Friday, February 02, 2007

The Arian Baptistry, Ravenna

The Arian Baptistry in Ravenna, Italy was erected by Ostrogothic King Theodoric the Great between the end of the 5th century and the beginning of the sixth century

In 565, after the condemnation of the Arian cult, the small octagonal brick structure was converted into a Catholic oratory named Santa Maria. Greek monks added a monastery during the period of the Exarchate of Ravenna and further dedicated the structure to Saint Maria in Cosmedin.

Around the year 1700, the structure passed into private hands, and in 1914 it was acquired by the Italian government.

According to the ICOMOS evaluation of site, "the iconography of the mosaics, whose quality is outstanding, is of importance in that it illustrates the Trinity, a somewhat unexpected element in the art of an Arian building, since the Trinity was not accepted in this doctrine".

The Baptistry is octagonal in shape.

Inside are four niches and a dome with mosaics, depicting the baptism of Jesus by Saint John the Baptist. Jesus is shown beardless and naked, half-submerged in the Jordan. John the Baptist is wearing a leopard skin. On the left stands a pagan god in the guise of a white-haired, old man in a green cloak, holding a leather bag. He is the personalisation of the river Jordan. Above, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove sprays lustral water from its beak.

Below these figures is a procession of the Apostles, led in separate directions by Saint Peter and Saint Paul who circle the dome, meeting at a throne with a jeweled crucifix resting on a purple cushion.

Further references:

Arian Baptistry
Justification for the inclusion to the World Heritage List

The ICOMOS evaluation of this site