Roman Sources of Christian Art

Roman Sources of Christian Art

Roman Sources of Christian Art

Roman Sources of Christian Art

Excerpt

A growing sense of dissatisfaction with long accepted theories provided the motive for undertaking the studies summarized in this volume. Yet, however displeasing current ideas on the genesis and evolution of early Christian and Byzantine art may have seemed to me, it is doubtful whether I should have assumed the considerable labor of organizing the notes and data accumulated during the past decade -- of casting them into a logical and unified framework -- without a more specific stimulus. The wide extent and extreme complexity of the field itself, the sharp clash of opinions on vital points of interpretation, the realization that a lifetime of study would prove too short to resolve even a small number of the questions at issue -- these and other considerations of the sort would have been enough to discourage the undertaking, quite apart from an acute awareness of my own lack of qualifications for an adequate handling of so large a task. It happened, however, that I was invited by the Board of Scholars of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection of Harvard University to take part in a symposium, held at Washington after the close of the recent war, the theme of which was the Church of Hagia Sophia, at Constantinople. On this occasion I presented in three lectures a rather sketchy outline of facts and theories which pointed toward a specifically Western Roman origin of the Byzantine style of building and of the structural and esthetic principles upon which, the latter seemed to rest. Certain aspects of this thesis were further elaborated and presented at a meeting of the New York Athenaeum, and others were developed in single lectures delivered before a number of the local societies of the Archaeological Institute of America. Discussions which followed many of these meetings proved most helpful, not only in defining more clearly the controversial areas but also in suggesting new and significant data bearing upon the many problems involved. The determining impulse came, however, at a later date through the kind offices of Dean Leopold Arnaud, of the School of Architecture of Columbia . . .

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