AbstractBuildings and architectural metaphors occupy an important place in early Christian literature. Heaven was conceived of as a city, Christ is a cornerstone, apostles and prophets are foundations and pillars, the Virgin Mary is a gateway to salvation and believers are living stones. This dissertation studies the equally inventive range of visual architectural symbolism in the art of the late Roman Empire and its successor states. Taking examples from across the Mediterranean basin, from Rome to Syria, it investigates why buildings were so often chosen for illustration and how they functioned as images, often as active protagonists within compositions. Chapter one deals with late fourth-century funerary monuments; chapter two discusses the early fifth-century apse mosaics of Roman churches; chapter three covers the mosaic floors of Syrian and Jordanian churches from the fourth to seventh centuries, and chapter four moves between the Umayyad eastern Mediterranean and Carolingian and papal Rome, to discuss the renewed enthusiasm for architectural imagery in the eighth and early ninth centuries. Buildings embodied many positive qualities, such as stability, tradition, authority, civilisation and wealth, and the open-endedness of architectural iconography enabled viewers to read multiple meanings into one image. The flexibility of architectural symbolism, the role of depicted buildings as both agents and mediators, and their effectiveness as embodiments of material splendour all contributed to the impact of architectural imagery. This dissertation shows how images of buildings were inventively deployed, especially at times of heightened social competition, as powerful expressions of institutional and religious identity and personal status.
Leal, Beatrice (2016) Representations of architecture in late antiquity. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.