19 February 2018

Ravennae Inundata

mosaics circa 535 AD,  presbytery vault, San Vitale, Ravenna
“Ostrogoths” I said, punching Erling on the arm. As we entered the Basilica of San Vitale we heard music, and I froze on the spot. At first I thought it was in my head, because that’s not terribly unusual for me, but the magnificent tenor voice was coming from small well-placed speakers which filled the entire church with sound. Not plainsong or medieval chant, but a contemporary Russian choir singing a credo. Theatrical, yes, and compelling. We soon found ourselves overwhelmed by 5th century mosaics glittering with symbolism. 
Traveling with Erling is always good in these instances because like me he has a thorough education in Christian history and further, he is fascinated with it. Lunchtime conversations may involve intense discussions about transubstantiation or the Arian heresy. 

The walls of the Basilica di San Vitale are clad in book-matched marble imported from Constantinople
In such a place where there are so many brilliant buttons for my mind to push, my brain is flooded with words and phrases.  So passed this day...
geometry... fondo oro... iota... filioque... cosmatesco... horror vacui... clean-shaven Jesus... gammdia... bookmatched marble... octagons... conventional design... the Empress... archaic symbols... peacocks... palm trees... acoustics... recycled roman mosaic... roman mosaic... opus alexandrinum... opus sectile... Persian flaw... matroneum... pulvino... space ships... eunuchs... ecce homo... consubstantial... homoousios... transubstantiation... transfiguration... schism... spaceships...  Ostrogoths...

 mosaic in the apse features a youthful Jesus and an uncountable number of gold glass tiles

The floor of San Vitale was raised and repaved in the 13th century and again in 1599 with cosmateque mosaics.  The original 5th century floor is about 5 feet below and completely under water
counting the border elements under the Justinian panel (547 AD) and shoes...

This border is of  Roman design and references the Trinity. or spaceships.
The famous ceiling of the "Masoleum" of Galla Placidia (d. 450) and an obvious Persian Flaw
Mosaic ceiling of the 5th century Arian baptistry

All photos in this post by Lynne Rutter  Ravenna, 2017

Listen: Credo Universale (youtube)  New Liturgical Chant of the Russian Orthodox Church  Moscow Patriarchal Choir with Ilya Tolmachevy Natalia Haszler

Livia Alberti - fascinating report on the restoration of the mosaics of San Vitale


  1. Simply Stunning! Thank you for sharing!

  2. I just can't imagine the amount of work it takes to make those mosaics.... even in the photos they seem vast... it must be incredible to stand under them and look up to that glow!


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