Medieval Arts of Syria and Lebanon Part I

By | December 17, 2021

Western Asian states, independent after the Second World War.The present Syria includes the steppe regions between the mountain ranges of Lebanon, Turkey and Israel, between the Jordan valley and the Iraq desert, and the narrow green belt along the Mediterranean coast up to northern Lebanon. The current Lebanon coincides instead with the territory of ancient Phenicia: a belt of fertile soil along the marine coast between Tire, to the South, and Tripoli, to the North, which includes the mountains of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon to the East. Between the two mountain ranges is the plateau of Biqā῾, from which the Oronte, to the North, and the Litani to Syria it extended as far as the Euphrates. The historical significance of the region is linked to its geographical position at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, to the outlet of the great trade routes to the East and in particular to the silk road. This position gave the region a fundamental role in the artistic exchange between East and West, crucial for the spread of ideas across the Mediterranean; from this point of view, Syria and Lebanon reached their maximum influence under the Byzantines, in the century. 6th, under the Umayyads in the 16th century 7th and 8th, and again at the time of the Crusades, in the 12th and 13th centuries. the new residents spoke Aramaic and, later, Syriac, while the residents of the Hellenized cities were Greek-speaking. 4th to 7th, Christian thought spread throughout the Greek-Roman Syria giving rise to one of the most refined expressions of early Christian culture and art. The most important thinkers and writers of the Eastern Roman Empire, including the Church Fathers Ignatius of Antioch and John Chrysostom, were Syrians. In the new urban and monastic centers the debate about the nature of Christ developed and at the same time the scriptoria jealously preserved and translated the classical texts. Religious disputes multiplied, sowing the seeds of dissent: while the ancient Greek-speaking urban centers remained more or less faithful to imperial orthodoxy, the nomadic populations from the desert regions, who spoke a different language, ended up not accepting the authority of Constantinople, giving rise to innumerable heresies. For Syria 1998, please check

These groups were joined by those who had been banned from the Orthodox Church or who were moving to the eastern provinces to escape persecution for their religious beliefs. Among the various sects that flourished in this early period and still exist today, many had a Syrian origin, such as the Arians and the Jacobites: the latter owe their name to Giacomo Baradeo, who in the century. 6 ° organized the Monophysite Church in Syria, whose doctrine spread among the Armenians in the North and among the Copts in Egypt. The Maronites – who take their name from the ascetic monk Marone (5th century), to whom a monastery on the Orontes was dedicated – in the century. 6th, after coming to a conflict with their Jacobite neighbors, settled in the mountains of Lebanon. In Lebanon the first Christians founded their villas and their churches in the ancient Roman cities, along the coasts, in Beirut (v.), Gibelet (Byblos), Sidon and Tire and, in the inland, in Baalbek (v.). These centers were connected to very busy Roman roads along the coast and to the caravan routes which, crossing the mountains, reached the Biqā῾ plateau, to go up to Aleppo, Ḥimṣ, Damascus and beyond, towards the East. In the large urban centers there are few vestiges of a certain consistency, but on the first slopes of Lebanon there are numerous remains of houses and churches of the century. 6th; for example. in Ma῾ād, near Batrūn, or in Amyūn, near Tripoli. At Khān Kaldé, on the coast, near Beirut, a sizable city with several churches and beautiful floor mosaics has been excavated; near the same center there are mosaic floors, equally splendid, in the churches of Khaldé, Ouza῾i, Jenah and Zahrānī. Walls and mosaic floors of a large medieval city can be found in Beyt Mery, N of Beirut. Closer to Sidon are the sizeable ruins of the Phoenician city of Eshmoun, which also include a 13th century church. 6th and mosaics. Near Tire was the singular mosaic floor of the church of Qabr Ḥirām, now in Paris (Louvre). In Baalbek, the first Christians founded in the great temple of Jupiter a beautiful church dedicated to St. Peter. A number of mosaics from the floors of the rich villas of this city are still preserved in Beirut (Mus. Nat.). the whole area was even more evident in the monuments of the Syria, in the large and small cities, in the villas and in the caravanserais built in the period between the 4th and 7th centuries.

This was the area where the caravans coming from the desert trade routes gathered, stopped in the caravanserais and exchanged their goods with the sedentary merchants of the coast. Many of these villages, villas and urban centers were early abandoned, but the structures have been preserved extraordinarily intact giving life to the so-called dead cities of the northern Syria (see Belus). In the South, large constructions in black volcanic stone are preserved in Bosra (v.), Chabba, Ezra῾, Qanawāt, Dera῾ae Salkhad. Qaṣr Ibn Wardān (v.), Although dating back to the same time as these cities, was a military outpost established by the Byzantine emperor and falls into an architectural and cultural category of its own.

Medieval Arts of Syria