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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.
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
Date of Defense
March 29, 2011.
A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Art History in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts.
Includes bibliographical references.
Florida State University
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