Church Wall Paintings and Mosaics: Principles of their arrangement and relationship to church architecture
Paper given at The Prince’s Foundation, London, for the Orthodox Church Architecture Group on 26 Feb. (2003)
A church building can be seen as a garment for the liturgy, in that it follows the form of the liturgy. In this respect good ecclesiastical design works from the inside out, just as a tailor begins with the size and proportions of the person for whom he is making his garment. So it is with the relationship between a church and the wall paintings and mosaics that, ideally, cover its inner surfaces. Traditional churches offer a wonderful complex of shapes and curves for these images, each of these areas having a theological role in the whole schema. If contemporary surface iconography is to be similarly successful it needs to be both faithful to these principles and to retain a certain boldness. This survey seeks to outline some of these principles and to illustrate them through a brief historical overview.
Usually it is considered the ideal for an Orthodox church to be covered inside with murals or mosaics. A good church design therefore offers, within the given budget, the richest and theologically most satisfying array of surfaces. A church architect and the people commissioning the design need to understand the principles which govern the design and making of these wall images. This essay looks at some of these principles.