Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Two Baptisteries in Ravenna and Mosaics, Mosaics, Mosaics!

Wednesday greetings from Ravenna. Arrived here yesterday afternoon and immediately searched for the two significant baptisteries here: Neonian and Arian.

The Neonian is the older of the two, dating from the late fourth to early fifth century. The octagonal font within is a later addition, built, if I remember correctly, in the fifteenth century, to mimic the size and type of font that originally stood in the baptistery.

Here is the exterior of the octagonal building.

And here is a video taken inside.

The mosaics are extraordinary, as you can see.

Here is a photo of the octagonal font. The sun was shining into the font; makes it seem as if the light is radiating from within.

More photos of the mosaic work:

In this center of the ceiling is a depiction of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John the Baptist:

Around this central image are the apostles, and they appear to be moving; some suggest that they are poised in dance positions. Imagine emerging from this baptism font as a newly baptized adopted child of God and gazing at the apostles dancing with joy? (Did you know that that is what occurred on the day you were baptized?!)

Next stop was the Arian Baptistery. Arianism was widely practiced here in Ravenna; the belief that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, did not exist for all time, but was created by the Father and was subordinate to him. This view is obviously in opposition to the Catholic understanding of the Trinity and is heretical. At any rate, the baptistery is another stunning one. Here is the exterior of this octagonal building:

There are no remains of the actual baptism font in this baptistery and none has been constructed. The floor simply has a large round stone marking the area where the font would have been. It important to note that both of these baptisteries' original floors are nine feet below Ravenna's current street level. Especially in this photograph, you can see how much the city streets have been built up over the centuries. This is true especially in Ravenna, which sits on marshland.

Here is a video of the interior. Hold on to your seat for this one. I apologize for my camera work; it's a bit dizzying! Notice anything similar between this Arian Baptistery and the Neonian Baptistery?

The ceilings have very similar designs. More photos:

The third figure in the scene is the personification of the River Jordan.

Today was a day to see more mosaic work; the mosaics here in Ravenna are among the finest in the world (and oldest). There is an entire department of the university here dedicated to the restoration and maintenance of mosaics.

The church of San Vitale is a stunning example of the work.

The work is so fine that some of it looks like rich Persian rugs attached to the walls and ceilings; hard to describe, but definitely breathtaking.

More photos of this stunning building:

These mosaics have got to be seen to be really appreciated. My great hope, of course, is that Ravenna will be one stop on the Baptism Font and Baptistery Pilgrimage I hope to lead in the Fall of 2014.

Sorry for so much posting today. This is definitely a city for the senses; wonderful things to see, hear, taste, smell, and feel!

Early tomorrow it is off to Udine; the longest drive of this trip. But Padua is halfway and my hope is to stop there and visit one of the most visually stunning baptisteries in the world at the Duomo in Padua.

I hope you are enjoying this little taste of the baptism fonts and baptisteries of Northern Italy.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

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