Byzantine art in pagan residencies: wall paintings in the towers of Kreva and Medininkai castles (Summary)

Giedrė Mickūnaitė (PDF)

At the end of the fourteenth century, the interiors of the residential quarters of the grand ducal castles in Kreva and Medininkai were painted with murals of Byzantine style. Similar in manner and approach to contemporaneous wall paintings in Pskov and Tver’, the décor of the Lithuanian castles testifies to artistic practices having crossed the religious divide and to Orthodox painters carrying out commissions of pagan lords. What is more, the Byzantine style of interior decoration remained popular with the Lithuanian ruling elite even after the Catholic conversion of the country in 1387. However, it is unknown how Byzantine paintings correlate with the Orthodox faith at the Court of the pagan Lithuanian grand dukes. The paper considers this confessional issue a puzzle for the Byzantine studies of today rather than the medieval realities of Lithuania. The scholarly knowledge of Byzantine wall painting relies on evidence from church decorations, which obviously identify the murals with the Orthodox creed. The Lithuanian examples make a unique case which is too fragmentary to be interpreted independently, yet has no comparative material to be dependent on. The available visual as well as circumstantial evidence suggests that paintings of Byzantine style were appreciated because of their decorative rather than doctrinal function.

Keywords: Byzantine wall painting , Lithuanian Grand Ducal Court, paganism, Orthodoxy