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This book is the first on amazing world of church fabrics in the early Byzantine. It is based on the famous Ravenna mosaics of V-VII century, declared to be classical and included in the UNESCO world heritage. Despite the wide popularity of the images themselves, the significance of abundance of fabrics in them remained a mystery. Meanwhile, in these mosaics almost the only visual evidence of the use of textile in the ancient church is kept. This research is unique in decoding the images of fabrics like a living language, due to their correlation with authentic Greek texts. The material obtained gradually reveals the historical, symbolic and theological meaning of the depicted textile objects. Understanding the role of seemingly “simple pieces of textile” suddenly opens up for us a whole world of living, strong and ardent faith of the people of that time, fills the familiar classical mosaics with real stories and human destinies. The fabrics turn out to be the language of the precise and vivid messages of Christians, which reached us from the depths of the centuries. Just start reading it…

Part I: Textiles of Curtains

Chapter 1

Curtains in the Mosaic Tableau “The Donation of privileges by Constantine IV to Archbishop Reparat” in Sant’ Apollinare in Classe

All the scenes of the lower mosaic register are framed by half-opened veils which have a special meaning and determine the context of the plot in each scene. In the scene of the imperial donation they help to understand the sacredness of the depicted action as the continuation of the apostolic ministry by the emperor…

Chapter 2

Curtains in the Mosaic Tableau “The Sacrifices of Abel, Melchizedek and Abraham” in Sant’ Apollinare in Classe

Characters in the mosaic refer to different in time biblical stories, but are placed under a common ciborium surrounded by veils. This detail carries the scene into the timeless context of the liturgy. Old Testament prototypes of Christ’s Sacrifice are visually associated with the Eucharist…

Chapter 3

Curtains in the Mosaic Portraits of Bishops in the Altar Apse of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe

These veils are a semantic bridge uniting the images discussed above. Veils place all the characters in the real altar space of this church. Thus, the unified idea of the Eucharist taking place in the center of the altar is shown in various aspects…

Chapter 4

Curtains in the Mosaic Tableau of Theodoric’s Palace in Sant Apollinare Nuovo

This is the only image where the veils play a central role. They were introduced into the mosaic several decades after its creation, which completely changed the meaning of the depicted building, turning it from a real palace of Theodoric into a triumphal entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven…

Chapter 5

The meaning of patterns of the Curtains on the Depiction of Theodoric’s Palace in Sant Apollinare Nuovo

The patterns of these veils consist of red flowers and crossed circles. The symbols were connected with the mallow flower – the main archaic food which became associated with bread and resurrection. In Christianity, these symbols were rethought as the Body of Christ – the veil and entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven… 

Chapter 6

Two curtains in the group portrait of Empress Theodora and the imperial court in the Church of San Vitale

This mosaic was created during the lifetime of St. Theodora the Empress. Veils in this scene allow you to read the story as a kind of message from the august. They show her special status and rights in the Church. The veil before the empress shows her ability to enter the altar to bring the imperial gift. The veil over the ladies from her court demonstrates the real features of the ritual of accompanying the Empress…

Chapter 7

Curtains on the Frames behind the Throne Prepared from the Mosaic of Arian Baptistery

Fabrics around the Throne Prepared are hung on special frames like draperies. They were called to allocate the space of the prepared Throne and represented, probably, one of the most ancient devices of screens with veils…

Part II:Fabrics and Textiles Objects as Cupolas

Chapter 1

Cupolas in the Mosaic Portraits of Bishops in the Altar Apse of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe: real textile objects and symbols

Cupolas above the bishops, traditionally treated as decorative details of mosaics, are considered in the research as real cloth covers in the shape of umbrellas. Their real three dimensional form, symbolism and tradition of use in the church are determined…

Chapter 2

Decorative textiles in the Cupola of the Orthodox Baptistry in Ravenna: Meanings in the Context of Baptism

The fabrics in the dome were traditionally taken as decorative draperies, but they are directly relevant to the sacrament of Baptism. Their design was deeply thought out according to the purpose and intention of the baptistery, which is confirmed by both other baptisteries and the Christian texts of that time…

Chapter 3

Symbolical images of Heaven in the Byzantine tradition: elements of fabrics

The ways of depicting the sky firmly rely on the classical literature and Christian textual tradition where the sky is often identified with a cover and cloth in verbal images. Especially interesting is the combination into a peculiar hybrid of textile objects (an umbrella, a canopy, a tent and a ciborium) with heavenly or divine images, such as an eagle, a shell, stars and clouds…

Chapter 4

Mandorla: the images of heaven and elements of textiles

Details of the tent cover and canopy, combined with images of the starry sky, rainbow and clouds, were actively used in the formation of the mandorla iconography. Fabrics as equal elements among other heaven images gave artists rich opportunities for new iconographic variants. They were used quite consciously and lasted much longer than the Byzantine tradition itself…

Chapter 5

Transferring the names of symbols of heaven into the terminology of the liturgical veils

The deep connection of heaven images and fabrics influenced real textile objects in the church liturgical practice. All names of the sky symbols were completely transferred to the names of liturgical fabrics which were thought of as part of the heavenly, divine images…

Chapter 6

Elements of Textiles Framing and Holding Mosaic Tableaus in Ravenna Churches: the Temple as a Luxurious Tent

The idea of using fabrics proved to be very fruitful for the creators of temple iconographic programs. Connecting ornaments, referring to the images of a tent, its textile ribbons and patterns, are placed between the scenes on the walls. All the scenes on the walls appear like magnificent carpets, representing the whole temple like a luxury woven tent of heavens…

Matveyeva Julia, Ph.D. in History of Art, associate professor in O. M. Beketov National University of Urban Economy in Kharkiv. She has been studying church textiles for about 20 years. The uniqueness of her approach consists in combining practical, artistic knowledge of the ways liturgical textiles can be created and theoretical, scientific studies of ancient monuments. She is the author of more than 60 publications, most of which are devoted to church textiles. The thesis “The Evolution of the Byzantine Tradition in the Iconography of the Liturgical embroidery of the Late Middle Ages” was defended in 2008. For the last ten years, the main scientific interest is the emergence and development of liturgical fabrics and their iconography in the early Byzantine period.

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The book will be out of print in August, and if you want to pre-order, fill out the pre-order form above or write a letter to: matveyevoy@gmail.com with the subject: Decorative Fabrics in the Mosaics of Ravenna and in the letter, indicate:

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