Byzantine Architecture

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.


Justinianus I Famous Byzantine King

Byzantine Architecture *Influences

The true beauty of Byzantine architecture is the exquisite way in which it harmonizes 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.


Capital of Byzantine Empire *Constantinople

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.

Hagia Sophia Byzantine Architecture

Byzantine Architecture *Characteristics

During the thousand-year existence of the Empire, Byzantine architecture underwent significant evolution. It was during this evolution that architecture gave birth to many architectural features which were distinctly it’s own.

These include the widespread use of mosaics in ecclesiastical buildings, a feature exclusively relatable to 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 the geographic complexity of the overall structure of a building.

1280px Ravenna collage

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.

1280px Istanbul Hagia Irene IMG 8067 1920

Byzantine Architecture Facts*

  • Byzantine architecture is recognizable by its distinct use of domes, combined use of basilica and symmetrical central plans of churches, and the use of huge mosaics used in the decoration of buildings.
  • Its origins came from the Roman Empire of which the Byzantine Empire was once a part.
  • Dates from the 5th century until the collapse of the Empire in the 15th century.
  • Byzantine architecture was influenced by Roman architecture in the West as well as architecture in the East.
  • Byzantine architecture can be seen in modern-day Istanbul, Ravenna in Italy and Greece.

The site of the 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

Famous Byzantine Architecture *Ravenna

Byzantine architecture underwent revival from the 9th to 11th centuries but few buildings of this period and the later centuries of the Empire’s existence are extant today.

Top five examples of Byzantine architecture:

  • Hagia Irene in Istanbul originally dates back to 548 but underwent reconstruction in the 8th century.
  • Hagia Sophia in Istanbul dates back to 537 and is considered a masterpiece commissioned by Justinian The Great.
  • Hosios Loukas monastery in Boeotia, Greece dates back to 959.
  • Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna dates back to the 6th century.
  • Saint Catherine’s monastery in Mount Sinai was constructed in the 6th century.

Useful links

An Introduction To Byzantine Architecture

Early Byzantine Architecture



Byzantine Architecture St Michael Archangel Church *Roman-Byzantine Style


Byzantine Architecture Hagia Sophia


Capital of Byzantine Empire *Constantinople