Hierarchies or direct relation to god: A new interpretation

Michael Altripp
2013 Zbornik Radova Vizantološkog Instituta  
HIERARCHIES OR DIRECT RELATION TO GOD: A NEW INTERPRETATION In this paper it will be questioned that the hierarchies play an important role in Byzantine church decoration. There are only a few examples which probably could be interpretated as depictions of hierarchies. But even they are far from certain. Depictions of hierarchies came up during the fi rst centuries of the Post-Byzantine times and occured quite often from then on. It is proposed that these Post-Byzantine examples derive from
more » ... les derive from Western models. In general it remains to clarify whether or not Byzantine theology is dominated by hierarchical theories. It contradicts the idea of theosis to which e.g. the Pantocrator probably fi ts better than anything else. Since the publication of Otto Demus' "Byzantine Mosaic Decoration" 1 (1948) it has been held true that Byzantine church architecture and the correlating iconographical programs from the late antique times onwards have been organized in a hierarchical manner. 2 This has nearly allways been confi rmed with reference to Pseudo-Dionysios Areopagites who is famous for his elaboration of a Christian hierarchy in the times around AD 500. This hierarchy consists of a celestial and an ecclesiastical 1 O. Demus, Byzantine Mosaic Decoration, London 1948, 15: "The Byzantine church is, fi rst, an image of the Kosmos, symbolizing heaven, paradise (or the Holy Land) and the terrestrial world in an ordered hierarchy, descending from the sphere of the cupolas, which represent heaven, to the earthly zone of the lower parts." E. Giordani follows Demus and in her article "Das mittelbyzantinische Ausschmückungssystem als Ausdruck eines hieratischen Bildprogramms" she speaks of "der kosmologisch-hierarchischen, topograpisch-symbolischen und liturgischen Bedeutung des Kirchengebäudes" (JÖBG 1 [1951] 124). Since then the idea of a hierarchical order has become a topos; see e.g. T. Velmans, Byzanz. Fresken und Mosaike, Zürich 1999, 97; B. Schellewald, Kuppelbilder, RbK V (1993) 590ff.: "Der Pantokrator beherrscht nicht nur die Kuppel, sondern das gesamte Gebäude. Die zentrale Idee des Allerhöchsten, dem sich jedes Glied der Kirche unterordnen muß, fi ndet hierin ihren Ausdruck. Engelhierarchien, Propheten und Apostelgestalten, die als himmlische Trabanten die unmittelbare Umgebung des Pantokrators darstellen, symbolisieren in rangmäßiger Abstufung die Organisation der himmlischen Kirche." (ibid., 591). 2 As a theologumenon it is correct, but offers only one aspect of the Pseudo-Dionysian doctrine of hierarchy which was not decisive neither for dogmatic theology nor for art. Зборник радова Византолошког института L, 2013 Recueil des travaux de l'Institut d'études byzantines L, 2013 ЗРВИ L (2013) 969-985 970 hierarchy which, in the fi rst case, comprises in the fi rst case nine, and, in the second case, six ranks. Their main raison d'être is to mediate the Divine Light from the invisible God down to the lowest rank. Thereby, God remains hidden and invisible. 3
doi:10.2298/zrvi1350969a fatcat:kv6c3bdok5fnll65flyn2xwhz4