By Sharon E. J. Gerstel
Gerstel (Byzantine paintings heritage and structure, U. of Maryland) analyzes the ornament of the Byzantine sanctuary from the viewpoint of its modern audience, from monk to liturgical celebrant, from bishop to put worshipper. She quite finds to fashionable readers what was once and is show up
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Extra info for Beholding the Sacred Mysteries: Programs of the Byzantine Sanctuary (Monographs on the Fine Arts)
During the veneration (aspasmos) of the Gospels, the priest held the codex to his chest in the manner depicted in the episcopal portraits. 38 The aspasmos of the brothers symbolizes their greeting of Christ. An analogous ceremony was performed before the faithful in the church nave. We might link the representation of the frontal bishops to the veneration of the Gospels by the monks and laity. The painted evidence demonstrates that the selection of frontal bishops is not archaizing but, in a number of cases, may reflect certain ceremonial practices.
John the Baptist on the outskirts of Vasilaki contains frontal representations of Sts. Blasios, Basil, Nicholas, and John Chrysostom placed under a representation of the Deesis. 36 Were the frontal hierarchs intentionally placed in the central nave as figures suitable for a burial context? It would seem that images of frontal hierarchs might, like the intercessory scene of the Deesis, have been selected to reflect the commemorative function of certain churches that housed burials. Scholars have often viewed portraits of frontal bishops as iconic representations of Church hierarchs.
The texts serve to foreshadow the ultimate incarnational message of the sanctuary program. The south apse contains two figures: Basil, who extends a closed codex above the central window, and Merkourios, the titular saint of the church. The contrast between the Old Testament prophets and the paradigms of the New Law was thus made clear. The scroll is contrasted with the codex just as the message of the Old Law is contrasted with the liturgy that carries Basil's name. The apse program in medieval Byzantium created a new meaning for the unfurled roll.
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