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End of the Roman Empire

The End of the Western Roman Empire
The Division of the Empire
The Barbarian Invasions
The Western Empire Collapses
Constantinople: The Great Crossroads

Byzantium Index

The Byzantine Empire : Introduction
Constantine the Great
Emperor Theodosius
Byzantine Conquest - Justinian
Byzantine Government
The Schism of Christianity into two Churches - The Orthodox Church
The End of Byzantium
Chronology of the Byzantine Emperors

Living History Project

Living History Project Index


English Workshop, Classwork and Homework

English Workshop A

Write a paragraph to say why the Byzantine Empire was so stable and secure. The paragraph should have five sentences:

  • one sentence to introduce the subject,

  • a second, third and fourth sentence to explain three reasons why,

  • a fifth sentence to conclude your ideas - why the Empire was so stable and secure.

English Workshop B

Write one sentence to say why the Byzantine Empire was able to survive all of its political traumas.


Class Work A - Organising information

Fill in the table of successes and failures of Justinian's efforts between 527 and 565.




Class Work B

Can you identify the people in the mosaic (below) from Saint Vitale in Ravenna? Draw arrows to the different people and label them. There are Advisors, Soldiers, Priests and... who is that man in the middle?

Justinian's Court (Ravenna, Italy)

Class Work C

Explaining Cause, Consequence and Chronology

  1. Establish a chronology of events, giving the dates and a brief summary of each event in the Schism of the Christian Church.

  2. Underline the events which occurred before the Schism in red, and those after the Schism in green.

  3. Give a key to your chronology, red for a possible cause and green for a possible consequence of Schism.



Write the story of the Byzantine Empire

Use five paragraphs

  1. Introduce the idea of Byzantine history, say what subject you intend to write about. Describe the origins of Byzantium.

  2. Tell the story of the adventures, failures and successes of Justinian.

  3. Explain the schism in Christianity, explaining possible causes and consequences of the division.

  4. Analyse the strengths and weaknesses of Byzantine government.

  5. Summarise your story and say what you think about the adventures of the Byzantines.








Custom Search

The Byzantine Empire

The Orthodox Church

Today the Orthodox Church is the largest religious organisation in Russia, Eastern Europe and Greece. It is very well represented in France too. In Paris the Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky is an active centre of Orthodox worship and an excellent example of Orthodox church architecture.


Visit to an Orthodox Cathedral

Note: As part of the original project the students visited  the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky in Paris. Some of the following questions and observations can probably be adapted for visits to local Orthodox Cathedrals or Churches.


Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky



See if you can answer these questions during your visit to the Cathedral. Make sure you listen carefully. Perhaps you can ask the guide or teacher the answers to some of the questions.

Outside the Cathedral there are many things to see;
What shape is the roof?

What can you see on the roof of the Cathedral?

Inside, the Cathedral is separated into two parts, a main centre of worship upstairs and a crypt downstairs;
Upstairs there are very few windows, but many candles. Can you find out why?

What different sorts of religious objects can you find upstairs? (describe each!)

Downstairs in the crypt there are no windows at all, but there are many pictures. What is the special name for these pictures?

Why are the paintings in the crypt different from ordinary pictures? (write a sentence.)

In the crypt you can see a painted wooden wall with three doors. What is it called?

Who is allowed behind the wooden wall through the doors, just anybody?

There are many paintings of Saints in an Orthodox Church. One of the most important is St Nicholas. Who does he protect?



As you approach the cathedral the first things you will notice are the large hemispherical golden mosaic and the gilded onion domes. These domes, by the way, are purely Russian in style. You will not see them on Greek Orthodox churches.

Once you enter the cathedral you will be able to see things that all Orthodox churches have in common:-

  • no stained glass windows as in western churches.

  • no statues of Christ, the Virgin Mary or the saints.

  • no benches or pews to sit on (the worshippers are obliged to stand unless they are old or ill - notice that there are several chairs by the walls).

  • you cannot see the altar as you can in western churches.

  • there is no organ or any other kind of musical instrument because in an Orthodox church the only music you will hear is that created by the human voice. (For music lovers Orthodox masses are really something to be experienced, whatever your religious beliefs).

You will certainly be immediately struck by the iconostasis immediately in front of you. This is the wooden screen with doors in the centre. This screen separates the worshippers from the altar and is covered with icons and for most of the time only the priests are allowed to pass through its doors.



There are three main types of icons which are found in Orthodox churches and in people's homes:-

Mother of God Hodogetria

Mother of God Hodogetria

This is one of the most common forms of icon. The mother of God is Mary and she is holding the baby Jesus in one arm and pointing to him with the fingers of the other hand. Hodogetria means "showing the way" so Mary is indicating that salvation can only be obtained through her son Jesus. The oldest and most revered icon (it is regarded as a national treasure) is one of this type is called The Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God and was brought to Russia from Constantinople in the early 12th.century.


Kristos Pantokrator

Kristos Pantokrator

Another very common type of icon is the one shown to the left. It shows Christ in glory, not the suffering Christ of the western Catholic crucifix but as "Pantokrator" or ruler of the universe.


The Saints

The Saints

Icons representing the saints are very common. The one shown is an icon of Saint Nicholas, probably the most popular saint in the Orthodox faith. He is not only the protector of children and travellers (especially sailors) he is also the patron saint of Russia.


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© Shirley Burchill, Chris Green, Mathew Hill, Nigel Hughes and Antony McDermott 2018

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