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The Sparkling Mosaics of Ravenna

Evening Program

Friday, August 7, 2020 - 6:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0039
Tickets
$25 - Member
$30 - Non-Member

Empress Theodora and part of her court, Church of San Vitale, Ravenna

STREAMING PROGRAM INFORMATION

  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • For multiple registrations, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses.

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

As it moved from backwater coastal town to an imperial and then barbarian capital in the 5th century, and finally to a Byzantine exarchate in the 6th-century with the invasion of the armies of Emperor Justinian, Ravenna’s true cultural identity emerged. The city became the “Constantinople of the West,” enjoying imperial largesse in order to demonstrate the magnificence and wealth of the East.  

During this period, Ravenna’s Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna was built as the sister church of the Hagia Sofia in Constantinople and the barbarian church of St. Martin was re-consecrated as Sant’Apollinare Nuovo with its decoration reworked to reflect Byzantine culture. The city’s Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe was built to celebrate the rebirth of the port city of Classe, the former seat of the imperial Roman navy in the eastern Mediterranean. These structures still preserve the world’s most significant corpus of Byzantine mosaics.

No medium better embodies the glory and mystery of both Byzantine culture and Early Christian iconography than does this painstaking technique of inserting tiny colored-glass tiles—or tesserae—into wet plaster to produce figurative and decorative imagery. In fact, the church of San Vitale houses perhaps the most famous mosaic in the world depicting the Empress Theodora and her court. 

The shimmering mosaics in Ravenna also reflect the breakdown of Greco-Roman traditions as art turned away from naturalism and idealism towards abstraction and a focus on surface. This new two-dimensional, hierarchical, and exotic art provided mosaic artists with a means to represent both a divine heavenly order and a secular one on earth in their subject matter.

Rocky Ruggiero, a specialist in the Early Renaissance, surveys the fascinating history of Ravenna that shaped the city’s most recognizable artistic marvels, its glorious mosaics.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*

UPDATED PATRON INFORMATION

  • Once registered, patrons should receive an automatic email confirmation from CustomerService@SmithsonianAssociates.org.
  • Separate Zoom link information will be emailed closer to the date of the program. If you do not receive your Zoom link information 24 hours prior to the start of the program, please email Customer Service for assistance.
  • View Common FAQs about our Streaming Programs on Zoom.

*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective  credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.

Location
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.