Roman Emperor Justinian in Constantinople (Istanbul) (AD 527-565)

Justinian ruled as emperor for almost forty years, from 527 to 565. He was the most influential Byzan- tine emperor after Constantine the Great. Justinian fought against the Persians and attempted to regain control of the Roman western provinces from barbarian invaders. However, as a result of his extensive foreign policies the people were heavily taxed, provoking the Nike riots in 532.

Although his wife Theodora was a supporter of Monophysite Christianity, Justinian was an active champion of orthodox Christianity based on the Chalcedon Creed written during the Ecumenical Church Council in Chalcedon in 451. He used his power to extinguish Greco-Roman paganism, Arianism, and the Monophysite Christianity of Syria and Egypt.

Justinian’s building and artistic programs were unprecedented in the history of the Byzantine empire. He rebuilt Constantinople, the Church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia), and more than thirty other churches. Many of the large basilica churches we visit today in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) were built during the reign of Justinian, including the Church of the Apostle John in Ephesus, the Church of Holy Peace in Nicea, the Church of the Apostle John in Philadelphia, the Church of the Apostle Philip in Hierapolis, and the Church of Gregory the Theologian in Güzelyurt.

It was during the reign of Justinian that the largest number of Christian icons were produced. Today, the majority of these magnificent icons are in the Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai. Justinian convened Constantinople’s Ecumenical Church Council in 553.