The most famous Byzantine building is the "Hagia Sophia"-a domed church built during the reign of Justinan in Constantinople. Byzantine Architecture is one of three major forces in the architectural world during the Middle Ages of Europe. Unable to hold Rome against the Germans, Justinian's forces made their temporary capital, Ravenna, a key artistic center, embellished by some of the most beautiful Christian mosaics known anywhere in the world.
Not only did the Byzantine help preserve Roman and Greek culture and Christianity but the Empire also spread these ideas to other parts of the world. During the Crusades of the 11th and 12th centuries, Western Europeans making their way to the holy land had to first pass through the Byzantine Empire. As a result they brought many of those ancient Greek and Roman accomplishments back to Western Europe.
Two missionaries from the Byzantine Empire, named Cyril and Methodius, travelled into Central and Eastern Europe to spread the ideas of Christianity to the Slavic people.
The Byzantine Empire made great contributions to civilization: Greek language and learning were preserved for posterity; the Roman imperial system was continued and Roman law codified; the Greek Orthodox church converted some Slavic peoples and fostered the development of a splendid new art dedicated to the glorification of the Christian religion.
Situated at the crossroads of east and west, Constantinople acted as the disseminator of culture for all peoples who came in contact with the empire. Called with justification "The City," this rich and turbulent metropolis was to the early Middle Ages what Athens and Rome had been to classical times. By the time the empire collapsed in 1453, its religious mission and political concepts had borne fruit among the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe and especially among the Russians.
After the adoption of Christianity people such as St. Basil and the other fathers of the Church, all trained in Greek literature, were able to show that Pagan literature contained a wealth of teaching that was in accord with the philosophies, dogmas and symbolism's of Christianity. It is true that such literary themes as the loves of the Olympians, and the witty humour of Aristophanes, represented views of life that Christianity came to replace.
However, the fathers of the Christian Church and other later thinkers had the insight to perceive that it was possible to make some basic distinctions, and separate those elements from classical literature that were not in accord with Christianity, keeping all the rest.