Light illuminates Interior of Catholicon at Vatopedi

Light illuminates Interior of Catholicon at Vatopedi

Light illuminates Interior of Catholicon at Vatopedi, digital print from 35mm slide, 1990

The chandelier, candelabras, and marble floor gleam as the left transept (wing) of the Vatopedi catholicon (communal church) awakens in soft natural light. For the monks of Mt. Athos, light is valued first and foremost as a symbol of God, then as a functional medium, and is essential for the divine connection of heaven to earth. As church architecture shifted in the middle Byzantine period and the openness of church interiors was diminished intentionally, the reduced natural light made for a stronger, more spiritual sense of place, as opposed to former open spaces. At night natural light is replaced by oils lamps and candlelight, both of which not only stand for God’s eternal presence, but animate shimmering, golden mosaics, the iconostasis, and icons within the church, also creating a stronger sense of place. This profound engagement of light with sacred space allows one to “understand things (in the church) with the eyes of the spirit.”

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Light illuminates Interior of Catholicon at Vatopedi