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Descending from the Throne: Byzantine Bishops, Ritual and Spaces of Authority

  • Author(s): Rose, Justin Richard
  • Advisor(s): Alexander, Michael
  • Johnson, Sherri F
  • et al.

Descending from the Throne studies the how medieval and contemporary Byzantine bishops used thrones in monumental art, ritual and text to craft spaces of authority. Constantine the Great and his successors crafted Constantinople innovatively drawing upon the tradition of Rome and Jerusalem to make the imperial city a space of civil and sacred authority.

Drawing upon the tradition of the Great Church, Hagia Sophia, in Constantinople, medieval bishops innovated art, text and ritual to stabilize authority in their local circumstances. This dissertation will consider the work of Demetrios Chomatenos, Archbishop of Ohrid and rival of the Despotate of Nicaea for the patriarchal title following the Latin occupation of the Fourth Crusade. Drawing from his years as a canon lawyer in Constantinople, he innovatively crafted a space of legal authority in the upper narthex of Sveti Sophia in Ohrid to preserve Byzantine tradition.

Nikephoros Moschopoulos, Archbishop of Crete, served as proedros of Mistra because he was not able to occupy his see due to Venetian control of the island granted by imperial decree. In Mistra, Nikephoros inscribed a space of authority using art and ritual to stabilize his claims to land holdings.

Symeon of Thessalonike served as Archbishop of Thessalonike in the last years of Byzantium. The medieval Thessalonians had a deep distrust of nobility and had even ruled the city democratically for a period. Symeon used an ancient liturgical form, called the “Sung Office,” to bring the authority of Constantinople to bear on his unruly flock in Thessalonike.

Contemporary Byzantine bishops, with the loss of Byzantium in 1453, nevertheless continue to innovate using tradition to craft a space of shared authority as evidenced by the development of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy.

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