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E06048: Mosaics from the 6th c. depicting Apollinaris (bishop and martyr of Ravenna, S00331), *Michael (the Archangel, S00181), *Gabriel (the Archangel, S00192), *Matthew (the Apostle and Evangelist), possibly *Peter (the Apostle, S00036) and several holy bishops of Ravenna in Sant'Apollinare in Classe (near Ravenna, northern Italy), datable 533/549.

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posted on 26.07.2018, 00:00 by frances
Mosaics from Sant'Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna

Sant'Apollinare in Classe is located in Classe (Classis), just to the south-east of Ravenna. Though now cut off from the sea, in late antiquity it was the city's port.

In the semi-dome of the apse, a large mosaic depicts a figure standing in a landscape. This figure is dressed as a bishop, is haloed and is identified as '+SANCTVS APOLENARIS' in an inscription. He is flanked on both sides by twelve sheep, with three more standing behind him in the landscape. He stands beneath a large circle, in which a cross sits against a blue background covered in stars. In the centre of the cross there is a small portrait of Christ. In the golden sky of this mosaic 'MOYSES' (Moses) and 'ELIAS' (Elijah) are depicted without haloes. Above them, a hand reaches down from the heavens.

Below this large image four portraits of holy bishops from Ravenna. Each of these bishops is depicted against a blue background and each bishop is labelled in an inscription. All the bishops wear episcopal dress and crowns hover above their heads. Each holds a closed book. From left to right, they are as follows:

ECLE SIVS (*Ecclesius, Bishop of Ravenna, Italy, ob. 532, S02235).
S̅C̅S̅SE VERVS (*Severus, Bishop of Ravenna, Italy, S01884).
S̅C̅S̅VR SVS (*Ursus, Bishop of Ravenna, Italy, ob. 426, S02234).
VRSI CINVS (*Ursicinus, Bishop of Ravenna, Italy, ob. 536, S02233).

At the entrance to the apse - on two panels - there are portraits of two angels and two men. On the left hand side one mosaic depicts an haloed angel against a gold background. He is labelled as 'MICAHL' (Michael, the Archangel). He carries a standard which is now corrupted but probably says 'AGIOS AGIOS AGIOS’: ‘holy, holy, holy’. On the right hand side an angel – similarly dressed, also haloed and also depicted against a gold background – is labelled as 'GABRIHL' (Gabriel, the Archangel). Again, the banner is not clear, but it probably says 'AGIOS AGIOS AGIOS'. Underneath the angels there are two bearded figures wearing white, depicted against blue backgrounds and with gold haloes. The figure on the left, underneath Michael, is labelled as 'SMATHEVS' (Matthew, the Apostle and Evangelist). The figure on the right is not labelled, but it is just possible this is Peter: he has the beard and white hair typical of depictions of Peter in other mosaics from late antique Ravenna.

Description: Frances Trzeciak.

History

Evidence ID

E06048

Saint Name

Apollinaris, bishop and martyr of Ravenna : S00331 Ecclesius, Bishop of Ravenna, Italy, ob. 532 : S02235 Severus, bishop of Ravenna, Italy : S01884 Ursicinus, Bishop of Ravenna, Italy, ob. 536 : S02233 Ursus, Bishop of Ravenna, Italy, ob. 426 : S

Saint Name in Source

Apolenaris Eclesivs Severvs Vrsicinvs Vrsvs Gabrihl Michal Mathevs

Image Caption 1

Apollinaris in the semi-dome of the Apse, San Apollinare in Classe. Photo credit: Roger W (Roger4336 on flickr). License: CC BY-SA 2.0

Image Caption 2

Detail of Apollinaris, San Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna. Photo credit: Nick Thompson, 23/04/2010. License: CC BY-SA 2.0.

Image Caption 3

Unknown saint, possibly Peter, San Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna. Photo credit: Nick Thompson, 23/04/2010. License: CC BY-SA 2.0.

Image Caption 4

Matthew, San Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna. Photo credit: Nick Thompson, 23/04/2010. License: CC BY-SA 2.0.

Image Caption 5

Archangel Michael, San Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna. Photo credit: Nick Thompson, 23/04/2010. License: CC BY-SA 2.0.

Image Caption 6

Archangel Gabriel, San Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna. Photo credit: Nick Thompson, 23/04/2010. License: CC BY-SA 2.0.

Image Caption 7

Ecclesius, Bishop of Ravenna, San Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna. Photo credit: Nick Thompson, 23/04/2010. License: CC BY-SA 2.0.

Image Caption 8

Severus, Bishop of Ravenna, San Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna. Photo credit: Nick Thompson, 23/04/2010. License: CC BY-SA 2.0.

Image Caption 9

Ursus, Bishop of Ravenna, San Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna. Photo credit: Nick Thompson, 23/04/2010. License: CC BY-SA 2.0.

Image Caption 10

Ursicinus, Bishop of Ravenna, San Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna. Photo credit: Nick Thompson, 23/04/2010. License: CC BY-SA 2.0.

Type of Evidence

Images and objects - Wall paintings and mosaics Inscriptions - Inscribed architectural elements

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

533

Evidence not after

549

Activity not before

533

Activity not after

549

Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Classe Ravenna

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Classe Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia Ravenna Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Commissioning/producing an image

Source

These mosaics are still visible in Sant'Apollinare in Classe today. They have been restored – along with several other late antique mosaics in Ravenna – to reflect their late antique form.

Discussion

It is not clear who or what the sheep in the large apse mosaic are meant to represent. Twelve sheep are depicted in the foreground. It is therefore possible that these sheep symbolise the apostles. Yet the other three others in the same landscape image, and several other sheep above the apse. This suggests it is much more likely these sheep were simply Apollinaris’ flock. Indeed, in this mosaic, he is represented raising his hands in prayer as if he were saying mass before his congregation. The choice to depict these four bishops of Ravenna in mosaics is interesting. Severus had a growing cult as a confessor (see E05789). The other bishops are credited with overseeing important foundations in Ravenna. Ursus founded the Ursiana; Ecclesius founded San Vitale and Ursicus oversaw the foundation of this church: Sant'Apollinare in Classe (E05787).

Bibliography

Further Reading: Deichmann, Friederich Wilhelm, Ravenna, Hauptstadt des spätantiken Abendlandes, vol. 1-3 (Wiesbaden, 1958-89). Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, Ravenna in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, 2010). Jäggi, Carola, Ravenna: Kunst und Kultur einer spätantiken Residenzstadt; die Bauten und Mosaiken des 5. und 6. Jahrhunderts (Regensburg, 2016). Verhoeven, Mariëtte, The Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna: Transformations and Memory (Turnhout, 2011).

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