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Maria Evangelatou

Professor, History of Art and Visual Culture
Visual cultures of the Mediterranean with emphasis on Ancient Greek, Byzantine and Islamic material. Cross-cultural interactions; continuity and change; politics and religion; gender construction and perception; word and image; ritual and the senses.
Office: 831-502-7161
Research Interests: 

Maria Evangelatou’s primary research interests focus on the visual culture of Byzantium. A main theme in her study is the interrelation of visual and textual forms of expression and their use in the shaping and reproduction of main cultural and social concepts, examined through a number of case studies that touch upon one or more of the following issues: the interaction between word and image in Byzantine manuscript illumination; the influence of Orthodox and especially iconophile theology on Byzantine religious iconography; biblical typology as a key concept in Byzantine self-perception and expression; the interpretation of Marian iconography in the light of Byzantine religious literature and ritual and its use in the construction of gender; the embodiment of meaning in multi-sensorial and kinetic experiences of visual environments and the interaction between the material and the spiritual realms of cultural consciousness.


Her secondary field of study is ancient Greek visual culture. She is particularly interested in the visual use of myths for the construction of gender, social and cultural identities and the expression of political ideals. In addition she explores the influence of religious and spiritual beliefs on fundamental manifestations of ancient Greek culture, such as the development of naturalism or the popularity of family funerary stele in the late 5th and 4th centuries. Her interest in ritual, embodiment and the construction of history through myth has led her to examine the spatiotemporal dimensions of ancient monuments, such as the Great Altar of Pergamon, and to explore their possible interpretations through the sensorial and kinetic experiences of their ancient users.


Office Location: Porter D206
Office Hours: 

Office hours held through Zoom, Wednesday 11:30am-1:30pm. PLEASE BOOK A DAY IN ADVANCE in this online calendar that also provides Zoom information: 

Selected Publications: 


- A contextual reading of Ethiopian crosses through form and ritual: kaleidoscopes of meaning, Gorgias Press 2018.

Edited volumes

- Byzantium: An Oecumenical Empire, exhibition catalogue, October 2001-January 2002, Athens, Byzantine and Christian Museum, ed. M. Evangelatou, H. Papastavrou, and P.-T. Skotti, Athens 2001 (in Greek), Athens 2002 (in English).

Articles and book chapters

- “Krater of nectar and altar of the bread of life: the Theotokos as provider of the Eucharist in Byzantine culture”, in The Reception of the Mother of God in Byzantium: Marian Narratives in Texts and Images, ed. Th. Arentzen and M. Gunningham (Cambridge 2018), 77-119.

“Textile Mediation in Late Byzantine Visual Culture: Unveiling Layers of Meaning through the Fabrics of the Chora Monastery”, in Catalogue of the Textiles in the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Collection, ed. Gudrun Bühl and Elizabeth Dospěl Williams (Washington, DC, 2019). Also published in Dumbarton Oaks Papers 73 (2019), 287-341.

- “The Heavenly Ladder”, in A Companion to Byzantine Illustrated Manuscripts, ed. V. Tsamakda, Brill (Leiden 2017), 407-17.

- "Sacra Parallela (Par. Gr. 923)", in  A Companion to Byzantine Illustrated Manuscripts, ed. V. Tsamakda, Brill (Leiden 2017), 418-29.

- "Botanical exegesis in God's creation: the polyvalent meaning of plants on the Salerno ivories", in The Salerno Ivories: Material, History, Theology, two volumes of collected studies, edited by A. Culter. F. Dell'Acqua, H. Kellser and others, published by Gebr. Mann Verlag • Deutscher Verlag f. Kunstwissenschaft (Berlin 2016), 133-66.

- “Threads of power: clothing symbolism, human salvation and female identity in the illustrated homilies by Iakobos of Kokkinobaphos,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 69 (2014), 241-324. 

- “Between East and West: the symbolism of space in the art of Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco)” Proceedings of the conference Renaissance Encounters: Greek East and Latin West, Symposium for the 30th Anniversary of the Program in Hellenic Studies, Princeton University, November 12-14th 2009. Brill (Leiden-Boston) 2013, 147-184.

"Religious inspiration and artistic aspiration in El Greco's art: the evidence of the signatures" in the 10th International Conference of Arts and Humanities Proceedings, Hawaii University, Hawaii, Honolulu. URL:

- “Liturgy and the illustration of the ninth-century Byzantine marginal Psalters”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 63 (2011), 59-116.

- “Word and Image in the Sacra Parallela (cod. Paris. gr. 923)”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 62 (2010), 113-197.

- “The personification of Ulcer in Byzantine illustrated manuscripts of the Book of Job”, Gesta 48/1 (2010), 19-36.

- “Virtuous soul, healthy body: the holistic concept of health in Byzantine representations of Christ’s healing miracles”, Proceedings of the conference on Healing in Byzantium: Epistemologies and Methodologies, May 7th-8th 2004, Harvard University, (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2010),  173-242.

- “The embodiment of history at the Great Altar of Pergamon: the power of Hellenistic baroque”, in “Unfolding the Baroque: Cultures & Concepts,” Ars Aeterna 2.1 (2010), ed. C. Soussloff and A. Smieskova, 108-133.

- "The exegetical initials of codex Parisinus graecus 41: word and image in a twelfth-century Greek psalter”, Word and Image 24.2 (2008), 199-218.

- “Pursuing salvation through a body of parchment: books and their significance in the illustrated homilies by Iakobos of Kokkinobaphos”, Mediaeval Studies 68 (2006), 239-84.

- “The symbolism of the censer in Byzantine representations of the Dormition of the Virgin”, ed. M. Vassilaki, Images of the Mother of God. Perceptions of the Theotokos in Byzantium (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), 117-125.

- “The purple thread of the flesh: the theological connotations of a narrative iconographic element in Byzantine images of the Annunciation”, ed. Antony Eastmond and Liz James, Icon and Word: the power of images in Byzantium. Studies presented to Robin Cormack (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), 261-79.

- “The Holy Sepulchre and Iconophile Arguments on Relics in the Ninth-Century Byzantine Psalters”, ed. A. Lidov, Eastern Christian Relics, Proceedings of the International Symposium “Relics in the Art and Culture of the Eastern Christian World”, Moscow 2000 (Moscow, 2003), 181-204.

- “The column as symbol of Christ in Byzantine art”, Archeology and Arts 88 (Athens, 2003), 52-58 (in Greek).


Books under contract

-Theia graphe: word and image in the Byzantine Psalters of the Iconoclast aftermath under contract with Alexandros Press. 





Teaching Interests: 

All courses offered have a tri-fold goal:

- Familiarity with basic visual expressions of the cultures examined.

- Development of critical skills and understanding of the use of visual expressions in the shaping and reproduction of social and cultural identities, regardless of time or period. This goal is achieved through the examination of themes such as the construction of femininity and sexuality, the interrelation of politics and religion, the multivalence of ritual, and the interaction of the senses.

- Respect for cultural diversity and appreciation of the importance of cross-cultural interactions in the development of human civilization.


Evangelatou’s research and teaching interests in ancient Greek and Byzantine visual culture are interrelated. Her latest teaching interest in Islamic visual culture is fueled by the richness and pluralism of this tradition and its great influence on other cultures as well as the critical importance of knowledge and appreciation of Islamic culture in the current international political context. The relevant course examines a selection of representative creations of Islamic visual culture from the 7th c. to the present, and places special emphasis on the social role of religion in the Islamic world and the importance of the senses and their interaction in the development and experience of Islamic visual traditions.


Courses offered

Lower division

Greek eyes: visual culture and power in the ancient Greek world

Unclothed: the naked body from antiquity to the present

Gardens of delight: fifteen centuries of Islamic visual culture

Upper division

Greek myths, from antiquity to the present

Byzantine visual culture: politics and religion in New Rome, 330-1453

Constructing Cleopatra: power, sexuality and femininity across the ages


The Mediterranean from the rise of Christianity to the rise of Islam

Word and image in Byzantine illuminated manuscripts

The cult of Mary in Byzantium

Graduate seminars

Becoming El Greco

Mother of God: Byzantine approaches and contemporary interpretations

Honors and Awards: 

2018, Arts Dean's Research Professor Award, UCSC

2009-10, Post-doctoral research fellowship, Dumbarton Oaks (Harvard University), Washington DC

2006-07, Post-doctoral research fellowship, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (Harvard University), Cambridge MA

2005-06, Post-doctoral research fellowship, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto ON

2004-05, Post-doctoral research fellowship, Program in Hellenic Studies (Princeton University), Princeton NJ

2003-04, Post-doctoral research fellowship, Dumbarton Oaks (Harvard University), Washington DC

Education and Training: 
Licence in Mediaeval Studies, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto
Ph.D., Byzantine Studies, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, UK
M.A., Byzantine Studies, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, UK
Certificate in Museology and Restoration of works of art, Universitá Internazionale dell’Arte, Florence, Italy
Diploma, Art History, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
B.A., Archaeology, University of Ioannina, Ioannina, Greece