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The Byzantine and Christian Museum

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Excellently displayed in a beautiful building, the Byzantine and Christian Museum is far more wide-ranging than you might expect. Exhibits start with art from the very earliest days of Christianity, whose fish and dove motifs can’t disguise their extremely close parallels with Classical Greek objects. There are displays on everyday Byzantine life; reconstructions of parts of early churches (mosaic floors and chunks of masonry, some even from the Christian Parthenon); a Coptic section with antique clothing such as leather shoes decorated with gold leaf; and tombs, in some of which offerings were left, again a reminder of a pagan heritage.

But the highlights are the icons, with the earliest being from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. There are dozens of lovely examples, many of them double-sided, some mounted to be carried in procession, and you can follow the development of their style from the simplicity of the earliest to the Renaissance-influenced art of the sixteenth century. Alongside the icons are some fine frescoes, including an entire dome reconstructed inside the museum.

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