Monday, July 26, 2004

July 24th Saturday


Ravenna was capital of the Roman Empire for a short time during its demise in the 5th or 6th centuries. Our principal reason for going there was to see the mosaics, and to get a sense of byzantine art and architecture.

The mosaics in the large church there are very impressive for their colors and the beauty of their abstract designs. I didn't respond very much to the figures in mosaics, but the whole made a strong impression. The architecture of the church was very interesting. It is an octagonal plan, with two floors of galleries surrounding a central space equivalent to the nave of a Roman Catholic church. The space was more circular and vertical, with a high dome, and lots of thick arches. The dome had been redecorated with a kind of florid trompe l'oeil fresco-scheme in the 18th century, which weakened the impact of the space considerably in my opinion. This church was the model for the Aghia Sofia (spelling?) that was built in Constantinople and which was, in turn, I think, the model for the cathedral of St. Mark's in Venice. Certain irregularities in this church--for instance, the columns in the opening from the ambulatories onto the main sanctuary featured highly uneven stonecutting of their capitals--made it seem more provincial than I expected from a place which was apparently a center of some political and economic importance at the time of the church's construction.


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