The Byzantine Court in the Crystal Palace at Sydenham, by Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt. A pen and ink, and watercolour, drawing on paper, size: 21 1/2 in. x 46 1/2 in. This is Wyatt's original design for the Court on the south side of the nave of the re-erected Crystal Palace, between its central transept and the east end (see "The Byzantine Court"). Source; © Victoria and Albert Museum.

Wyatt's purpose in the Fine Art Courts at Sydenham was to demonstrate the evolution of architectural styles, and here he was particularly concerned with the ways in which the Byzantine style evolved to link the classical and the Gothic styles:

It is only within the present century that the style of architecture, many of the most interesting monuments of which are exhibited in the Byzantine Court, has received that amount of study to which it is certainly entitled, both from the peculiar position which it occupies, as a link between the classic and Gothic styles, and from its own inherent merit. Without the aid of such an investigation, not only do the mediaeval and antique styles of architecture appear to have no affinity for each other, but they may even be looked upon as symbolic of two antagonistic states of social existence. But as all science informs us of the mutual dependence of everything on earth, whether in the primary creations of the Deity, or the secondary creations of man, so, in this case, a well-directed spirit of inquiry has revealed to us a kindred law of relation. Thus the most superficial examination cannot but reveal to the student how Roman architecture — itself an offspring of Greece — was gradually transformed by successive changes into the Byzantine style, which in its turn varying with the course of ages, and undergoing modifications according to the means, the disposition, and necessities of the people who adopted it, resolved itself into two remarkable phases, in the Lombard and Norman styles; from which again sprung, as a necessary consequence, when we consider the climate, character, and creed of those artists who shaped its progress, that which must be regarded as one of the most magnificent proofs of man’s power over dull matter, which time has bequeathed to us, — the Pointed system of architecture. [7-8]

Wyatt goes into detail about the historical, religious and social context in which the various developments took place, and ends this part by saying that he hopes the examples presented in the courts will inspire the desire for more such knowledge. There is no doubt that his work here was one of the factors in the Byzantine Revival of the later part of the nineteenth century. – Jacqueline Banerjee.


Robinson, John Martin. The Wyatts: An Architectural Dynasty. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Wyatt, M. Digby, and J. B. Waring. The Fine Arts' Courts in the Crystal Palace, Second Series, North-East Side.... Sydenham: Crystal Palace Library, 1854. Internet Archive. Contributed by Smithsonian Libraries. Web. 29 July 2019.

Created 28 July 2019