Byzantine architecture, seen especially in the churches, became a leading form of art. Its most striking feature is the dome, which replaces the flat, wooden roof used in the basilican Churches of Italy. The exterior of a Byzantine church is plain and unimposing, but the interior is adorned on a magnificent scale. The eyes of the worshiper are dazzled by the walls faced with marble slabs of variegated colors, by the columns of polished marble, jasper, and porphyry, and by the brilliant mosaic pictures of gilded glass. The entire impression is one of richness and splendor.
Byzantine art, from the sixth century to the present time, has exerted a wide influence. Sicily, southern Italy, Rome, Ravenna, and Venice contain many examples of Byzantine churches. Italian painting in the Middle Ages seems to have been derived directly from the mosaic pictures of the artists of Constantinople. Russia received not only its religion but also its art from Constantinople. The great Russian churches of Moscow and Petrograd follow Byzantine models. Even the Arabs, in spite of their hostility to Christianity, borrowed Byzantine artists and profited by their services. The Mohammedan mosques of Damascus, Cairo, and Cordova, both in methods of construction and in details of ornamentation, reproduce Byzantine styles.