Impressions of Italy: Cities, Churches, Art
photos by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D. - taken June 1999

Assisi Florence Padua Pisa Churches of Rome
Ravenna Siena Spello Vatican City Ancient Rome: Home

[click on any small picture below for a larger version]

Photos from Ravenna

Including: Archepiscopal Chapel, San Apollinare Nuovo, San Giovanni Evangelista, Arian Baptistery,
Basilica of San Vitale, Mausoleum of Galla Placidi, San Apollinare in Classe, and Dante's Tomb

Note:  Many of the photos below are of mosaics and paintings that depict the Four Evangelists and their traditional symbols.
For more information on this particular interest of mine, see also my webpage on the Symbols of the Four Evangelists.

Apology: Some of the indoor photos below are very dark, due to poor lighting conditions. Sorry!


The Diocesan Museum:
Ceiling Mosaics of the Archepiscopal Chapel

Four Angels and the Four Evangelists in the Mosaic of the Vaulted Ceiling

Another Photo of the Same

Jesus surrounded by the Apostles

Another Photo of the Same

St. Matthew as an Angel

St. Mark as a Lion

St. Luke as an Ox

St. John as an Eagle

Another Photo of St. Matthew

Another Photo of St. Mark

Another Photo of St. Luke

Another Photo of St. John

"This chapel was built by Bishop Pietro II during the reign of Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, to serve as a private Oratory.  The chapel is built on a cruciform design, with an entirely marble-covered vestibule forming the lower part and the upper part entirely covered in mosaic-work.  So strong was the following for the Arian religion at that time that the chapel is the only orthodox monument which was built during Theodoric's reign.  The iconography of the mosaics is very interesting; the glorification of Christ which dominates all of the mosaic-work may be interpreted as an anti-Arian element, and the representation of the martyrs is a particularly strong assertion of the orthodox Catholic faith."
-- from the website of the Comune di Ravenna --
 

Also at the Diocesan Museum:
An Archbishop's Chair

with Inlaid Ivory Carvings of the Four Evangelists
(notice how they are holding their Gospel Books)
 


San Apollinare Nuovo

The Three Magi Approaching 
Jesus and Mary with Gifts

Mary and Jesus 
surrounded by Four Angels

Various Saints Approaching 
Mary and Jesus with Gifts

"This Basilica was built for Theodoric's Arian worship at the beginning of the 6th century and was consecrated to Catholicism by Archbishop Agnello half way through that century.  It was dedicated to Saint Apollinare in the 9th century.  The façade and the portico were rebuilt in the 16th century and the cylindrical bell tower on the right dates from the 9th century.  The interior of the Basilica is split into a nave and two aisles which are divided by 24 columns of Greek marble.  The wonderful mosaics decorating the nave date from two periods.  The uppermost face was completed in Theodoric's time, between 493 and 526 AD, while the lower part was added under Justinian between 527 and 565 AD.  The stylistic differences are immediately obvious: the "Theodoric" mosaics strive for a realistic and psychological characterisation while the "Justinian" mosaics, in the Byzantine style, tend towards an abstract symbolism which merges with the scheme of surrounding colours."
-- from the website of the Comune di Ravenna --


San Giovanni Evangelista

Courtyard and Main Entrance

Close-up of the Main Portal

Vaulted Side Chapel

Medallion of St. Mark as a Lion

"The Empress Galla Placidia commissioned the building of this Basilica between 424 and 434AD. It was seriously damaged by bombing during the last war. It has undergone restoration and now has a nave and two aisles divided by some of the original columns (except for three). The floor is two metres higher than the original. The surrounding walls are lined with fragments of mosaic from various floors belonging to the church over the centuries. The altar in the presbytery is the original and dates from the fifth century. The square bell tower outside on the right dates from the 10th century, although the upper portion and the spire were added in 1340. There is a remarkable Gothic portal."
-- from the website of the Comune di Ravenna --


The Arian Baptistery

Dome Mosaic: John Baptizes Jesus

Twelve Apostles approaching and Altar

"A short distance from the Arian cathedral (now the Church of the Holy Spirit) lies the Arian Baptistery which was built by Theodoric most probably in the final decade of the 10th century.  It is octagonal in shape, like the Cathedral Baptistery (Neonian Baptistery) with 4 small apses.  The mosaic work of the dome depicts the baptism of Christ: Christ is seen partially immersed in the waters of the Jordan personified in the figure of an austere old man, whilst to his left, John the Baptist performs the ceremony.  The border around the Baptism circle depicts the twelve apostles walking towards a trunk."
-- from the website of the Comune di Ravenna --


The Basilica of San Vitale
Mosaics on the Side Walls of the Apse

Scenes with Abraham
(with St. John and St. Matthew above)

St. Luke and the Ox
(showing the Gospel to the viewer)

St. John and the Eagle
(holding the Gospel toward himself!)

St. Matthew and the Angel
(holding a Gospel written in Hebrew)

St. Mark and the Lion
(showing the Gospel to the viewer)

"This Basilica was built in the first half of the 6th century with the funding of the banker Giuliano Argentario and presents many similarities with the modern day church of Santi Sergio e Bacco di Constantinopoli.  It was built on an octagonal design and the dome overhanging the central room is supported by eight strong marble-covered pillars.  Much of the architectural interest of S. Vitale is derived from the magnificent range of colours found in the mosaics lining the walls, the Presbytery and the Apse.  The mosaics carry depictions of biblical, symbolic and historical themes.  The panels in the Apse are Byzantine in style with much symbolic representation while the Presbytery panels are of a style particular to Ravenna which is traditionally more naturalistic.  A Renaissance portico leads to the Basilica of S. Vitale.  The same portico also leads to the National Museum which is of considerable interest for its collection of Roman and Paleochristian finds and archaeological evidence of the first human settlements in the Romagna region."
-- from the website of the Comune di Ravenna --


The Mausoleum of Galla Placidi
(near the Basilica of San Vitale)

Blue Starred Mosaic in the Ceiling Vault
with Symbols of the Four Evangelists in the four corners

"Galla Placidia (386-450 AD) was the sister of Honorius, the Roman emperor who transferred the capital of the western Roman Empire from Milan to Ravenna in 402 AD. She commissioned the building of this small mausoleum between 425 AD and 450 AD. It was built in the form of a Latin cross and is now famous for the splendour of its mosaics. The very plain exterior of the edifice contrasts heavily with the richness of its interior mosaic-work, the oldest in Ravenna. The mosaics entirely cover the vault, the lunette windows and the dome. The iconographical themes developed in the decorations represent the victory of life over death, in keeping with the funerary function of the edifice."
-- from the website of the Comune di Ravenna --


Dante's Tomb

Exterior View

Interior View

"Dante's tomb stands near to the Basilica of San Francisco. The poet died whilst in exile in Ravenna in 1321. The tomb is a small neoclassical construction built by Camillo Morigia in 1780. A votive lamp hangs from the vault of the temple filled with oil from the Tuscan hills sent from Florence each year to mark the death of the poet. The area around the tomb is known as 'The Dante quarter' where silence is maintained at all times."
-- from the website of the Comune di Ravenna --


San Apollinare in Classe
(about 5 km or 3 mi South of Ravenna)

Main Entrance

Statue of Julius Caesar
with Bell Tower in Background

Mosaics on Top of the Apse

The Winged Eagle and Angel
representing St. John & St. Matthew

Jesus as the Good Shepherd

The Winged Lion and Ox
representing St. Mark and St. Luke

"The town of Classe lay 5km from Ravenna.  All that now remains are the ruins of the S. Severo bell tower and S. Apollinare in Classe.  The Basilica was built during the first half of the 6th century with the generosity of Giuliano Argentario.  The original construction included a façade with a four-sided portico and a pronaos with lateral towers which has been reconstructed.  The massive cylindrical bell tower dating from the 10th century rises to the right of the Basilica broken up by mullioned windows with one, two and three lights over small marble columns.  The interior of the church is split into a nave and two aisles which are divided by 24 columns of Greek marble.  Ten marble sarcophagi line the walls of the aisles.  The mosaics which decorate the Presbytery and the bowl-shaped vault of the apse were the last to be produced in Ravenna by Byzantine artists either in the 7th or 9th centuries.  In these mosaics the classical naturalism has been completely replaced by the more conventional forms of abstract Eastern symbolism."
-- from the website of the Comune di Ravenna --


Some Related Links:


Return to the main page of Impressions of Italy

Return to the Homepage of Felix Just, S.J.
This page was last updated on August 23, 2006
Copyright © 1999--2006