Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections

October 6, 2013 – March 2, 2014

West Building Main Floor


In 330 Emperor Constantine the Great moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Italy some thousand miles to the east, near the site of the ancient Greek city of Byzantium on the Bosphorus Strait linking the Aegean and Black Seas. Renamed Constantinople (now Istanbul), the city became the largest and wealthiest in the Christian world. It remained the dominant power, especially in the eastern Mediterranean, for more than 1,000 years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. In the first-ever exhibition of Byzantine art at the Gallery, some 170 works of art, many never before lent to the United States, will be on view—among them mosaics, icons, manuscripts, jewelry, and ceramics. The works include newly discovered and unpublished objects and reveal the rich and multifaceted culture of Byzantium. Divided into five thematic sections, the exhibition explores the coexistence of paganism and Christianity, spiritual life in Byzantium, secular works of art used in the home, the intellectual life of Byzantine scholars, and the cross-influences that occurred between Byzantine and Western artists before the fall of Byzantium.

Organization: The exhibition was organized by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, Athens, with the collaboration of the Benaki Museum, Athens, and in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Sponsors: The exhibition’s international tour is made possible by major funding from OPAP S.A.
Financial support is also provided by the A.G. Leventis Foundation.

Indemnity Credit: The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Passes: Passes are not required for this exhibition.

Other Venues: J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, April 9–August 25, 2014

Image: Icon of the archangel Michael (detail), first half 14th century, egg tempera and gold on wood. Athens, Byzantine and Christian Museum, Gift of a Greek of Istanbul, 1958

Exhibition Feature

Exhibition Film

Five Byzantine Churches

Produced by the Department of Exhibition Programs, this ten-minute film presents original still and moving footage of Byzantine churches in Greece. Set to the music of Byzantine hymns and chants, the film evokes the original context of many objects in the exhibition.


Gallery Talks
Arts of the Byzantine Church
January 24, 31 at 1:00
February 10, 15, and 21 at 1:00

Lectures and Book Signings
"Fair Greece, Sad Relic": How Did Byzantium Reform Classical Greek Art?
February 27 at 3:30

Gallery Talks
Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections
January 15, 17, 25, 26 at 1:00
February 8, 9, 11 at 12:00
February 12, 13, 18–20 at 2:00

Lectures and Book Signings
Witnessing Byzantium: The Greek Perspective
January 16 at 3:30

Public Symposia
Ways of Seeing Byzantium
February 28 from 2:00–5:00

Lectures and Book Signings
Gifts and Gift Exchanges between Byzantium and Islam
December 10 at 3:30