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"God Bearing" Patriarch

Title: The "God Bearing" Patriarch: Hagia Sophia's Apse Mosaic in Ninth-Century Byzantine Politics.
Name(s): Simmons, Sarah C., author
Jones, Lynn, professor directing thesis
Gerson, Paula, committee member
Bearor, Karen, committee member
Department of Art History, degree granting department
Florida State University, degree granting institution
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2011
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: In this paper, I suggest that the Byzantine Patriarch Photios (r. 858-867, 877-886) used the composition of the apse mosaic of the Theotokos and Christ-Child and its relationship to the light within Hagia Sophia to his political advantage. I propose that on Holy Saturday, 867, Photios attempted to counteract political threats through his Homily 17, which dedicated the apse mosaic, the first figural image installed in Hagia Sophia after the end of Iconoclasm. In Byzantine liturgy, the emperor played a ceremonial role as the embodiment of Christ, an idea that was widely propagated, for example, by images of Christ on imperial coins. I argue that Photios emphasized his own ceremonial role as a "God Bearer" and appropriated the image of the Theotokos as his own opposing political symbol. With the dedication of the Theotokos image, Photios garnered the visual language needed to oppose imperial authority and created an opportunity to assert his Iconophile polemic. Homily 17 is a result of the continuation of the Iconoclast controversy that persisted since the so-called Truimph of Orthodoxy in 843. Through Photios's dedication of the apse image and its relationship to Hagia Sophia's liturgy, the apse mosaic became a performative image. The activation of the apse mosaic as a performative image is due in part to the effect of light caused by the reflection of the sun off of the gold and glass tesserae. Rico Franses discusses how this light effect creates visual layers of bright golden reflections and dark areas of matte glass in the mosaic's composition. He suggests that these layers convey Orthodox theology to the church's congregation. He explains that the changing light in Hagia Sophia, as the sun rises and lowers, and the effect of the reflected light on the gold tessarae illuminate either the Theotokos or the Christ Child. I propose that Photios took advantage of Hagia Sophia's unique light effect in order to emphasize the Theotokos and his own ceremonial role as a "God Bearer" over the Christ-Child in the political rhetoric of Homily 17 and the liturgy of Hagia Sophia.
Identifier: FSU_migr_etd-1713 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Art History in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts.
Degree Awarded: Spring Semester, 2011.
Date of Defense: March 29, 2011.
Keywords: Photios Hagia Sophia ekphrasis Byzantine Byzantium patriarch, Orthodoxy Michael III, Emperor, liturgy, light, Seals, Theotokos, Mother of God, Eucharist, Politics, Performance, Spectacle, Rhetoric, Homily, Sermon, Apse, Mosaic, Tesserae, Christ Child
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory committee: Lynn Jones, Professor Directing Thesis; Paula Gerson, Committee Member; Karen Bearor, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Art -- History
Architecture -- History
Archaeology -- History
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

Choose the citation style.
Simmons, S. C. (2011). The "God Bearing" Patriarch: Hagia Sophia's Apse Mosaic in Ninth-Century Byzantine Politics. Retrieved from