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Medieval and Byzantine History Medieval and Byzantine History Forum - Period of History between classical antiquity and modern times, roughly the 5th through 16th Centuries


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Old October 6th, 2017, 01:33 PM   #1

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Roman/Byzantine glass domes?


Something that's been intriguing me for a while is the bathhouse shown in this 11th century ivory of the forty martyrs of Sebaste:

Click the image to open in full size.

Close up:

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The dome has, or appears to have, a very unique construction, consisting of an elaborate frame supporting teardrop-shaped glass panels. Something similar-ish can be found in contemporary Arab baths, though the Byzantine example appears to have a much larger glass-to-frame ratio; does anyone happen know of earlier Roman precedents that the architect could have been drawing from? If not, that might place the construction of the bath that inspired the depiction in the middle period, perhaps the "spacious" bath that Basil I built in the imperial palace.

An 11th century Arab Bath, for comparison:

Click the image to open in full size.

Last edited by JeanDukeofAlecon; October 6th, 2017 at 02:11 PM.
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Old October 11th, 2017, 01:57 PM   #2
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if the dome was made of wood or metal then the open spaces or glass windows could have been much thicker than the framework, just like in modern greenhouse domes.

Look at the recesses in the Pantheon dome:

https://www.google.com/search?q=rece...=1521&bih=1047

If the recesses were deeper they could go all the way through to the outside of the dome. Then the dome would have concrete lines of "latitude" and "longitude" separated by empty spaces or glass windows. Would that dome have been less, equally, or more stable than the one that was built? I don't know.

Anyway, such a dome would look like the famous iron and glass underwater billiard room at Witley Park, surrey, UK:

https://www.google.com/search?q=unde...=1521&bih=1047

Look at some of the more complex forms of Gothic vaulting, with most of the stones supported by a webbing of stone ribs.

https://www.google.com/search?q=goth...=1521&bih=1047

If the stones between the ribs were replaced with glass, they would make complex vaulting shapes made out of stone ribs and glass.

Here are pictures of gothic windows, with the stone between ribs actually replaced by stained glass, though in two dimensional instead of three dimensional shapes:

https://www.google.com/search?q=Goth...=1521&bih=1047

Thus I think that it would have been theoretically possible for Roman/byzantine architects to build a partially glass dome like the one in the ivory.

Here is a link to pictures of a Roman nymphaeum called the Temple of Minerva Medica. Note that in some pictures the dome seems to have structural ribs.

https://www.google.com/search?q=temp...=1521&bih=1047

Here are pictures of the interior of Hagia Sophia showing the ribs in the dome with thinner material between them. Note the windows between the ribs at the bottom of the dome. As far as I can tell the builders could have built windows in the cure of the dome in man d tiers between the ribs if they had wanted to.

https://www.google.com/search?newwin....0.R97PRZWUZjc

Since the Romans and "Byzantines" sometimes build domes of concrete, stone, tile, etc. that had ribs as structural elements, they could probably have built masonry domes with glass between ribs of masonry.

The Romans and "Byzantines" also built wooden domes. The most famous example of that form of dome is probably The Dome of the Rock, built by "Byzantine" craftsmen.

https://www.google.com/search?q=dome...h=1047#imgrc=_

Diagrams show the dome construction as being of wooden vertical and horizontal curved beams, with curved wooden boards attached on the inside and outside. Obviously the curved wooden boards could have been replaced by window frames of wood or metal holding glass window panes.

Varro had a famous aviary at his villa at Casinum. I believe it had a dome with mesh of some kind to keep the birds in.

The "Temple of Echo" at Baiae is a dome with a central Oculus and also windows in the curve of the dome.

https://www.architecture.com/image-l...RIBA50222.html

And I think that i read something about a Roman glass dome, but I don't remember where.

Last edited by MAGolding; October 11th, 2017 at 02:54 PM.
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Old October 11th, 2017, 05:11 PM   #3

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Thanks for the wonderful input/contribution!

The more examples like those shown I see, the more realistic and plausible the depiction seems. Byzantine artists did like depicting interesting art and architecture in their art, even when it isn't mentioned in the stories depicted, such as aqueducts, classical statues, and ancient temples.They were also, like earlier Romans, quite familiar with the use of large amounts of glass in architecture. One of the examples in the last album, from the menologion of Basil II, strikes me as particularly similar to the ivory:

Click the image to open in full size.

Also, TIE fighter anyone?

Click the image to open in full size.

Interestingly enough, though only vaguely related to the post, a hall built by Basil I is recorded as having stained glass windows "adorned with flowers of various shapes", though no examples of middle Byzantine stained glass currently exist.
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Old October 17th, 2017, 01:36 PM   #4

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It might or might not be related, but I was looking at photos of Louis IX's Saint-Chapelle and found this gothic window:

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The larger pattern is almost identical to the one depicted in the triptych, but on a 2d plane. Saint-Chapelle was directly inspired by the Church of the Virgin at Pharos in the great palace, also known as the "holy chapel", and housed the relics formerly kept there after the fourth crusade. The roof of Louis' chapel is covered in painted gold stars, in other places fleurs de lis, a theme which was also in vogue in 11th century Byzantine church decoration. The triptych itself uses very similar, though now faded, motifs:

Click the image to open in full size.

This isn't necessarily evidence of direct artistic inspiration, but the two designs are strikingly similar (also pretty unique as far as patterns go), and the french chapel is connected to Constantinople, so there might be a deeper connection of some sort here.

Last edited by JeanDukeofAlecon; October 17th, 2017 at 01:45 PM.
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Old October 17th, 2017, 02:46 PM   #5

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Here are some stained glass fragments from: Pantokrator Monastery - Zeyrek.

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From:

https://www.pallasweb.com/deesis/pan...stanbul-1.html

Pretty beautiful.

Last edited by Todd Feinman; October 17th, 2017 at 02:49 PM.
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Old October 17th, 2017, 06:16 PM   #6

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Those are beautiful. Though extremely few examples survive (if you don't count cloisonne enamels, which are essentially miniature stained glass), Byzantine stained glass was a very developed art, and probably heavily influenced western medieval stained glass. Earlier examples of the latter are filled with byzantine styles and themes, though to a good extent this is true for early medieval art in general. For example, this 12th century stained glass of mary, which is characteristically Byzantine:

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Byzantine mosaic for comparison:

Click the image to open in full size.

Or this 12th century stained glass of archangel Michael, wearing the byzantine royal toga:

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Another mosaic for comparison:

Click the image to open in full size.

Last edited by JeanDukeofAlecon; October 17th, 2017 at 06:22 PM.
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