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The architecture of the Byzantine Empire was based on the great legacy of Roman formal and technical achievements Constantinople had been purposely founded as the Christian counterpart and successor to the leadership of the old pagan city of Rome The new capital was in close contact with the Hellenized East and the contribution of Eastern culture though sometimes overstressed was an important element in the development of its architectural style The 5th-century basilica of St John of the Studion the oldest surviving church in Constantinople is an early example of Byzantine reliance upon traditional Roman modelsThe most imposing achievement of Byzantine architecture is the Church of Holy Wisdom or Hagia Sophia It was constructed in a short span of five years 53237 during the reign of Justinian Hagia Sophia is without a clear antecedent in the architecture of late antiquity yet it must be accounted as culminating several centuries of experimentation toward the realization of a unified space of monumental dimensions Throughout the history of Byzantine religious architecture the centrally planned structure continued in favor Such structures which may show considerable variation in plan have in common the predominance of a central domed space flanked and partly sustained by smaller domes and half-domes spanning peripheral spacesAlthough many of the important buildings of Constantinople have been destroyed impressive examples are still extant throughout the provinces and on the outer fringes of the empire notably in Bulgaria Russia Armenia and Sicily A great Byzantine architectural achievement is the octagonal church of San Vitale consecrated 547 in Ravenna The church of St Marks in Venice was based on a Byzantine prototype and Byzantine workmen were employed by Arab rulers in the Holy Land and in Ottonian Germany during the 11th centSecular architecture in the Byzantine Empire has left fewer traces Foremost among these are the ruins of the 5th-century walls of the city of Constantinople consisting of an outer and an inner wall each originally studded with 96
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