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Hagia Sophia


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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations



1 Sophia and Choros: The Making of Sacred Space in Byzantium

2 Inspiriting in the Byzantine Consecration (Kathierōsis) Rite

3 Icons of Breath

4 Aural Architecture

5 Material Flux: Marble, Water, and Chant

6 The Horizontal Mirror and the Poetics of the Imaginary

7 Empathy and the Making of Art in Byzantium





About the Author

Bissera V. Pentcheva is Professor of Art History at Stanford University and the author of Icons and Power: The Mother of God in Byzantium and The Sensual Icon: Space, Ritual, and the Senses in Byzantium, both also published by Penn State University Press.


“The interdisciplinary methods of exploration and the development of digital technology in the cultural heritage preservation of the Hagia Sophia’s aural and visual environment in Pentcheva’s book are intriguing, well-researched, and rich to a depth previously unexplored. Hagia Sophia: Sound, Space, and Spirit in Byzantium is worth adding to any collection exploring new innovations in archeoacoustical, art historical, and architectural research in Byzantine or medieval periods.”—Marianne R. Williams ARLIS/NA Reviews

“Evocatively rendered in careful prose, new photography, and recorded sound, this synthetic account breathes new life into a remarkable, elusive monument. Highly recommended.”—M. Rautman Choice

“Reminds us not only how much the study of aurality in Byzantine studies has yet to offer but also what the hidden aspects of Hagia Sophia might still yield.”—Mati Meyer caa.reviews

“Pentcheva’s book is a bold and at times thrilling attempt to decipher the building as living architecture.”—Amy Papalexandrou Speculum

“This handsome volume reflects the author’s deep and sustained engagement of more than a decade with the sensory world of Byzantine worshippers as they experienced objects, ritual performance, and Hagia Sophia’s architectural setting.”—Nina Macaraig Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians

“In this forceful study we come to understand how sound and image come alive in architecture. Hagia Sophia does important work in paving the way towards a multisensorial analysis of architecture that does not prioritize or privilege one sense over another nor flatten distinctions between the senses.”—Emanuela Vai Art History

“This erudite, highly original book explores the ways in which the sixth-century church of Hagia Sophia engaged all the senses in a rich and dynamic exchange of air, sound, fragrance, movement, and light between heaven and earth to create an all-enveloping spiritual experience for the worshipper. Using sources ranging from modern acoustic science to sixth-century poetry, Pentcheva establishes a fluid, multisensory, kinetic interpretive model that will transform our understanding of Byzantine sacred space.”—Deborah Howard,coauthor of Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice

“Pentcheva’s Hagia Sophia dares us to think creatively about the materials we study and all those things that we cannot definitively prove or validate within conventional art historical frameworks. It is a book that glimmers and murmurs to us about the past, densely filling in our mental images of these spaces and rituals with smells and sounds.”—Roland Betancourt Art Bulletin

“Hagia Sophia: Sound, Space, and Spirit in Byzantium is, simply put, an extraordinary achievement, an unprecedented exploration of the liturgical experience afforded by the Great Church of Constantinople in its nine-century career (532-1453 CE) as a Christian holy place.”—Brian A. Butcher Reading Religion

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