Byzantine Materiality

Byzantine Materiality

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A Conference of the Sacred Arts Initiative at St. Vladimir’s Seminary

May 8-11, 2019

Popular descriptions of Byzantium often emphasize the mystical and immaterial while overlooking the mediating role of matter implied by the Christian belief in the incarnation. In the field of art history and across the humanities, a new interest in matter and materials constitutes what is now being referred to as the “material turn” or “new materialisms.” 

This conference explores matter, materials, and materiality in Byzantine art and culture. It aims to examine material strategies of objects, makers, and users; the agency and affective properties of materials and objects; Byzantine depictions and descriptions of matter in images and texts; and the senses and embodied experiences in Byzantium.

Byzantine Materiality has been made possible through the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation.

View conference schedule.


Continuing a conversation

Byzantine materiality began when ten conference speakers gathered for a workshop from September 14-16, 2018 to explore the theme of “Byzantine materiality.” Topics of discussion included Byzantine and ancient theories of matter and form; the use and significance of materials such as wood, stone, gold, and glass in ecclesiastical and other contexts; the roles of matter and materials in the Eucharist, icons, relics, and reliquaries; the rite for consecrating a church; sensory experiences of liturgy; and the neuroscience of viewing icons.


conference Organizer:

Evan Freeman


Advisory committee: Charles Barber, Roland Betancourt, Vasileios Marinis, Richard Schneider, and Laura Veneskey