Postgraduate Research Seminar: Iliona Outram-Khalili

The first Postgraduate Research Seminar of the year will be given by Iliona Outram-Khalili with her talk titled, ‘Unity within diversity: Masonry, method and analogy in the Byzantine Church of Hagia Sophia, Thessaloniki’ on Wednesday 22 January from 4 – 5pm in the Digital Crit Space.

This PhD thesis proposes that load-bearing masonry architecture contains analogies for timeless, metaphysical truths, experienced with all the senses. How can one prove this if the mason-builders of the great historical cathedrals, mosques, palace precincts, and temples never wrote it down? There aren’t any masons who wrote, “while I was setting up the central compass I was meditating on God as the unitary source of all being, and then I started to build the dome in a circle and I thought, yes, the circumference depends on the centre but the centre does not need the circumference!”. Therefore, how can one show that the poetics of building could be an initiation into a holistic, creative meditation, and a journey to mature consciousness?

This thesis selects the typical 7-8th century Byzantine church of Hagia Sophia Thessaloniki, to compare the ritual actions and iconography with the masonry architecture; it is a unique example of this Byzantine dome-in-cross ‘typos’ because it has the core of its original mosaics, and in it the early liturgies are still celebrated. My research finds analogous themes in all three disciplines, enabling me to propose intention by the master masons to transmit such timeless and metaphysical truths through the architecture. This helps us to re-discover a language of architecture that guides humans to being in harmony natural environment, much needed at a time that humans are destroying the earth. The thesis also seeks to rediscover creative hands-on work as a healing for the individual and the community. It is to be hoped that the conclusions of this research are transferable to modern architecture and sustainable arts and technologies.

By Iliona Outram-Khalili, PhD Student