These portals of Amalfi, perhaps the earliest example in Southern Italy of this rare form of art, are divided into panels adorned with Scriptural subjects simply and quaintly treated, wherein the stiff attitudes of the figures and the many long straight lines introduced testify plainly enough to their Byzantine origin and workmanship.
In the somewhat gaudy glories of the Byzantine school, we can trace only the failing powers of a great empire conscious of its old dignity but not fully able to display it.
This mystic rose, which occurs very often in the Byzantine sculptures, and the name of which, as is well known, is employed to designate the Holy Virgin in the Roman Catholic liturgies, is a very ancient Aryan symbol, as yet, unfortunately, unexplained.
Rubbing the pane, a few surviving lights are seen twinkling a picture surely something Moslem. For there, separated by low-lying fields, rise clustered Byzantine towers and belfries, with strangely-quaint German-looking spires of the Nuremberg pattern, but all dimly outlined and mysterious in their grayness.
At the British Museum, and one or two other famous libraries, are still left specimens of this tint, as Byzantine art in its palmy days understood it.
The sculptures of this period, from the fifth to the thirteenth century, are blunt and heavy, but full of quaint expression due to the elemental and immature conditions of the art. Many of the old Byzantine carvings are to be seen in Italy. The Lombards, when invading Northern Italy, brought with them a mighty smith, Paul the Deacon, who had much skill with the hammer.
And though I cannot rate the best Byzantine art of the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries quite so high as I rate that of the sixth, I am inclined to hold it superior, not only to anything that was to come, but also to the very finest achievement of the greatest ages of Egypt, Crete, and Greece.
It found reinforcement from the scattered Turki groups introduced already, as we have seen, into the country; and even from native Christians, who, descended from the Iconoclasts of two centuries before, found the rule of Moslem image-haters more congenial, as it was certainly more effective, than that of Byzantine emperors. The creed of the Seljuks was Islam of an Iranian type.
It is true that there were plenty of archbishops in the dominions of his Byzantine neighbors, and that the Greek emperors, Basil and Constantine, would have been glad to send him a dozen of them if he had expressed a wish to that effect; but Vladimir was proud, and could not think of asking a favor of anybody, least of all of the Greek emperors.
They too, are best representative of the true Gothic spirit, while the southernmost examples, those of Dijon and Besançon, are of manifest Romanesque or Byzantine conception. Each, too, is somewhat reminiscent of the early German manner of building, the latter in respect to the double apse, which is often found across the Rhine, but seldom seen in France. The most northerly of all is at St.