Thursday, May 03, 2018

Classey lady

Our first stop to the fabulous ensemble of (mostly) early Christian sites that are the highlights of Ravenna was just outside Ravenna itself, at the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe. The Basilica was consecrated in 549, and originally held the relics of Saint Apollinaris, the first Bishop (his remains were later moved to the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna proper). Much of the walls are now bare, as the mosaics were probably removed by the Venetians in the 15th century, but high on the walls and ceiling, some mosaics from the 6th and 7th centuries still remain.

The apse mosaic features a cross with Christ's head in the centre flanked by Moses and Elijah. The lambs in the middle represent the apostles Peter, James and John

Below the cross stands St Apollinaris with his "flock" of the faithful

The nave contains two dozen marble pillars with carved capitals
The side aisles contain a number of early Christian sarcophagi, and there are also some ancient tombstones reused as construction materials for the church

From the original Sant'Apollinare, we pass to Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, which is not really newer. It was first constructed in 504 by the Ostrogoth King Theodoric as an Arian chapel (more on all that later), then became Saint Martin's in honour of St Martin of Tours (yay, Tours) who fought against Arianism (that's adding insult to injury). Finally, it was rebaptised as Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in 856 when the saint's relics were moved there from Classe due to the threats posed by pirate raids. Quite the exciting history. 

If I was impressed by the Classe version (and I was) I was even more blown away by the Nuovo and Improuovo one. 

Look at that sky, sigh! 

The original mosaics included several which depicted Theodoric and his court or Arian themes. Many of these were destroyed or altered to more conventional Byzantine Christian themes when the church was resanctified, leaving the odd hand or foot floating out there by itself.

The left wall features a procession of virgins, led by the Three Magi,  from the city of Classe to the throne of the Virgin and Child

Mosaic of the port of Classe (it seems pretty far from the sea now, but apparently not always). You can see by the different coloured "bricks" where elements of the original Arian mosaic was covered up
The Three Magi

The Virgin and Child

Up the very top of the right-hand wall are small scenes of the Passion of Christ, including Judas' kiss (far right) and the Last Supper (second from left), with various saints and prophets below

On the right-hand wall, a procession of male martyrs go from the city of Ravenna to the enthroned Chris

The building on the right shows the Palace of Theodoric. Portraits of his court were originally in the spaces now filled by mosaic curtains

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