Vaults of Heaven: Visions of Byzantium

Piece from Vaults of Heaven: Visions of Byzantium

Vaults of Heaven: Visions of Byzantium

Bellarmine Hall Galleries

April 15 - September 16, 2016

The splendor of Byzantine sacred art is preserved in the interiors of millennium-old churches in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul)--capital of the Byzantine Empire--and the Cappadocia region of Turkey, the latter abandoned in the fifteenth century but still preserved today. Vaults of Heaven: Visions of Byzantium features eight large-scale images by acclaimed Turkish photographer Ahmet Ertug that capture the expressive power and timeless majesty of some of these imposing monuments: the Karankik Kilise (Dark Church), the New Church of Tokali (Buckle Church), the Meryem Ana Kilisesi (Church of the Mother of God), and Saint Saviour. These photographs offer sweeping views of the shadowy, evocative interiors as well as close-up details of the wall paintings showing hagiographic subjects and scenes of the life of Christ.

Trained as an architect, Ahmet Ertug practiced in England, Iran, and Turkey. He took up photography during a year-long fellowship to study architecture in Japan, where he traveled extensively and photographed ancient temples, Zen gardens, and festivals. Returning to his native country Ertug had an epiphany of sorts, declaring that "the foundation of creativity is the profound knowledge of one's heritage." Guided by that maxim, he has photographed much of Istanbul's impressive Byzantine, Ottoman, and Roman remains using a large-format camera that enabled him to capture their full effect. Ertug's work has been exhibited around the world and is on permanent display in Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

Music performed by Axion Estin at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on March 14, 2015 is available on our mobile app at We are grateful to the Axion Estin Foundation for making these recordings available and granting permission for their use in conjunction with our exhibition.

Vaults of Heaven: Visions of Byzantium was organized by the Penn Museum.

This exhibition is made possible, in part, by the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional support from the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation.