Jessica Varsallona

Jessica Varsallona

Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

Title of thesis: Palaiologan architecture in Constantinople: the history of buildings, stratigraphic analysis, and infrared thermography (IRT)
Supervisor: Professor Leslie Brubaker and Dr Ruth Macrides
Funding: BRIHC

Qualifications

  • BA Cultural Heritage Studies, 110/110 cum laude (Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy)
  • MA History and Criticism of Art, 110/110 cum laude (Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy)
  • Specialisation school on Historic-Artistic Heritage, 70/70 cum laude (Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy)

Biography

After a focus on Byzantine Italy (BA) my interest shifted towards Turkey and Constantinople. A Turkish language course and a two-month scholarship in Bursa supplied me with the knowledge to approach local literature and conduct my research in Istanbul. My MA thesis on the complex of Vefa Kilise camii of Istanbul (12th/14th centuries) provided an occasion to analyse several branches of Byzantine art (mosaics, sculpture and architecture) and led to an evaluation of another late Byzantine building in Istanbul, Manastır mescidi. My training also included an internship at the Archaeological Superintendence where I learned the archaeological method for the identification of different architectural phases of buildings; received training in rectified photography; and, in collaboration with a physicist of the University of Milan, learned the benefit of the infra-red thermography (IRT) investigation for the study of historic architecture.

Teaching

  • “Constantinople during the Comnenian and the Palaiologan Era”, Byzantine Culture course, prof. M. della Valle
  • “Paul the Silentiary’s Description of Hagia Sophia”, Museology and Art Criticism course of prof. F. Tissoni
  • “Web Resources for Iconography”, Final Session of Special Qualifying Pathway: Information Technology for Teachers
  • “Saint Marc in Venice”, History of Medieval Art course of prof. M. della Valle

Doctoral research

PhD title
Palaiologan architecture in Constantinople: the history of buildings, stratigraphic analysis, and infrared thermography (IRT)
Supervisor
Professor Leslie Brubaker
Course
Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies PhD/MA by Research (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)

Research

The aim of my research is the complete analysis of the architecture and the urban evolution of late Byzantine Constantinople, incorporating all the evidence including that which is currently deemed ‘secondary’, such as several monuments in Istanbul that little studied despite the great efforts devoted to the other contemporary monuments.

My research uses the stratigraphic method of analysis to identify different building phases and chronologies, as well as Medieval graphic material, travel literature, and pilgrimage accounts in order to incorporate additional information about the topography of the city, the original setting of the buildings and their Christian dedication. By analysing plans and arrangement I can identify the original purposes of edifices, increasing our scarce knowledge about the setting of Constantinopolitan monasteries and secular complexes.

Most Byzantine churches in Constantinople were converted to mosques and their inner wall surfaces plastered over.  Using economical and not invasive IRT enables the identification of architectural gaps, such as former doors or windows, marble architectural elements hidden under the plaster. Joining state-of-the-art technology and intensive physical examination with detailed historical analysis of the topography will allow me to provide a new evaluation of late Byzantine Constantinople.

Other activities

Conference papers 

The Oratory of Forty Martyrs of Sebaste in Syracuse: Byzantine Sicily between East and West, 4th International Scientific Symposium Days of Justinian I, Skopje 11-12 November, 2016.

Alcune considerazioni sull'annesso nord di Vefa Kilise camii (İstanbul), Prima giornata di studi del Centro di Ricerca Coordinato Bisanzio e l'Occidente - Milano, 16 Novembre 2016.

Notes on the History and Architecture of the Manastır Mescidi in Istanbul - Thematic Session of Free Communications: Byzantine Architecture, 23rd International Congress of Byzantine Studies - Belgrade, 22-27 August 2016.

"The very horizon shook with the noise” Bells and Belfries from the West to Palaiologan Constantinople, 3rd International Scientific Symposium Days of Justinian I, Skopje 30-31 October, 2015.

Vefa Kilise camii ieri e oggi, «Bisanzio tra tradizione e modernità», XII giornata di studi Bizantini, Milano, Università degli Studi, 11-12 Dicembre 2013.

Istanbul bizantina: architetture e contesti urbanistici, «Nuove Voci 2015», 4 Marzo 2015, Milano, Museo Bagatti Valsecchi.

Membership of organisations

ICOM - International Council of Museums, 2017.

ISAL - Istituto per la Storia dell’Arte Lombarda, 2016-2017.

Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies, 2017. 

Research grants received

Scholarship for Specialisation school on Historic-Artistic Heritage, Università degli Studi di Milano.

6th Summer School in Thessaloniki, Centre d’Etudes byzantines, Néo-helléniques et Sud-est européennes de l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki, Greece.

Yunus Emre Scholarship -  Language course - Turkish. TÖMER, Ankara Üniversitesi, Bursa, Turkey.

Publications

  • Le fasi costruttive d’età bizantina della Vefa Kilise camii di Istanbul. Ipotesi e considerazioni, in «Bisanzio tra tradizione e modernità», Atti della XII giornata di studi Bizantini, Milano, Università degli Studi, 11-12 Dicembre 2013 (forthcoming)
  • The very horizon shook with the noise. Bells and Belfries from the West to Palaiologan Constantinople”, in Byzantium and The Heritage of Europe: Connecting the Cultures, Proceedings
of The 3rd International Scientific Symposium “Days Of Justinian I”, Skopje, 30-31 October 2015, pp. 177-183, Skopje 2016.
  • (with G. Petriglieri) Barlassina, San Giulio, in «Bernardino Luini e i suoi figli. Itinerari», ed. by G. Agosti, J. Stoppa, R. Sacchi, pp. 24-27, Milano 2014.