The Byzantine Empire slowly recovered from the tremendous blows it had suffered in the dark ages, but hardly resembled the empire that once ruled the Mediterranean. Asia Minor had been greatly impoverished by the countless invasions of the Arabs, the remote provinces of Crimea and southern Italy were leading their own lives, but Byzantine authority over Greece had been restored. The empire was in fact reduced to an empire with only one real big city, Constinople, which held the monopoly in cultural and artistic terms. The rest of the empire was in fact only an agricultural area, which slowly started to develop again under the influence of the capital. It is also important that the battle against icons had meanwhile ended in a grand victory for the icon worshipers. Icons and mosaics would also be given a place of honor in the Byzantine East.
In the field of church building, Greece experienced a true renaissance during this period. Of the approximately 230 Byzantine churches that have been preserved in Greece, 53 belong to the early Byzantine period (almost all ruins and only known from excavations), one (the Hagia Sophia in Thessaloniki) dates from the dark ages, 4 date from the 9th century, 15 from the 10th century, 33 from the 11th century and 49 from the 12th century. In almost all cases we are dealing with small churches, which can be explained by the fact that we are dealing with monastic churches and not with churches that had to serve a large city. The only real city that Greece still had was Thessaloniki.