cittá dei mosaici
05.11.2008 - 05.11.2008 15 °C
In the fifth century AD, as the Western Roman Empire collapsed among the barbarian hordes, most imperial and papal business moved out of the actual city of Rome to newer, cleaner, more defensible, less swamp-ridden locations like Milan and Ravenna, built near the headquarters of the Roman fleet on the Adriatic in Classis. When Rome was sacked and the last Western emperor removed, the Eastern (Byzantine) empire retained a toehold in Ravenna, from which they occasionally waged wars up and down the peninsula in an effort to reconquer Italy from the Germans. It didn't work, but they left stunning works of late Roman architecture and art behind them. Most famously, the mosaics, in five different sites in the city. I took pictures, but it doesn't really work. The churches are dark, you can't use a flash, and even if you did, they're too massive for a handheld camera to illuminate. The best result follows, it's from Sant'Apollinare Nuovo a block or two from the hotel.
The mosaic pieces are gold, it's about ten feet high, it's about one tenth of one side of the church, and there are mosaics above and below it. The scope is breathtaking.
The architecture itself is novel, if less stunning. The church of San Vitale was built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great -- his portrait is inside as a twenty-foot high mosaic -- and it was constructed before the design of a church was a completely settled issue. It's octagonal on the outside, with buttresses to support the multiple levels of domes.
Lots of walking around gawking at ancient history can make you hungry. We popped into Ca de Ven (Romagnolo dialect for 'House of Wine') for dinner.
Colleen had gnocchi with spinach and gorgonzola.
I had a duck risotto.
We split a cheese course for dessert.