute and lifeless image graven of earthly materials.’” The Iconoclast crisis was finally resolved in 843 at the Council of Nicea. Kinross refers several times to this crisis because it was a turning point in the history of the Hagia Sophia as a center of culture.
Kinross offers an overview and provides a photographic record of some of the most famous images installed during this time period. Many Christians are familiar with the image of the Pantocrator or portrayal of Christ, at your right, because it is still copied extensively today. From the Deesis in the south gallery, it “is the latest of all the mosaics at Hagia Sophia- and also the finest. It is the product of the humanist renaissance that came to full flower only during the last two centuries of the Byzantine Empire’s existence”.
1. (ostiary) doorkeeper
2. an enclosure occupying the east bay of the south aisle that was reserved primarily for royalty and housed the imperial throne.
Most images are from the book "Hagia Sophia" unless noted.
Image 1. In 540 Belisarius conquered Ravenna, which quickly became the cultural center of the Byzantine Empire in Italy. The exquisite mosaics are from the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna portraying Justinian and his court and his wife, Theodora, and her attendants.
Image 2. Porphyry Altar section, Hagia from turkeycentral.com
Image 3. The seemingly timeless wall space within Hagia Sophia provided a rich field for virtuoso craftsmanship. Abstract mosaics adorn the arches and massive pillars.
Image 4. The thirteenth- century Deesis is a triumph of mosaic artists. An astonishingly lifelike portrayal of Christ appears between the sensitively modeled figures of the Virgin and Saint John the Baptist.
The Byzantine emperors sent missionaries to this region.