Apse Mosaics of the Virgin Mary in Early Byzantine Cyprus
Shilling, Brooke L.
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The dissertation examines three early Christian apse mosaics preserved in medieval churches on the island of Cyprus. The mosaics of the Panagia Kanakariá at Lythrankomi, the Panagia Angeloktistos at Kiti, and the Panagia tes Kyras at Livadia portray the Virgin Mary as a central figure, representing a significant development after the Council of Ephesos in 431, when she was confirmed as Theotokos (God-bearer). Similar depictions of the Virgin or Virgin and Child would occupy the apse consistently in middle and late Byzantine programs. Despite the notable subject matter and the rare survival of wall and vault mosaics in the Eastern Mediterranean, the group has never been the subject of an extensive inquiry. Part one of the dissertation determines the dates of the apse mosaics using conventional art historical methods and evaluates the original production, decline, and preservation of the mosaics. Part two analyzes and contextualizes the mosaics more fully by concentrating on a set of themes: sacred space and liturgy, metaphor, and intercession. Through these themes, the dissertation explores the prominence of the Virgin Mary in the apse mosaics of Cyprus and investigates the multiple functions of apse decoration in the early Christian period. Prevailing theological interpretations of early Christian apse decoration emphasize the importance of the Virgin for Christology, but overlook other essential functions elaborated here. Additionally, early Byzantine homiletic, hymnographic, hagiographic, and liturgical texts are used to illuminate various aspects of the mosaics and issues of their contemporary reception.