4 Aug 2020

A new book on Byzantine art released for the Dormition

The Publishing Centre, Institute off Art Studies, BAS, announces that on the occasion of the Dormition of the Theotokos, one of the Great Feasts of the Christian Orthodox Church, the monograph The Theotokos, the Container of the Uncontainable: Human Dimensions to the Palaeologan Art in Constantinople, Sofia, 2020, ISBN 9789548594813, pp. 210 by Prof. Emmanuel Moutafov will be made available on the market as of 14 August 2020. It is a collector’s edition limited to 100 copies. Most of the colour pictures and the four sketches of monograms were made by the author; Tereza Bacheva edited the book and created the index to the monograph; graph drawings by Maya Lacheva; book design by Daniel Nechev.
The study was conducted under the Heritage BG project BG05M2OP001-1.001-0001 Creation and Development of Centres of Excellence and funded by the author. Summarising everything written about the Chora Monastery in Constantinople (Istanbul), Prof. Emmanuel Moutafov offers a comprehensive view of the inscriptions at the church with their decipherment, analysing the construction periods and considering the historical, artistic, religious, and prosopographical contexts of the functioning of the site, especially in the Palaeologan Period. The iconographic programme is for the first time treated in its spatial chronology rather than by cycles, thus relating it to the liturgical time and the calendar; texts from codices coetaneous with the monument shedding some light on the founders of the church are included; the epitaph for Eirene Asanina composed by Manuel Philes is given, which in all likelihood depicts the iconographic programme of the funerary chapel at the Chora; it is argued that the diaconicon was most probably chosen for the interment of  Theodore Metochites, and in the arcosolia of the funerary chapel Eirene Asanina’s descendants, i.e. members of the Asans (Ivan Asan III) and the Palaeologi were entombed, suggesting links with Bulgarian history; an attempt is made to reconstruct the personalities of the painters of the Chora, conditionally named by the author ‘Florus and Laurus’ and deemed to be both master builders and painters, who later worked at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Thessaloniki; the dedication of the monastery to the Most Holy Mother of God is proven, etc.
A short version of the book is expected to be published until the end of 2020 in a new series of books on the history of Constantinople by Cambridge University Press, London.
The Chora is among the most popular and well-explored Byzantine sites in contemporary scholarship; its architecture, mosaics and murals are textbook cases of the Constantinopolitan Palaeologan art of European quality and history, worthy of the treasury of world cultural heritage. The church was the first desecrated by the Ottomans who broke the wonderworking icon of the Theotokos, the patron saint of Constantinople, to pieces on 29 May 1453. Later, the building was converted to a mosque (Kariye Camii) and in 1958 it became a museum. In 2019, an attempt was made to turn it back to a mosque. That is the reason why, in the context of what is happening with Hagia Sophia in Istanbul when, for example, the mosaic of the Virgin and Child in the central apse was covered with curtains during the namaz, the book is a specific appeal for taking a more responsible attitude towards preservation of the Christian and to a large extent world monuments in the Republic of Turkey.