July 20, 2011

St. Apollinaris and Ravenna

Basilicia of Saint'Appollinare
in Classe

 Today being the memorial of St. Apollinaris, I am posting some pictures of the two of the churches named for St. Apollinaris in the city of Ravenna, Italy.  In 1999, while on a trip to Italy with my mom, we had the opportunity to visit these churches and view their magnificent mosaics. It is off the beaten path so it is not a popular tourist stop, but a must for anyone who is an art lover and interested in the almost lost art of mosaics. There are eight places in Ravenna listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Ravenna was the capital city of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, and was greatly influenced by the Byzantine when in the 6th century Emperor Justinian I made Ravenna the seat of the Byzantine Empire in Italy.

Saint'Apollinarius Nuova

There are two basilicas named for St. Apollinarius, a  bishop and martyr who tradition states was appointed by as bishop of Ravenna by St. Peter himself.  The basilicas of Saint'Apollinare in Classe and Saint'Apollinare Nuovo are both in the Romanesque style but their mosaics are Byzantine.  

The following  are from Saint'Apollinarius in Classe.

St. Apollinaris

Baptism of Jesus


Interior of the basilica

The following are from Saint'Apollinarius Nuovo. The mosaics on the sides of the nave are male and female martyrs facing toward the sanctuary. We know this because they are carrying the crowns of martyrdom.

Nave of Saint'Apollinarius Nuovo

female martyrs

male martyrs

These particular mosics came to mind immediatly when I first walked into the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles and saw the magnificent tapestries that line the walls of the nave. 

Despite the Cathedral being ultra modern in design, the tapestries show the influence of early Church art.  As I have posted previously, I think we have lost something in today's modern world with regard to great relious art.  Religious art was meant to catechize people and to lift their hearts to God.  I think the mosaics of Ravenna are fine examples and I wish I had more room here to explore further the art work in these beautiful churches. If you are ever in Italy, it is worth the trip to see these and the other historic places in Ravenna.

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