Dramatic illustrations of saintly deaths, as well as elaborate tombs featuring portraits of the deceased, were among the most powerful and persistent images in medieval Byzantium from the ninth to the fifteenth century. Such artistic monuments expressed both individual and communal ideas about death, and life after death. Byzantine Christians believed in the soul’s gradual separation from the earthly body after dying, led forth by the archangel Michael. This separation of the soul from the flesh happened over the course of three days and concluded ultimately, at the end of time, in the Last Judgment, a belief held commonly by medieval Christians in both East and West. At the Last Judgment, the individual soul was either eternally condemned to hell or placed among the saved in the gardens of Paradise.
Iconoclasm a religious movement of the 8th and 9th C. that denied the holiness of Icons and rejected icon veneration. Clerical opposition to the artistic depiction of sacred personages had its roots in late antiquity. In the 4th C. Eusebios of Caesarea, evidently drawing on the christology of Origen, denied the possibility of artistically delineating Christ’s image. There was also an Iconoclast movement in 7th-C. Armenia . In the early 8th C. several bishops in Asia Minor, notably Constantine of Nakoleia and Thomas of Claudiopolis, condemned the veneration of images, citing traditional biblical prohibitions against idolatry. Their views became a movement when Emp. Leo III began to support their position publicly in 726. His order to remove an icon of Christ from the Chalke gate caused a riot. In 730 Leo summoned a silention that forced Patr. Germanos I to resign and issued an edict commanding the destruction of icons of the saints. Persecutions under Leo appear to have been limited to instances of destroying church decorations, portable icons, and altar furnishings; there is no solid evidence of martyrdom.
Chora Monastery (Turk. Kariye Camii), located in the northwestern region of Constantinople near Edirne Kapi. The early history of Chora (Ξώρα, lit. “dwelling place”) is obscure. A legendary tradition attributes the foundation to the 6th-C. saint Theodore (BHG 1743), supposed uncle of Justinian I’s wife Theodora; a more reliable source identifies the founder as Krispos, son-in-law of the 7th-C. emperor Phokas. In the 9th C. Chora was a center of resistance to Iconoclasm; the iconodule saints Theophanes Graptos and Michael Synkellos were associated with the monastery and buried there. Restored in the 11th C. by Maria Doukaina, mother-in-law of Alexios I, Chora was again renovated in the 12th C. by her grandson, Isaac Komnenos the sebastokrator. Like its predecessor, Isaac’s church was a domed basilica built of recessed-brick masonry on a cross-in-square plan with, however, a larger, single apse. Traces of its mosaic decoration remain in the south window of the nave.