Some Old Mosaics in Ravenna

Ravenna’s Byzantine and Roman mosaics are famous and beautiful and mostly very difficult to photograph, because they are so high or so large. Here are a few of my photos, just to give you an idea. This photo album has some pretty good pictures of Ravenna’s ancient mosaics (scroll down to the Ravenna heading). You can find out more about Ravenna’s old mosaics and their fascinating history in books, or better yet, go there and see for yourself.

church mosaic in Ravenna

At a time when most people couldn’t read, the mosaics at the St. Apollinaire Nuovo church told a story of religion and leadership during the reign of Emperor Theodorico. When the Emperor Justinian conquered the city, he destroyed the mosaic likenesses of Theodorico and turned the mosaics of Theodorico’s court into pictures of saints. Justinian preserved only the mosaics that agreed with his orthodox Christian beliefs. This happened around 1,500 years ago, which goes to show that political spin and manipulation of the media have been around for a long, long time.

The photo shows some of the converted saints at the left, and the three wise men bearing gifts in the middle above the arches. I tried to show the stunning scale of the building and the mosaics, by including the tourists in the photo.

ancient mosaic floor in Ravenna

In the 1990s, a development company started construction on a block of flats in the city of Ravenna. The flats had already been sold, and the new owners were probably pretty pleased about the parking garage that was to be under the building.

The parking garage excavation stopped when workers struck a very dense layer, which turned out to be seven layers of mosaic floors, dating from Roman times, built one on top of the other!

Ten years went by as archaeologists and mosaic restorers excavated the site, ingeniously preserving the layers of floors. The water table is very high in Ravenna, so the site had to be pumped continuously, which caused subsidence problems for the surrounding buildings. An underground museum took the place of the parking garage, and that’s where these photos are from.

an ancient mosaic floor in Ravenna

I’ll get back to knitting and crocheting pretty soon. These mosaics are just too good to keep to myself!

3 Responses to Some Old Mosaics in Ravenna

  1. wool winder March 6, 2006 at 2:36 pm #

    Wow! They really knew how to incorporate art into building construction back then.

  2. three sisters March 6, 2006 at 9:39 pm #

    wow! that’s amazing mosaic work.

  3. Steve May 20, 2006 at 1:43 pm #

    Great post on mosaic tile art.
    Very informative.
    I love the mosaic tile floor.

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