Friday, 1 May 2015

Anne Karahan: Cyclic Shapes and Divine Activity. A Cappadocian Inquiry into Byzantine Aesthetics

Gregory Nazianzen emphasizes how the deity of the Holy Spirit is shown by his activity as the one who deifies. Gregory refers to the image of 'a truly golden chain of salvation' (Or.31.28). Basil of Caesarea (Hex.2.8) verifies a cosmological interpretation of the 'one day' of creation and utilizes 'the image of eternity'. The succession of days and the change of time signify one circular movement that begins of itself and ends on itself. Gregory of Nyssa (Beat.) separates ontologically the change (τροπή) of everything created from that without change (ἄτρεπτον) reserved for God only. Yet, in In Hexaemeron, Gregory underlines the order (τάξις) and cyclic regularity of the movement of Heaven that imitates God's immobility. The Heaven's ordered change is opposed to the Earth's material change. Good movement/change does not loose itself in the indefinite, but bridges between God and humankind,serves for eternal life. Based on Cappadocian vindications for cyclic divine activity, the paper argues that cyclic shapes in Byzantine aesthetics signify divine activity and immobile order, but also uncircumscription, salvation, resurrection, and return to eternal life. Geometric designs built around cyclic shapes highlight atemporal order and perfected activity, since circles and spheres contain order, tension, but also movement. The cyclic shape of a dome, a nimbus, a medallion, or a tondo has either beginning or end; neither has interacting stylized or elaborated borders in Byzantine sacred narratology.

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