The Basilica of San Vitale, one of the most famous Byzantine monuments in the world
Entering San Vitale is not just entering a beautiful church, it is a kind of mystical experience within everyone’s reach. San Vitale is not visited, it is breathed; he sees himself; he listens to you. San Vitale inebriates you, envelops you and cradles you. At the end of the journey, you feel refreshed in your soul, aware that you have just come out of a unique place in the world.
Gold, Byzantium and Gustav Klimt
It is no coincidence that Gustav Klimt, after his double visit to Ravenna in 1903, began that period of his painting called aureo: he did so after admiring the Neoplatonic gold of our mosaics; of that gold, he retained the form and abandoned the (theological) content, transforming the sacred iconographies into secessionist arabesques.
San Vitale stands, majestic and hidden at the same time, near today’s Via Cavour, in the heart of the historic center; known all over the world, the church is a UNESCO treasure and the one that registers the highest number of daily visitors in the city.
A bit of history of the Basilica
Commissioned by Bishop Ecclesio on his return from a trip to Constantinople in 525 and financed by Giuliano Argentario, the basilica was built on a 5th century chapel (dedicated to San Vitale) and consecrated in 547 by Bishop Maximian, who commissioned the interior decorations.
The photo on all history books
Even the empress Theodora (wrapped in a damask embellished with gems and mother of pearl) and the emperor Justinian, with their respective offerings (oblatio Augusti et Augustae), participate in the holy banquet.
The effigies of the two rulers (who never visited Ravenna!), Holding a golden chalice and a patera respectively, combine to make the moment of the Eucharist in San Vitale unanimous and almost Curtense, where both are depicted in the center of their followed, between court dignitaries and handmaids. The earthly offering is therefore a counterbalance to the Eucharistic one.