What are the unique features of Byzantine art and architecture?
Although Byzantine art evolved from the traditions of the Roman Empire and never totally lost sight of its classical heritage, Byzantine painting and architecture tended to shy away from Rome's realistic roots, instead developing its own abstract forms that were more anti-naturalistic. Byzantine art took on a symbolic aesthetic that was at least somewhat influenced by the Orient. Religious and imperial themes predominated, and the image of Christ became a major figure in both art and sculpture. In addition to church architecture, religious frescoes, mosaics, decorative silks and the illumination of manuscripts were also important genres. Byzantine architecture also developed from traditional Roman styles, combining Eastern and even Greek influences while adding a geometric complexity not found in earlier forms. Brick and plaster were added to the classic stone structures, and piers and domes were also important elements.