Byzantium the Lost Empire:
Heaven on Earth
(Part 2)
Mark Merlino - Home page

In "Heaven on Earth" John Romer tells the story of Byzantine religious art and symbolism
and how to understand Byzantines through their art. This is a beautifully produced
documentary with chilling music and amazing filming on-site in numerous old Byzantine
churches and towns.

This documentary describes the story of origins and development of Christian symbolism,
how is grew out of pagan ideas of religious art and how precious holy images were to
Byzantines. This narrative is richly told by the use of several stories, from the last prophecy
of the oracle of Delphi, to the story of how the Byzantine Empress Pulcheria redefined how
Byzantines viewed Mary, women in general and government. How after Pulcheria
Byzantines saw Mary as the Mother of God and the imperial family as God's regents on
earth. The film also does an excellent job at describing the miraculous character of sacred
art by mentioning the Acheropita or images not made by human hands.

In his narrative, Romer does an excellent job at explaining why, when imperial armies lost
battles and the empire suffered, many Byzantines turned against their holy images. In telling
the story of iconoclasm, Romer explains how we can learn about the past through art,
architecture and archeology. Though he stresses that during the iconoclastic era, the
imperial desire for luck could not stop popular devotion to the holy images.

Above all, this documentary gives the viewer a glimpse into the rich meaning that the
Byzantines associated with their icons, the cosmic, timeless character of Byzantine  
iconography. Simply put, this documentary tells the story of Byzantine religion, which
guided the Byzantine way of life.