North of Byzantium

Project Overview: 

North of Byzantium (NoB) is an initiative that explores the rich history, art, and culture of the northern frontiers of the Byzantine Empire in Eastern Europe between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries. Regions of the Balkan Peninsula, the Carpathian Mountains, and further north – such as the modern countries of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Republic of North Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Moldova, Russia, and still others – took on prominent roles in the continuation of the cultural legacy of Byzantium, as well as the transformation and appropriation of Byzantine artistic traditions in the later centuries of the empire and in the centuries after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

The specificities of each of these eastern European regions, and, in modern times, politics and nationalistic approaches, have reinforced the tendency to treat them separately, preventing scholars from questioning whether the visual output could be considered as an expression of a shared history. Moreover, throughout much of the twentieth century, the Iron Curtain created actual and ideological barriers to the study of much of Eastern Europe, rendering relevant literature inaccessible and the study of actual objects and monuments impossible. Much has changed since then, and more remains to be done.

North of Byzantium seeks to promote the study of the rich medieval artistic production of Eastern Europe among undergraduate and graduate students, as well as specialists and non-specialists. Through its annual events, publications, and resources, the initiative engages with issues of visual eclecticism in art and architecture, patronage, the transfer of artistic ideas and styles, and charts how cross-cultural exchange operated in regions of the Balkans, the Carpathians, and further north that developed at the crossroads of the Latin, Greek, Slavic, and Islamic cultural spheres.

North of Byzantium was launched in 2018 with generous support from the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture. North of Byzantium established a book series in 2020 with Trivent Publishing titled Eastern European Visual Culture and Byzantium (13th -17th c.). Through historically grounded examinations of the visual and cultural productions of these Eastern European territories, this series highlights the prismatic relationships between local traditions, the Byzantine heritage, and cultural forms adopted from other models. In stressing the local specificity and the interconnectedness of these Eastern European geographical areas, this series aims to challenge established perceptions of what constitutes ideological and historical facets of the past, as well as scholarly notions of what can be identified as Byzantine, post-Byzantine, and early modern history, art, and culture.

The “Learn” page of the NoB website offers the interactive digital platform “Mapping Eastern Europe in the 13th-17th Centuries.” This is a project intended to sustain and promote research on and teaching of Eastern Europe through historical overviews, monument and object case-studies, short notices of ongoing projects, as well as reviews of books and exhibitions. The project has been awarded a grant through the “Rapid Response Magic Project of the Princeton University Humanities Council” for the initial stages of its development during summer/fall 2020.

Access the Project: 
Project Team: 

Maria Alessia Rossi, PhD, Princeton University

Alice Isabella Sullivan, PhD, University of Michigan


M. A. Rossi and A. I. Sullivan, eds., Byzantium in Eastern European Visual Culture in the Late Middle Ages (series East Central and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 450-1450, volume 65) (Leiden: Brill, 2020).

M. A. Rossi and A. I. Sullivan, “Late Medieval Visual Culture in Eastern Europe,” Encyclopedia of the Global Middle Ages, Thematic Overview (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020).

M. A. Rossi and A. I. Sullivan, eds., Eclecticism at the Edges: Late Medieval Visual Culture at the Crossroads of the Latin, Greek, and Slavic Cultural Spheres (Berlin: De Gruyter), forthcoming.

M. A. Rossi and A. I. Sullivan, eds., Routledge Handbook of Byzantium and the Danube Regions (13th–16th c.) (Abingdon: Routledge), forthcoming.

Book series with Trivent Publishing titled Eastern European Visual Culture and Byzantium (13th -17th c.) -

External Links:
Mapping Eastern Europe