|A beardless Christ in the apse of San Vitale|
We have been in Ravenna, Italy this week.
Dante who died in Ravenna describes it as a”a symphony of colour.” Yeats hails the Byzantine mosaics here as “monuments of undying intellect.”
Ravenna is famous for its Byzantine mosaics, constructed over the the third and 6th century A.D. The best known is San Vitale, which was begun in 525 AD under the Roman Emperor Theodoric, and completed in 548 under the Emperor Justinian.
Justinian, is interestingly best known for marrying Theodora, a child prostitute and circus performer, and later a courtesan. She had a reputation for calculated cruelty, arranging “disappearances” of anyone who went against her.
I can think of modern parallels to these “disappearances!!”
Here is Justinian in San Vitale,
And here is Theodora
|The Empress Theodora in San Vitale|
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come
|The Floors of San Vitale|
|San Vitale Ceiling|
|And look at this adorable mystic lamb in the centre, probably made by someone who had never seen a real lamb.|