Ravenna, Archbishop's Chapel (in the Bishop's Palace)

Also known as Capella Arcevescovile
Era 5AD - 6AD
Location Piazza Arcivescovado, 1, 48121 Ravenna RA, Italy

The Archbishop’s Chapel (Capella Arcevescovile) is the smallest of the mosaic sites in Ravenna. It’s a chapel on the first floor of the bishop’s palace. Although it is now dedicated to St Andrew, its original dedication was to Christ. The paintings are sixteenth century.

The chapel was the work of the Orthodox bishop, Peter II (494-520). It is cross-shaped and was lavishly decorated. It was revetted with marble. The barrel vault was decorated with a mosaic of lilies, discs and birds on a gold background and the monogram of Bishop Peter. It’s a design that reminds me of floor mosaics a bit. The apex of the vault had a gold chrismon (the Chi-Rho, the first two letters of Christ in Greek) against a blue background in a medallion held by four angels, between whom are the four Evangelist symbols/Beasts of the Apocalypse (Matthew = man; Mark = lion; Luke = ox; John = eagle) and multi-coloured clouds. (These are also features found in Roman mosaics of the fifth century and later seen also in Rome. And these four angles plus roundel are very similar to the vault of the south chapel in S Maria Assunta at Torcello, near Venice, dated to the eleventh century). Although the apse mosaic is lost, it has been reconstructed with gold and silver stars around a cross, rather like the ‘Mausoleum’ of Galla Placidia, and with roundels of saints. The only surviving lunette mosaic, above the door, shows a youthful Christ on a gold background as a warrior trampling on a lion and a serpent (the asp and basilisk of Psalm 91 v 13), and holding a book and a long cross over his shoulder. The text of the book says 'I am the way, the truth and the life' which is John 14,6.

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