Thursday, February 08, 2007

Pulpit at the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna

The Basilica of Sant' Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna (Italy)was erected by the Arian King, Theodoric, as his palace chapel, during the first quarter of the 6th century (as attested in the Liber Pontificalis). This Arian church was originally dedicated to Christ the Redeemer.

It was reconsecrated in 561, under the rule of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, under the new name "Sanctus Martinus in Coelo Aureo" (Saint Martin in Golden Heaven). Suppressing the Arian cult, the church was dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, the implacable foe of heretics. According to legend, Pope Gregory the Great ordered that the mosaics in the church to be blackened, as their golden glory distracted worshippers from the prayers.

The basilica was renamed again in 856, when relics of Saint Apollinare were transferred from the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe because of the threat posed by frequent raids of Adriatic pirates.

Its apse and atrium underwent modernisation at various times, beginning in the 6th century with the destruction of mosaics whose themes were too overtly Arian or which expressed the king's glory. The mosaics of the lateral walls, twenty-four columns with simplified Corinthian capitals, and an ambo are preserved.

For more on the Basilica and its mosaics, click here.