Aural Architecture in Byzantium: Music, Acoustics, and Ritual: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Aural Architecture in Byzantium: Music, Acoustics, and Ritual

1st Edition

Edited by Bissera Pentcheva


272 pages | 87 B/W Illus.

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Emerging from the challenge to reconstruct sonic and spatial experiences of the deep past, this multidisciplinary collection of ten essays explores the intersection of liturgy, acoustics, and art in the churches of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Rome and Armenia, and reflects on the role digital technology can play in re-creating aspects of the sensually rich performance of the divine word. Engaging the material fabric of the buildings in relationship to the liturgical ritual, the book studies the structure of the rite, revealing the important role chant plays in it, and confronts both the acoustics of the physical spaces and the hermeneutic system of reception of the religious services. By then drawing on audio software modelling tools in order to reproduce some of the visual and aural aspects of these multi-sensory public rituals, it inaugurates a synthetic approach to the study of the premodern sacred space, which bridges humanities with exact sciences. The result is a rich contribution to the growing discipline of sound studies and an innovative convergence of the medieval and the digital.

Table of Contents


Bissera V. Pentcheva

1. Aural Architecture in Jerusalem, Rome, Constantinople, and Alexandria

Peter Jeffery

2. The Great Outdoors: Liturgical Encounters with the Early Medieval Armenian Church

Christina Maranci

3. Byzantine Chant Notation: Written Documents in an Aural Tradition

Christian Troelsgård

4. Understanding Liturgy in the Byzantine Liturgical Commentaries

Walter D. Ray

5. Christ’s All-Seeing Eye in the Dome

Ravinder Binning

6. Transfigured: Mosaic and Liturgy at Nea Moni

Lora Webb

7. We Who Musically Represent the Cherubim

Laura Steenberge

8. Spatial Embodiment and Agency in Ekphraseis of Church Buildings

Ruth Webb

9. The Acoustics of Hagia Sophia: A Scientific Approach to the Humanities and Sacred Space

Wieslaw Woszczyk

10. Live Auralization of Cappella Romana at the Bing Concert Hall, Stanford University

Jonathan S. Abel and Kurt Werner

About the Editor

Bissera V. Pentcheva is professor of medieval art at Stanford University, USA. She has published three books to date: Icons and Power: The Mother of God in Byzantium, The Sensual Icon: Space, Ritual, and the Senses in Byzantium, and Hagia Sophia: Sound, Space, and Spirit in Byzantium. Her articles on phenomenology and aesthetics of medieval art have appeared in the Art Bulletin, Gesta, Speculum, RES Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics, Performance Research International, and Dumbarton Oaks Papers.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ARCHITECTURE / History / Ancient & Classical
ART / History / Ancient & Classical
MUSIC / General