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History of Byzantine Art: Origins to the 21st Century (Fall)

In this discussion-oriented class, we will steep ourselves in the rich artistic tradition of Christian iconography in its architectural context. In its earliest definition, “icon” simply means “”image,” and Christian iconography could be in a variety of media: mosaic, fresco, egg tempera, etc. We will look at the earliest precursors to Christian iconography and the flourishing of iconography and ecclesial architecture when Christianity became legal under Saint Constantine. We will continue our survey through the various epochs of the Byzantine Empire, noticing the distinguishing characteristics of the different political and artistic time periods. We will spend the last few classes looking at the continuation of iconography as a living Orthodox tradition practiced all over the world.

In the process of this historical survey, we will address questions such as, What is Byzantine Art and what makes it distinct? Are there certain stylistic properties that need to be present for “Christian Art” to be considered an “icon,” and if so, what are these? Does it make sense to speak of “high points” and “low points” of the history of iconography? Though having a broad sense of the epochs through which the icon has traveled is an important
topic, and one we will cover, the focus of each class will be close and contemplative examination of landmark churches and icons. Our discussions as a class will bring out details that would be difficult to perceive as an individual, as well as bringing to light how different images strike different people. Since looking at icons is a catechized process, we will also consider how our first impression might be influenced by cultural bias, and the icon may have
something new to teach us.

In this class, the icons and examples of ecclesial architecture themselves will be our primary texts. In order to “read” the images more knowledgeably, students will practice identifying the images and some important terms, using review tools created by the instructor on Quizlet. We will also read selections from Byzantine Art by the outstanding art historian Robin Cormack and the highly-accessible Hidden and Triumphant: the Underground Struggle to Save Russian Iconography.

Student Expectations
While this is primarily a discussion and image-orientated class, the two books periodically assigned as homework are written at a high level. (To see a sample of these books to gage their reading level, click on the “See Inside” feature on Amazon.) Students interested in enrolling should be able to read at this level and be prepared to engage in discussion during class, memorize new vocabulary and learn to identify images, comprising about 30-45 minutes of homework a week. The final grade will be based on participation (50%) and a final icon-identifying and vocabulary exam (50%).



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Required Materials

Byzantine Art by Robin Cormack

Hidden and Triumphant: The Underground Struggle to Save Russian Iconography by Irina Yazykova

*Required materials are not included in the purchase of the course.

Randi Maria Sider-Rose began painting icons over 20 years ago when she was able to travel to learn from different iconography teachers across the country. Since then, she has married Michael Sider-Rose and completed an MDiv at the University of Chicago Divinity School. As well as taking commissions from churches and individuals, Mrs. Sider-Rose loves to walk with students on the journey of learning to see better and more intentionally, using this “prayer of the hands” to grow in holiness, with God’s grace. Homeschooling her four children in an urban fixer-upper strewn with books, art projects, and Legos helps keep the whole operation real.

Mrs. Sider-Rose and her family attend Saint Moses the Black Orthodox Mission Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she has been blessed by His Grace Bishop Thomas to serve in the ministry of iconography.


For more information about Mrs. Sider-Rose’s process, please visit her website at

Red checkmarkComputer: You will need a stable, reliable computer, running with processor with a speed of 1 Ghz or better on one of the following operating systems: Mac OS X with MacOS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or later; Windows 8, 7, Vista (with SP1 or later), or XP (with SP3 or later). We do NOT recommending using an iPad or other tablet for joining classes. An inexpensive laptop or netbook would be much better solutions, as they enable you to plug an Ethernet cable directly into your computer. Please note that Chromebooks are allowed but not preferred, as they do not support certain features of the Zoom video conference software such as breakout sessions and annotation, which may be used by our teachers for class activities.

Red checkmarkHigh-Speed Internet Connection: You will also need access to high-speed Internet, preferably accessible via Ethernet cable right into your computer. Using Wi-Fi may work, but will not guarantee you the optimal use of your bandwidth. The faster your Internet, the better. We recommend using a connection with an download/upload speed of 5/1Mbps or better. You can test your Internet connection here.

Red checkmarkWebCam: You may use an external webcam or one that is built in to the computer.
WebCam Recommendations: Good (PC only) | Best (Mac and PC)

Red checkmarkHeadset: We recommend using a headset rather than a built-in microphone and speakers. Using a headset reduces the level of background noise heard by the entire class.
Headset Recommendations: USB | 3.5mm

Red checkmarkZoom: We use a web conferencing software called Zoom for our classes, which enables students and teachers to gather from around the globe face to face in real time. Zoom is free to download and easy to use.
To download Zoom:

  1. Visit
  2. Click to download the first option listed, Zoom Client for Meetings.
  3. Open and run the installer on your computer.
  4. In August, students will be provided with instructions and a link for joining their particular class.


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