Day 28 – Ravenna

This morning I took a tour sponsored by the Ravenna Tourist Office. The guide gave excellent explanations, taking us first to the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, which was constructed during the reign of the Ostrogoth ruler Theodoric the Great as his palace chapel in the 6th century.

It was founded as an Arian church for those who had a different view of Christ as God’s son. The guide explained that Arian iconography was “erased” in later generations after Arianism lost its following by making mosaic curtains over the Arian images that no longer fit the Christian theology.

Virgins holding Christ’s crown(s).

We briefly visited a mosaic workshop.

This artist talked on her phone while putting glass bits in place.

Next we visited the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, a late Roman building from the 5th century. It also is a UNESCO Heritage site. Galla Placidia, a Roman empress, is not buried here, but her name continues to be attached to the structure.

Then we went to what the guide called the highlight of the tour, the Basilica of San Vitale. Somehow the mosaics look more green in this photo than I recall seeing in the Basilica.

Another mosaic shop. Students come to Ravenna to learn the craft.

Then another Baptistry, this one called the Neonian Baptistry or the Orthodox Baptistry, located near the cathedral.

There’s not much i can say about any of these mosaics. In person, they left me speechless.

I did learn from the guide that at the time women were not allowed to be baptised. They also had to attend services on an upper floor, away from the main events, perhaps a carry-over from Jewish practices.

This arch shows that the Baptistry has sunk three meters since the early 5th century.

Next we went to a former fish market that has been converted to a Mercato Coperto, housing many different vendors of local foods.

The pasta in this area is always fresh, never dried.

Around the market are vintage objects unique to the area, like this boat that was once used to catch eel. The eel remain under cover, and the holes allow water to come in to keep them alive. I once saw a film starring Sophia Loren called “The Woman of the River,” featuring nearby Comacchio and its eels. Since then, i have always wanted to go there, but it requires a car. Maybe someday. A mini-Venice.

Also in the Mercato Coperto was this wall hanging which is made from what they call “foglietti salvacolore.” A group of women artists joined together to create the piece, creating the colors by washing their clothes, and clearly filling in the needed gaps. The foglietti salvacolore are put into a washing machine to absorb the colors from fugitive dyes that could ruin the clothes. This must be a common problem in Italy. When I washed a new t-shirt bought here, it turned my bra grey-blue.

A statement of women working together to make this piece as they have worked together for centuries at the communal washing place.

Many older women criss-cross the city on bicycles.

The Piazza del Popolo. Venice once had its lion on top of a pillar, but the people of Ravenna won their fight against the Venetians and took down the lion.

I signed up at the tourist office for another tour, this time of the Baptistries. It was only offered in Italian, and I thought it a good way to improve my listening skills. Unfortunately, it was at the end of a long day. I was tired and not very interested in the fine details of the explanations.

But I did find interesting the exchange between the two guides, the woman pointing up at the ceiling and the woman in the white pants and brown jacket. Each wanted to have a say about the images represented by the mosaics and, because somehow Italians don’t seem to go for a give and take like a see-saw, they both talked at once, over each other without a hint it might be better to give each her turn. They were both very knowledgeable and would be considered the opposite of maleducata (rude). I had to laugh.

Tomorrow I am off to Urbino.

2 thoughts on “Day 28 – Ravenna”

  1. I am “speechless” even looking at the photos of the mosaics… as well as some of the other facts you’ve shared. Grazie!

  2. I agree .. just looking at the photos of the incredible mosaics leaves me “speechless” too!

    I have loved mosaic work for a long time and knew these in Ravenna were exquisite. Thank you for ALL …the art education
    you are sharing.🥰🎶

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