Chrestos Yanaras

Apophatic theology and Byzantine architecture

translated by: Hieromonk Irinej (Bulović)

pages: 125-132


The basic presupposition of the Orthodox Byzantine art is the Church's teaching on the positive value of the matter as opposed to the gnostic dualism or the Western rationalistic scholasticism.

The Mother Church of the East has contemplated the cosmos as the body of God the Logos. The material world is not merely a symbol of the spiritual reality, but the very manifestation of personal divine energies, a cosmic revelation offered by God to all men as a place for encounter and love, even erotic love in the transfigured world of the Church.

The architecture of Byzantium is the expression of the apophatic theology. It manifests the personal dimension of the Creator in the material world: it shows the measure of man, more exactly, the measure of Christ’s human stature as a Second Adam.

The gothic architecture submits the matter to the scholastic rationalistic schemes — by opposing the natural to the supernatural, the smallness of men to the transcendancy of authority, it is the opposite of Eastern apophaticism.

In the Byzantine architecture the artist succeeds to express the fact of the Incarnation of the Logos through His kenosis; there is no crushing gigantic building of a gothic cathedral, but condenscending movement of the Heavens towards Earth, of Christ, Who is Emmanuel, towards Mankind. In the Byzantine church building becomes evident the truth that the matter is elevated on the Throne of glory, that the whole of Nature has become the Body of the Logos, as well as the whole of Cosmos has become the Church. The unsurpassed achievement of this „theology in bricks and glass“ is the church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople.





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