The Basilica of San Vitale Church is a late antique church in Ravenna, Italy. The 6th-century church is an important surviving example of Early Christian Byzantine art and architecture. This is one of his eight monuments in Ravenna included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
In its founding inscription, the church is described as a basilica, but its central plan is not of typical basilica form. Within the Roman Catholic Church, it is given the honorary title of basilica because of its historical and ecclesiastical importance.
History of the Basilica of San Vitale
Construction of the church began in 526 by the order of Bishop Ecclesius of Ravenna. At that time, Ravenna was under the control of the Ostrogoths. Bishop Maximian completed its construction in 547 before Justinian founded the Ravenna Governorate following his partial reconquest of the Western Roman Empire.
The construction of the church was encouraged by the local banker and architect Julius Argentarius. Little is known about Julius, but he also promoted the construction of the nearby Santa Apollinaire Rein at the same time as the Cathedral of the Classe.
Portraits of the donors of Julius Argentarius sometimes appear among the courtiers of Justinian’s mosaics. His final cost was 26,000 solids, equivalent to £36.11 in gold. It has been suggested that Julius hails from the eastern Byzantine Empire, which had a long tradition of public philanthropy.
The central vault used the Western technique of interlocking hollow tubes instead of bricks. This method was the first documented structural use of terracotta formwork and later evolved into modern structural clay tiles. The amphitheater and cloister were built in the late Middle Ages with vaulted ceilings. The dome’s baroque frescoes were created between 1778 and 1782 by S. Barozzi, Ubaldo Gandolfi, and Jacopo Guarana.
Architecture of Basilica of San Vitale
The main building of the church is octagonal. The building combines Roman and Byzantine elements. The domes, door shapes, and stepped towers are typical of the Roman style, while early examples of polygonal apse, capitals, narrow bricks, and buttresses are typical of the Byzantine style. This church is best known for its rich Byzantine mosaics.
San Vitale has the largest and best-preserved mosaics outside Istanbul. This church is of the greatest importance for Byzantine art as it is the only significant church from the time of Justinian I that has practically survived. In addition, it is believed to reflect the design of the throne room of Byzantine palaces, of which none have survived. The bell tower has four bells.
The tenor bell’s history dates back to the 16th century. According to legend, this abbey was built in the area where St. Vitalis was martyred. However, there is some distraction as to whether this is Saint Vitalis of Milan or whether he is Saint Vitale whose body was found in 393 by Saint Ambrose of Bologna.
Mosaic art of Basilica of San Vitale
The central area is surrounded by two ambulances, one above the other. The upper matrimonial chamber was probably reserved for married women. Some of mosaics in the lunettes above the Trifolia depict Old Testament sacrifices.
The account of Abraham and Melchizedek, and the offering of Isaac. The account of Moses and the fiery shrub, the chronicle of Jeremiah and Isaiah, the envoys of the 12 clans of Israel, and the tale of Abel and Cain.
Each bezel depicts a pair of angels holding medallions crowned with crosses. On the side walls and in the corner next to the mullet are mosaics of his four evangelists dressed in white and their symbols. Especially the depiction of the lion stands out for its ferocity.
The ribbed vault of the presbytery is richly decorated with mosaic garlands made of leaves, fruits, and flowers, converging in a crown surrounding the Lamb of God. The crown is supported by his four angels and all surfaces are covered with many flowers, stars, birds, and animals, including many peacocks. Above the arch are two angels on either side holding discs, and next to them are the cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. They symbolize humanity.
All these mosaics are made according to the Hellenistic-Roman tradition:
Vibrant and imaginative, with rich colors and clear perspective, landscapes, plants, and birds are brought to life. These were completed when Ravenna was still under Gothic rule. The apse is flanked by his two chapels of typical Byzantine architecture, the Prothesis, and the Diacocon.
The interior of the Grand Arc de
The interior of the Grand Arc de Triomphe is decorated with 15 mosaic medallions representing Jesus Christ, the 12 Apostles, and St. Gervasius and St. Protasius, sons of St. Vitale. Theophany began his 525 under Bishop Ecclesius. It has a large golden façade intertwined with flowers, birds, and treasures. Jesus Christ appears, dressed in purple, surrounded by angels, seated on a blue sphere atop the vault, with his right hand offering the martyr’s crown to St. Vitale, and with his left hand Ecclesius A bishop presents a model of a church.
The gilded background
The gilded background of the mosaic depicts Justinian and his entourage inside the church. The numbers are arranged in a V shape. Justinian is placed front and center to indicate his importance, with Bishop Maximian to his left and a small figure behind him. This arrangement is recognizable by the overlapping feet of the people present in the mosaic.
Another panel depicts the solemn and formal Empress Theodora in golden halos, crowns, and jewels, and her group of ladies-in-waiting and eunuchs. Her Empress believed that her Eucharist vessel was the precious blood, and her panels differed from Justinian’s in having a more intricate background with fountains, domes, and sumptuous tapestries.
Justinian and Theodora’s panels
On the lower part of the apse lateral surfaces, there exist two renowned mosaic panels that were finalized in the year 547. To the right is a mosaic depicting the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, dressed in Tyrian purple with a golden halo, with court officials, Generals Belisarius and Narses, Bishop Maximianus, Patron, and Deacon of Palatine.
Be. The aura surrounding him presents a similar likeness to that of Christ depicted in the apse’s dome, but this is the tradition of painting the imperial family with a halo, which Ernst Kantorovich described in The Two Bodies of the King.
is part of Justinian himself standing in the center, with soldiers on the right and clerics on the left, emphasizing Justinian’s leadership of both the Church and the imperial state? The later insertion of Bishop Maximian’s name overhead suggests that the mosaic may have been altered in his 547, replacing earlier depictions of the bishop with those of Maximian.