ARTH401: Early Christian and Byzantine Art

Course Syllabus for "ARTH401: Early Christian and Byzantine Art "

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In this course, we will study the history of Eastern (Orthodox) Christian art.  The course begins with an overview of the emergence of Christianity in the Late Antique period and the formation of the Christian visual language that grew out of the Classical tradition.  The course then follows the development of Christian art after the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of a “new Rome” in the East: the Byzantine Empire.  A series of reading assignments paired with lectures and virtual tours will introduce you to important works of Early Christian and Byzantine art and will also give you an understanding of the central debates of Early Christian and Byzantine art historical scholarship. By the time you finish the course, you will be able to identify the most important artworks from this period and understand how their appearances relate to the social, political, and religious environment in which they were produced.  You will also be able to trace the ways in which Early Christian and Byzantine art changed over time and identify some of the proposed reasons for these changes.  Further, you will gain an understanding of the unique position of the Early Christian and Byzantine worlds and the works of art and architecture produced in these cultures.  An understanding of Early Christian and Byzantine Art will round out your art historical education, enhancing your knowledge of art produced by other cultures and in different historical periods.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify works of art from Early Christian and Byzantine culture, recalling such information as date of creation, artist (if known), patron (if known), medium, and culture (i.e. Early Christian, Early Byzantine, Middle Byzantine, Late Byzantine).
  • Recognize the features (stylistic and iconographic) typical of the arts of the early Christian and Byzantine world.
  • Explain and discuss the general arc of the history of Early Christian and Byzantine culture.
  • Describe the significance and function of works of art produced in Early Christian and Byzantine culture.
  • Discuss the sources of influence (from previous historical periods as well as from neighboring geographical regions) that affected Early Christian and Byzantine art.
  • Compare and contrast works of early Christian and Byzantine art to those of other cultures.
  • Explain the relationship between Christianity (and Early Christian art) and Byzantine culture, and discuss the symbiotic nature of this relationship.
  • Describe the methods and materials used to create works of Early Christian and Byzantine art.
  • Explain the ways in which Early Christian and Byzantine art reveals the social, religious, and political mores of the culture.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer

√    Have continuous broadband internet access

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader of Flash)

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.)

√    Be competent in the English language

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed ARTH101: Art Appreciation and Techniques, ARTH110: Introduction to Western Art History—Pre-historic to High GothicARTH111: Introduction to Western Art History—Proto-Renaissance to Contemporary Art, and four 200-level ARTH courses.

Course Information

Welcome to ARTH401, Early Christian and Byzantine Art.  Below, please find general information on this course and its requirements. 

Primary Resources: This course is structured around a series of essays and video lectures, including:

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course successfully you must satisfactorily complete four end-of-unit writing exercises and pass the final exam with a score of 70% or higher.  Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your final exam.  However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through the quizzes and problem sets listed above.

Time Commitment: This course will take a total of approximately 101 hours to complete.

Tips/Suggestions: As with any art history course, it is important that you take time to carefully examine any and all images presented in this course.  Pay careful attention to images presented in video lectures, and pause the videos or go back as necessary to review.  Most images also can be easily located in a Google search.

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.