The Splendid Basilica Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna
The palatine Basilica Sant’Apollinare Nuovo has a rather modest appearance but its interior is stunning. The basilica has grand dimensions (138 by 69 feet) and is divided into three aisles by 24 marble columns from Constantinople. The walls of the nave and clerestory are covered with glittering mosaics from the early 6th century AD. It is worth mentioning, that the mosaics are situated very high and it is very difficult to make pictures. I think that the best time to visit and photograph is the bright morning when the sun shines through big windows.
Actually, there are two big mosaic cycles. Theodoric’s mosaics (c.500) are situated in the top row above high arched windows. There are 26 panels depicting scenes from the life of Christ as described in the New Testament. However, there are some notable differences: the Arian mosaics show a traditional Roman artistic style; they represent Christ naturalistically; and they leave out the Crucifixion. Theodoric’s cycle includes also the large portrait of Christ enthroned, and depictions of Theodoric’s palace in Ravenna and the port at Classe.
The second cycle of mosaics was commissioned by the Emperor Justinian (c.560). In the middle row of each wall, there are depicted 16 prophets standing in piers. They have different features and carry scrolls with Hebrew text.
The most breathtaking is the bottom row representing long of saints moving rhythmically to the east end of the church and holding wreaths of martyrdom in their hands. On the right (south) side, 26 male saints are walking towards Christ. Noteworthy, the majestic Christ Enthroned is an Arian original except for the cruciform halo. Christ benedictory sits on the jeweled throne between four angels. In spite of uniform posture and white Roman garments of the saints, all figures are very individual.
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