Introduction: Neoplatonism Inside and Outside History
The visitor to Houston’s Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum sees something rather different from the medieval worshipper. The frescos housed in the museum originally occupied the dome and apse of a small chapel outside the village of Lysi, Cyprus.1 Their new home in the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum is described by its promotional literature as a “reliquary box,” but unlike a reliquary box, the museum is not designed to be seen from the outside. The parking lot leaves the motorist beneath a stone wall that shields most of the building from view. Her eye is drawn not to the building, but to the surrounding wall and a pool of water outside the main doors. The pedestrian approaching on foot from the nearby Rothko chapel is prevented at first by a line of trees from seeing the museum at all. The path to the main doors takes her off the street and under the shadow of the stone wall that surrounds the building, then to the main doors and the pool of water. An unobstructed view of the building can only be gained by walking into the residential neighborhood across the street. From this unlikely vantage, the museum reveals itself to be a large, apparently windowless cube, paneled with gray rectangles. The comparison with a reliquary box is instructive, for while a reliquary box, like most products of human art, makes use of geometrical forms, it does not strive primarily to incarnate them.
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