Byzantine architecture refers to such architecture as was constructed in the Byzantine Empire during the period of its existence from the 4th century until the 15th century.
During this period, successive Byzantine emperors commissioned the construction of numerous magnificent structures, many of which are extant to this day.
The true beauty of the Byzantine architecture is the exquisite way in which it harmonises many disparate elements and influences. Early Byzantine architecture is marked by a profound Roman influence which is no surprise since Byzantine Empire itself was formerly the Eastern Roman Empire.
By the time Justinian The Great became Emperor in the 6th century, Christianity had become an overwhelming influence in the Empire. This was reflected in most of the buildings constructed during Justinian’s era which coupled Roman architectural features with Christian themes and resulted in such architectural masterpieces as the Hagia Sophia.
During the thousand-year existence of the Empire, Byzantine architecture underwent significant evolution. It was during this evolution that the Byzantine architecture gave birth to many architectural features which were distinctly its own.
These include the widespread use of mosaics in ecclesiastical buildings, a feature exclusively relatable to the Byzantine architecture. Other identifying features included the use of complex domes which were propped up with the use of piers, the use of brick and plaster and an eye to geographic complexity of the overall structure of a building.
Many of these features are reflected in the extant Byzantine buildings such as the Hagia Irene in Istanbul and Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo basilica in Ravenna.
The site of most notable Byzantine buildings was Constantinople, a magnificent capital of a powerful Empire. It was here that successive Byzantine emperors commissioned the construction of different buildings during different periods.
Another city where Byzantine architecture left an indelible mark was Ravenna in Italy. The city came under Byzantine control from 540 until 751 during which many buildings reflecting the distinct Byzantine style were constructed.
Byzantine architecture underwent revival from 9th to 11th centuries but few buildings of this period and the later centuries of the Empire’s existence are extant today.