In 527 began the reformation of the church of San Vitale in Ravenna under prescription of Justinian I in order to accelerate the integration of the territories conquered by the Byzantine Empire. This happened under the Ecclesius’ bishopric.
A Greek banker, Julius Argentarius, sponsored it and the new bishop Maximian consecrated it in 546. The plan of the church is octagonal, combining Roman and Byzantine elements. The central section is surrounded by two superposed ambulatories. Supposedly almost every surface was decorated with rich mosaics. Most of them aren’t any more conserved, but the mosaics of the presbytery maintain very well. Although the decoration contains a lot of passages from the Old Testament, the main theme of the mosaics is the salvation through the Eucharist. Their survival appertains to the fact that Ravenna adopted the stance against the Byzantine Iconoclasts of the 8th and 9th centuries, and because it didn’t belong any more to the Byzantine Empire during the Turkish Invasion.
Gustav Klimt travelled to Ravenna in 1903 and he might have been very impressed of the use of the gold colour, so he introduced it in his painting.
San Vitale belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1996.
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