Nick Page

Byzantine Church

I’m just on my way back from the wonderful [Byzantium exhibition at the Royal Academy->http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/byzantium/]. (It was work-related. No, really.) Here’s a bit that struck me about the experience of visiting a Byzantine church:

“Processions with crosses, icons, ornamented Gospel-books and portable textiles were a feature of the church’s year. Services were long, the liturgy dramatic and the atmosphere full of incense. All chant was in a male voice, without instrumental accompaniment.”

Not really my experience of church – even in the High Churches I’ve occasionally visited. (Mind you, I have been in plenty of churches where everything was in a male voice.) I suppose you couldn’t visit a Byzantine church without realising that you were something very small and the church was something very powerful. I’m not sure we’d settle for that nowadays, nor, even, that such an atmosphere reflected the beliefs of the Early Church. But I was struck by the theatrical, ‘dramatic’ nature of their worship.

Any low-church Byzantines out there care to suggest how it might be achieved?

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