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Author Topic: Iconostasis a Christianized scaenae frons?  (Read 5106 times) Average Rating: 0
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88Devin12
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« on: March 01, 2010, 10:16:52 PM »

In our architecture school, we are currently designing theaters, so I've been looking for precidents dating from Ancient Greece all the way up to Palais Garnier in Paris.

When looking at Ancient Roman theaters, and observing Palladio's Teatro Olimpico, I noticed something very interesting...

The scaenae frons on the Roman theaters, a backdrop for the stage, seems to bear a striking resemblance to our Iconostasis. I know that historically pagan things were Christianized, was this another Christianization? Or was it just an accident?

Links to images of scaenae frons...





The next to last image is of Palladio's Teatro Olimpico, which was completed in 1585. While this was certainly after Christianity and the iconostasis' implementation, but his architecture was largly based on Ancient Greco-Roman architecture.

Is it just a coincidence or do you think they Christianized this?
« Last Edit: March 01, 2010, 10:18:13 PM by 88Devin12 » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2010, 10:40:01 PM »

Very interesting! I'm not an architect, so I can't really comment with any authority. But you are correct in saying that many pagan things were Christianized, and thus sanctified. I guess we do need to carefully distinguish between those things that were sanctified by Christian adaptation and those things that were plagiarized. Christianity is not a spurious religion. In fact, all forms of paganism and all false religions are actually satanic perversions and demonic counterfeits of the True Christian Faith. 


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« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2010, 11:24:18 PM »

Wow! What a fascinating discovery you may have made, Devin!!
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« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2010, 11:24:51 PM »

Well, you have to be careful with these sorts of comparisons, not because it would matter if there was some direct correlation, but rather because there's no point in attaching links where they don't really exist.  I'm sure there are an endless array of examples of partitions of different kinds throughout the ancient Near-East.

But if you want to follow through with possible links, then don't forget you must acknowledge the strong element of "theatre" in the Divine Liturgy.  The entire life of Christ is acted out in a "play", complete with costumes and scripted movements and words.

At any rate, these seem to be "portals" to go "backstage."  If there was some kind of an altar back there for making sacrifices then I would buy into the comparison.  Three doors and wall isn't going to convince me.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2010, 11:29:07 PM by Alveus Lacuna » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2010, 11:46:41 PM »

The next to last image is of Palladio's Teatro Olimpico, which was completed in 1585. While this was certainly after Christianity and the iconostasis' implementation, but his architecture was largly based on Ancient Greco-Roman architecture.

Is it just a coincidence or do you think they Christianized this?

I think you have hit on your explanation.

The iconstasis as we know it doesn't come until the emphasis on iconography after the Triumph of Orthodoxy.  When they wanted to built large walls with three doors, that example of the theater was there as a blue print of how to do that.  But to be a direct development, we would have to have early Churches displaying such an affinity, which we don't: they are based on the basilica (which is how Romanian gets its name for Church: "biserica."

Some however, do see a direct descent via the templon:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templon
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« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2010, 02:04:32 PM »

Interesting question. It seems to reason that a people who had previously built partitions containing images of pagan gods and rulers might be inclined to build a similar one with Christian images. I think, though, the greater reason for a partition for the altar comes from the Temple of Solomon rather than from a pagan source. I can say this because outside of the areas once occupied by the Roman Empire, iconostases are very different. you will note that ours is built of oak and is of a very different character than these ancient Greek temples.
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« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2010, 02:26:03 PM »

. I think, though, the greater reason for a partition for the altar comes from the Temple of Solomon rather than from a pagan source. I can say this because outside of the areas once occupied by the Roman Empire, iconostases are very different.

Yes, the comparison with pagan amphitheatres and their skaenes is coincidental.  The iconostasis, though taking a long time to develop into its current form (up to the 14th century), is built more upon the architecture of the temple of Solomon.
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« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2010, 05:34:05 PM »

The next to last image is of Palladio's Teatro Olimpico, which was completed in 1585. While this was certainly after Christianity and the iconostasis' implementation, but his architecture was largly based on Ancient Greco-Roman architecture.

Is it just a coincidence or do you think they Christianized this?

I think you have hit on your explanation.

The iconstasis as we know it doesn't come until the emphasis on iconography after the Triumph of Orthodoxy.  When they wanted to built large walls with three doors, that example of the theater was there as a blue print of how to do that.  But to be a direct development, we would have to have early Churches displaying such an affinity, which we don't: they are based on the basilica (which is how Romanian gets its name for Church: "biserica."

Some however, do see a direct descent via the templon:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templon

Yes, the templon definitely does predate the iconostasis, I think that is actually what the Hagia Sophia once had.

In the wikipedia article you quoted it says:

Quote
The templon most likely has an independent origin from that of Latin chancel barriers. Classical stage architecture is one possible source. At certain times during Byzantine history, theater heavily influenced painting and sculpture. Architects then, influenced by stage backdrops dating back to Sophocles, consciously imitated the classical proscenium (the backdrop of a classical Greek stage), copying the multiple columns punctuated by a large door in the middle and two smaller doors to each side. The statues on top of the backdrop would thus be analogous to the icons of the saints looking down.[1] The similarities, however, are probably only visual. Although classical drama was performed in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, during the 5th and 6th century when the first templa appear, when Christian liturgy was first being developed, the plays and their architecture had lost their importance and could not have influenced Christian ritual. (Emphasis mine)

However the article then goes on to discuss how the more probable source is the Torah screen in Jewish synagogues

I think it is interesting though, I would tend to be on the side of both/and. I think it comes from both the Classical Roman/Greek background, and the Jewish Background. It also of course, has it's own unique aspects which weren't entirely in either tradition.



Just as an interesting side-note, it appears that the templon started appearing in the 5th Century. This was during the time of people like, St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Jerome, St. John Cassian, St. Leo I, St. Augustine, St. Patrick, St. Boniface.
It was also when Nestorius & Pelagius preached their heresies. As well as when Attila and the Huns came into Europe, and eventually when the Western Roman Empire collapsed under barbarian attacks.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2010, 05:46:05 PM by 88Devin12 » Logged
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