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The Noetics of NatureEnvironmental Philosophy and the Holy Beauty of the Visible$
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Bruce V. Foltz

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823254644

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823254644.001.0001

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Sailing to Byzantium

Sailing to Byzantium

Nature and City in the Greek East

(p.76) Chapter 4 Sailing to Byzantium
The Noetics of Nature

Bruce V. Foltz

Fordham University Press

From the fabulous protocols of Kievan Prince Vladimir’s envoys to the visionary images of the poet Yeats, ancient Constantinople (present day Istanbul) is portrayed as the beautiful city, the holy city, the city in which visible nature is merged with the invisible. Yet this is challenged by architectural critic Vincent Scully, who sees Byzantium’s great church, the Hagia Sophia, as a triumph of Pythagorean abstraction and Western rationality over the organic forms of nature. But to the contrary, unlike the spires of the Gothic cathedrals that propel the gaze into the heavens and away from the earth, the dome of the Hagia Sophia epitomizes the Byzantine attempt to draw heaven down to earth. This same immanence of the transcendent within the earthly can still be found in contemporary Greece, and above all in the walled monastic communities of Mt Athos, which still embody for us today the truly “natural” city.

Keywords:   Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, Vincent Scully, Pythagorean, Abstraction, Heaven and Earth, Mt Athos

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