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Title: At the Threshold of the Heavens: The Narthex and Adjacent Spaces in Middle Byzantine Churches of Mount Athos (10th-11th Centuries) - Architecture, Function, and Meaning
Authors: Stankovic, Nebojsa
Advisors: Curcic, Slobodan
Barber, Charles E
Contributors: Art and Archaeology Department
Keywords: Byzantine church architecture
Byzantine liturgy
Byzantine narthex
Mount Athos
Stoudite monasticism
subsidiary liturgical spaces
Subjects: Art history
Religious history
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The narthex, the entrance room of the Byzantine church, seems to be particularly prominent in monastic churches of the Middle Byzantine period (9th to 12th centuries). The churches of the oldest coenobitic monasteries of Mount Athos, built between the late 10th and mid-11th centuries, are no exception: they all have elongated, three-bayed narthexes, which is typical for the period. On the other hand, the presence of an upper storey and, especially, its twin-domed design are not so common. Moreover, an additional, outer narthex, and two subsidiary chapels were appended to a few narthexes soon after their completion. Although the presence of these spaces has not passed unnoticed, our knowledge of their functions and the reasons for their inclusion, as well as the interpretation of their forms and the location in the narthex zone are fragmentary or entirely lacking. This dissertation deals precisely with this problem. The first part, by providing the first comprehensive examination of all known Athonite narthexes and adjacent structures (Chapter 1), looking at the possible influences through a survey of coevals in Constantinople, Bithynia, and elsewhere (Chapter 2), and establishing the narthex’s liturgical and other uses from written sources and performative traditions (Chapter 3), lays a groundwork for the analytical assessment of the examples in question from multiple perspectives. This is offered in the second part. Chapter 4 focuses on the narthex itself and suggests interpretations of a few characteristic architectural elements, the painted decoration, pieces of furnishing, and other design solutions found in the essentially plain and simple interior. Chapter 5 explores the narthex’s upper storey (katēchoumena), its form, the functions accommodated, and its overall meaning. Chapter 6 examines exonarthexes, subsidiary chapels, porches, and phialai, and investigates their purpose and relationship with the narthex. Engaging a wide range of material, the study also addresses such issues as the interaction between form and function, and the formation and transmission of liturgical spaces within the monastic context. The results not only lead to fuller understanding of Athonite narthexes, but they also shed light on the role and meaning of the Byzantine narthex in general.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Art and Archaeology

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