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Abstract

The architecture and unique layout of the famous church of Nea Moni, built by Constantine IX (1042–1055), have been much debated. It has been previously noted, for example, that its innovative structural system, a so-called domed-octagon, reveals certain incongruities between the church’s lower square naos and its upper vaulted octaconch structure. According to a 19th-century commentary, the plan of the church was a copy of the “plan of Holy Apostles the small, that is, the smaller Church of the Holy Apostles.” In that respect, a theory by Charalambos Bouras proposed that the church’s upper portion might have been a replication of the centrally planned mausoleum of Constantine the Great in the complex of the church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.

The church itself displays a noticeable consistency of design elements in the interior and on the exterior of the building. The interior is adorned by a circle of double colonnettes, which unify the lower and the upper portions of the church. The reconstruction of the church’s dome to its original appearance revealed that the double marble colonnettes were incorporated in the corners of the drum, thus restating the interior design on the exterior of the church. The architecture of the church has been considered mainly through its interior arrangement, and the presence of the double colonnettes was discussed mainly within the context of the possible Armenian sources of Nea Moni’s domed-octagon plan. The design is conspicuously present in several other Middle Byzantine monuments, among them the katholikon of the Vatopedi monastery, the church of the Virgin Eleousa in Strumica, and most probably the Constantinopolitan church of the Virgin Mougliotissa.

This chapter examines the significance of this design beyond evolutionary typological considerations. It establishes its possible archetypes and the models of their application. While keeping in mind the medieval understanding of replication as expressed in the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite, John of Damascus, Theodore the Studite, Maximus the Confessor, and others, I examine whether these examples can approximate the medieval understanding of type and their position within the framework of modern architectural discourse. This study clarifies that the Byzantine architects were capable of formally conceptualizing and embedding architectural forms with highly sophisticated theological and ontological ideas. The repeated conceptual similarity in various instances, despite their geographic, stylistic, and structural characteristics, certainly brings to mind the idea of ‘type.’ The potent role of architecture in the perpetuation of memoriae through physical presence radically changes the perception of type in Byzantine architecture as the synchronic, codified assembly of particular physical characteristics.

In: Type and Archetype in Late Antique and Byzantine Art and Architecture
This book addresses typology of Late Antique and Byzantine art and architecture in eight wide-ranging contributions from an international group of scholars. A dialogue between type and its ultimate source, archetype, surpasses issues of formalism and conventional chronological narratives to suggest a more nuanced approach to typology as a systematic and systemic classification of types in the visual landscape of the pagans, Jews, and Christians.
Set against the contemporaneous cultural context, select examples of Mediterranean material culture confirm the great importance of type-and-archetype constructs for theoretical discourse on architecture and visual arts. Contributors are Anna Adashinskaya, Jelena Anđelković Grašar, Jelena Bogdanović, Čedomila Marinković, Marina Mihaljević, Ljubomir Milanović, Cecilia Olovsdotter, and Ida Sinkević.