Art and Pilgrimage

Jaś Elsner

in The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199252466
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

Art and Pilgrimage

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In Byzantium, pilgrimage inspired various forms of visual art. These sacred arts span a wide range of image-making from tokens and souvenirs to masterpieces designed to adorn the reliquaries of imperial churches. Some objects or sites were specifically associated with pilgrimage, while others acquired a pilgrimage-related significance in later times. An example of the latter is Hagia Sophia, which was in itself a pilgrimage church but emerged as one of Byzantium's premier venues of sacred travel. In the case of objects, whether mosaics or icons, they came to be regarded as sacred and worthy of the special extra journey implied by pilgrimage. This article examines, in their Byzantine context, four categories of objects of pilgrimage art: those that constituted the sacredness of a site, those that were made to adorn and embellish a site by the people who controlled it, those that were brought to a site as votive offerings and left there, and those that were taken from sites as souvenirs or tokens.

Keywords: pilgrimage; visual arts; sacred arts; Byzantium; tokens; souvenirs; Hagia Sophia; icons; pilgrimage art; votive offerings

Article.  4028 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Middle Eastern Languages

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