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Beauty in the Eyes of God: Byzantine Aesthetics and Basil of Caesarea
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Art History.
2012 (English)In: Byzantion, ISSN 0378-2506, E-ISSN 2294-6209, Vol. 82, 165-212 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The quintessence of Byzantine faith is the twofold identification of the God-Man. Yet, the image of God Jesus Christ and the transcendent Trinity is a one-God concept. Inevitability, I argue Byzantine aesthetics had to recognize God as both anthropomorphous and divine. Since, omission of God’s divinity would verify God as divisible. In line with apophatic theology, Byzantine aesthetics used non-categorizations and non-identifications, what I denominate meta-images, to teach about God’s divinity and that God is. Since 'holy' equals right (ὀρθοδόξως) manner and right teaching about God (θεολογία), anything else would have been heresy. The desired effect of salvation would come to naught if the image did not concur with 'right opinion' (ὀρθοδοξία). Contemplation and imitation as well as communion with God depend on aesthetics 'of right belief' (ὀρθόδοξος). God is Beauty and God is Truth, and vice versa. In context of aesthetics, the idea of beauty refers to potential impetus to restore the natural image in the believer. Beauty identifies in deification (θέωσις), spiritual knowledge of the supreme beauty of God. Beauty does not refer to the perishable, but to the imperishable, not to physical strength and vigor, but to spiritual strength, yearning, and purity. Aesthetic approaches that help believers go beyond physical law to divine law, beyond the corporeal mundane to spiritual knowledge are good and beautiful. Interaction of narration, flattened corporeality, inverted perspectives, and meta-images such as light, brilliance, and patterned borders identifies the twofold reality of God and the historical event within and beyond time and space. This interaction of Incarnation (human visibility/suffering in the flesh) and Grace (divine incomprehensibility) refers to the Beauty of God, the prerequisite for salvation of humankind.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 82, 165-212 p.
Keyword [en]
Byzantine Art, Byzantine aesthetics, Medieval Aesthetics, Churches at Göreme, Cappadocia, Çarιklι kilise, Karanlιk kilise, The Anastasis, The Metamophosis, Laokoon, Hellenistic Sculpture, Religious Aesthetics, Icons, Light symbolism, Religious symbolism, Basil of Caesarea, Basil the Great, Greek Patristics, Orthodoxy
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Research subject
Art History; Aesthetics; History of Religion; History of Ideas; Byzantine Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-123144DOI: 10.2143/BYZ.82.0.2174088OAI: diva2:871910
Available from: 2015-11-17 Created: 2015-11-17 Last updated: 2015-11-17Bibliographically approved

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Karahan, Anne
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