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(§1) The art characteristic of the developed Byzantine Empire can be traced back to the period just before the reign of Justinian, c. AD 500. The style had enormous influence on both East and West. Early Byzantine art may to some extent be regarded as Roman art transformed under influence of the East. It reached a high point in the 6th century, rose again for a short time to new heights during the 11th and 12th centuries and still survives among Greek or orthodoxcommunities.
(§2) The dominant Byzantine art was architecture. As in Early Christian times, the two chief types of church were basilican and the vaulted centralized church with its separate components gathered under a central dome. Of the latter type, the chief examples are SS Sergius and Bachus (526, Constantinople), San Vitaly (526-547, Ravenna).
(§3) The outstanding exampleof a basilica which combined the longitudinal qualities of the basilica with the centralized volume of the martyrion was the church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) in Constantinople. It was constructed in a short span of five years (532-37) during the reign of Justinian. Hagia Sophia is without a clear antecedent in the architecture of late antiquity, yet it must be accounted as culminating several centuries of experimentation toward the realization of a unified space of monumental dimensions. Throughout the history of Byzantine religious architecture, the centrally planned structure continued in favor.
(§4) Brick was the main material used for the construction of Byzantine churches. It was covered externally with plaster and internally with thin marble and mosaics above. Byzantine decoration was flat and incised in contrast to the bold modeling of western surfaces.
(§5) The historian Procopius wrote of the great church: "Through the harmony of its measurements it is distinguished by the indescribable beauty".
(§6) By the 9th century, the Byzantine style was wide spread throughout the countries of the Near East and eastern Europe, where the Greek and Orthodox religion was followed and was beginning to appear in Russia (the Cathedral of St Sophia in Kiev, Figure 1.1). These Byzantine churches followed the plan of a Greek cross, that is, a central domed space with four short square arms (evolved c. 7th century). This form of church eventually became almost universal, focusing in the brilliantly lit central space dissolved mystically into the dark screens and galleries in the arms of the cross.
(§7) Examples are to be seen in the small Metropolitan Cathedral in Athens and at churches in Daphni, Salonica, and Stiris.
(§8) Secular architecture in the Byzantine Empire has left fewer traces. Foremost among these are the ruins of the 5th-century walls of the city of Constantinople, consisting of an outer and an inner wall, each originally studded with 96 towers. Some of these can still be seen.
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