AP Art History : Analyzing Early Christian, Byzantine, and Early Medieval Architecture

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Art History

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Analyzing Early Christian, Byzantine, And Early Medieval Architecture

Depictions of Christ as the Pantocrator are most common in which period of art?

Possible Answers:

Renaissance

Byzantine

Romanesque

Gothic

Correct answer:

Byzantine

Explanation:

Throughout the history of Christian art, Jesus Christ has been depicted in a variety of roles. During the Byzantine era, depictions of Christ as the Pantocrator, or "ruler of the world," were common. Images of the Pantocrator appear at the top or center of Byzantine hierarchical compositions, and are often flanked by angels.

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Early Christian, Byzantine, And Early Medieval Architecture

The deep-carved stone decorating the pillars and other structural surfaces of the Hagia Sophia, combined with the close spacing of the windows at the base of the dome, suggest what about the building?

Possible Answers:

That the stone structures actually are not supporting the building or its dome, but it is instead floating in an otherworldly manner. 

That the builders and craftsmen employed in its construction were very skilled at working with stone and glass. 

That the cathedral's decoration was meant to contrast sharply with Islamic architecture of the same time. 

Emperor Justinian instructed his architects to copy the Classical Greek style. 

Correct answer:

That the stone structures actually are not supporting the building or its dome, but it is instead floating in an otherworldly manner. 

Explanation:

The deep carving on the Hagia Sophia's pillars and in other decoration makes them appear hollow and too delicate to support the cathedral's weight. The close-set windows lining its golden dome's base create the illusion that the dome is floating. Together they suggest that the whole building is supported by some divine power rather than by its own structure. 

Example Question #3 : Analyzing Early Christian, Byzantine, And Early Medieval Architecture

Hagia Sofia Istanbul

The building was originally a __________.

Possible Answers:

mosque

church

temple

civic building

Correct answer:

church

Explanation:

The Hagia Sophia was originally built as an early Greek Orthodox church. It is difficult to consider the architecture as of a particular time period or style as it has been changed and influenced so many times. There are, however clear remnants of Greek Classical style as well as the early hints of what will become the Romanesque church style. 

Image adapted from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/hledej.php?hleda=hagia+sophia+5.

Example Question #4 : Analyzing Early Christian, Byzantine, And Early Medieval Architecture

Hagia Sofia Istanbul

This building does NOT have a(n) __________.

Possible Answers:

nave

atrium

narthex

apse

Correct answer:

atrium

Explanation:

The church is a combination of central and Basilica plan. It has all of the standard additions of those styles, including the nave and apse, as almost every church of this type does. The narthex is identified as the porch-like addition opposite the apse. This church does not have an atrium, however, which would look like a long open plan that sits before the church door.

Image adapted from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/hledej.php?hleda=hagia+sophia+5.

Example Question #5 : Analyzing Early Christian, Byzantine, And Early Medieval Architecture

Hagia Sofia Istanbul

The plan of this building is __________.

Possible Answers:

Romanesque

central and Basilica

longitudinal

Classic

Correct answer:

central and Basilica

Explanation:

The Hagia Sophia has all the standard additions of the Basilica-plan church, including the apse opposite the door, a nave in the center, and aisles on each side. It lacks the cross-like arms of later Basilica churches. It also has a domed top and a square-ish base, which are both central-plan additions. It is unique in this way among its contemporaries.

Image adapted from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/hledej.php?hleda=hagia+sophia+5.

Example Question #6 : Analyzing Early Christian, Byzantine, And Early Medieval Architecture

Hagia Sofia Istanbul

Construction of the building in its current form began in __________.

Possible Answers:

the eighth century BCE

the fourth century BCE

the sixth century BCE

the ninth century BCE

Correct answer:

the sixth century BCE

Explanation:

The current layout of the Hagia Sophia was begun by Justinian II in 532. It was ordered after his predecessors tried and failed to build a monumental building in that area. As Justinian was largely regarded as the first Byzantine emperor, the Hagia Sophia became a seminal work for Byzantine and later Eastern Orthodoxy churches.

Image adapted from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/hledej.php?hleda=hagia+sophia+5.

Example Question #7 : Analyzing Early Christian, Byzantine, And Early Medieval Architecture

Hagia Sofia Istanbul

The architect of the building was __________.

Possible Answers:

Procopius

Eusebius of Nicomedia

Justinian II

Isidore of Miletus

Correct answer:

Isidore of Miletus

Explanation:

Isidore of Miletus, along with his companion the mathematician Anthemius of Tralles, was commissioned by Justinian I to create the Hagia Sophia. Anthemius died shortly before construction could begin, so Isidore continued alone. He was considered the father of the current structure, minus the Islamic artistic additions.

Image adapted from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/hledej.php?hleda=hagia+sophia+5.

Example Question #8 : Analyzing Early Christian, Byzantine, And Early Medieval Architecture

Hagia Sofia Istanbul

The tall, thin towers are called __________.

Possible Answers:

muqarnas

cornices

minarets

muezzins

Correct answer:

minarets

Explanation:

The towers are called minarets. They are an Islamic addition to the church, added when it became a mosque in the fifteenth century after the Turks sacked Constantinople. These towers are not universal, but are common in Islamic mosque architecture. 

Image adapted from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/hledej.php?hleda=hagia+sophia+5.

Example Question #9 : Analyzing Early Christian, Byzantine, And Early Medieval Architecture

Hagia Sofia Istanbul

The interior of the building is likely decorated with __________.

Possible Answers:

precious metals

mosaics depicting biblical figures

encaustic designs

rich oil paintings of Christian martyrs

Correct answer:

mosaics depicting biblical figures

Explanation:

The Hagia Sophia was built just after the birth of the Roman Christian tradition, and came well before the advent of Renaissance oil paintings in churches. It was also built in the Middle East, and was influenced by the artistic traditions of the area. It therefore likely has mosaics on the inside, which are the cornerstone of Byzantine church art.

Image adapted from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/hledej.php?hleda=hagia+sophia+5.

Example Question #10 : Analyzing Early Christian, Byzantine, And Early Medieval Architecture

Hagia Sofia Istanbul

Why would the Islamic Turks cover the mosaics on the interior of this structure with plaster?

Possible Answers:

The Turks did not appreciate mosaic art.

The Islamic tradition forbids the artistic depiction of figures.

The building was sacked, and the mosaics were taken apart and shipped to interested foreign parties.

Islamic Turkish places of worship traditionally featured plain, undecorated interiors.

Correct answer:

The Islamic tradition forbids the artistic depiction of figures.

Explanation:

Islamic tradition bans the depiction of figures as inspiring idolatry; works depicting figures would be considered sacrilegious. When the church became a mosque, the mosaics were plastered over so that there were no faces in the new mosque, and there would only be Arabic script as decoration.

Image adapted from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/hledej.php?hleda=hagia+sophia+5.

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