World Heritage Site: The Euphrasian Basilica and Byzantine Architecture

February 9, 2016 architecture 0 Comments

basilica

[Image Credit: Flickr / Istvan]

Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1997, the Euphrasian Basilica, located in the coastal city of Poreč, Croatia and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, contains some of the earliest examples of Byzantine architecture in the Mediterranean world.

The original structure of the Euphrasian Basilica, also known locally as Eufrazijeva bazilika, was completed during the sixth century. This structure, despite the damage caused by various fires and wars over the centuries remains, for the most part, in tact.Predating both the Romanesque and Gothic movements, Byzantine architecture is characterized by a number of distinct features.

Early Byzantine architecture, which the Euphrasian Basilica exemplifies, includes a level of geometric complexity that had not existed previously in building design.In addition, early Byzantine architecture, particularly with regard to religious edifices, relied on sturdier building materials such as brick, plaster, and stone for building construction.

As a result of less restrictive interpretations of classical orders—sets of general guidelines for ancient styles of classical, meaning Ancient Greek and Roman architecture —buildings constructed in the Byzantine fashion contained a number of architectural innovations.

  1. In Byzantine structures, particularly ones of a religious nature, mosaics were often used instead of carved, sculpted, or painted imagery for ornamentation.
  2. Another distinctive feature that characterized the movement, a second architectural innovation, was that complex domes were placed on massive piers for additional structural support.
  3. And finally, a third innovation of Byzantine architecture was that the windows in Byzantine structures filtered light through thin sheets of alabaster, creating soft illumination, which highlighted the shimmering effect produced by mosaics, which were often outlined using gold and silver.

A number of features that are characteristic of early Byzantine architecture can be readily observed today at the Euphrasian Basilica. The preservation of the basilica, with its remnants that date back to the third century, enhances the cultural significance of the structure and provides visitors with a fine example of early Byzantine architecture. It is for this reason, among many others, that the Euphrasian Basilica is currently one of seven sites located in Croatia that is recognized by UNESCO.