San Vitale--page 2 (of 4 pages)

548 C.E.

Page 1: exterior views and choir
Page 2: dome and mosaics of Theodora and retinue and Justinian and retinue
Page 3: mosaics on side walls
Page 4: church interior views and ambulatory; details of floor and capitals

The vault of the choir (or chancel)

Four angels on globes support a floral medallion with the Agnus Dei in the center. The background is filled with flora and fauna. See details below.

Mosaic panel in the choir: Empress Theodora and her court

Theodora, a tall, bejewelled figure in a royal purple robe with the three Magi embroidered at the hem stands in a niche with a shell design. She carries a large chalice, presumably a gift matching the Eucharistic paten carried by her husband in the opposite mosaic. Seven ladies in waiting are to her left while male servants precede her as if a paused procession. The odd setting features a canopy above the ladies and a small fountain on the left.

Mosaic panel in the choir: Emperor Justinian and his court

A haloed figure, Justinian is grouped with both ministers of state and Maximian and two members of the clergy. He is dressed in imperial purple and wears an enormous jewelled fibula. Like the Theodora panel, this one illustrates elements of the Byzantine style: stylized drapery that is not form-revealing, lack of spatial recession or definition, emphasis on symbolism--in this case, the Eucharist, and spiritual rather than narrative meaning. At the same time, the figures in both panels seem to be portrait heads.

Continue to page 3 .

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© 2006 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.