Archive for March, 2012
The Ravenna National Museum, founded in 1885, has been housed since the early twentieth century in the prestigious former San Vitale Benedictine monastery. The original nucleus of the museum patrimony is constituted by the collections formed in the eighteenth century by the Camaldolese monks of Classe, subsequently enriched through donations and acquisitions and above all with material from the Ravenna territory thanks to finds and excavations. Currently the museum exhibits a large set of heterogeneous collections, referable to three fundamental groups: stone objects, excavation finds and art collections. The collection of stone objects, mostly in the two cloisters of the monastery, is made up of interesting epigraphs and funeral steles and of stone objects from the Roman, palaeo-Christian, Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods. The monumental staircase leads to the upper floors, where mosaics and archaeological material are exhibited, coming in particular from the territory of Classe, and the collections of so-called lesser arts, which represent a very large part of the museum collections and are distinguished according to the type of material, as in the old arrangement of Classe collections. The art collections include Bronzes and Plaques, Ivories, Icons, Weapons and Armours, and Ceramics. The museum also contains the important cycle of fourteenth-century frescoes removed from the old Santa Chiara church in Ravenna by Pietro da Rimini.
Built by Theodoric as the Royal Palace chapel, S. Apollinare Nuovo probably dates back to the late 5th or early 6th century. It was built next to the palace which was restructured by the Gothic king, it must have been used as a palatine basilica and it can be considered as the most prestigious among the Arian churches. After the Byzantine reconquest and after the Justinian’s Edict (561) its patron becam St. Martin, Archbishop of Tours, famed for his staunch opposition to all heresies and to Arianism in particular. The splendour of its gilded ceilings gave it the name of St. Martin of the Golden Sky. According to tradition, the remains of S. Apollinare, martyr and founder of the Ravenna Church, were brought here in the 9th century, and the church took his name with the word “Nuovo” added to distinguish it from another church of the same name in the city. In the 10th century the church was entrusted to the Benedictine monks and therefore entrusted to the Friars Minor Observants of S. Francesco, who carried important works. The round 10th century campanile, so typical of Ravenna, standing at the far right of the portico, lightened by the elegant apertures which, from the uppermost orders of trifora became orders of single apertures nearer the foot. The 16th century portico of the façade replaced the old narthex. In the 17th century the present gilded lacunar was rebuilt. The basilica it is made of bricks, is characterized by a great architectonic simplicity. Twenty four columns of Greek marble divide the interior into a nave and two aisled, the nave ending in a round apse – polygonal externally. A very rich decoration must have characterized the interior part of the basilica, built with marbles in its lower part, stuccos, disappeared after the works of the 16th century. The present mosaics cover the two side walls at the foot of the nave, from the ceiling to the top of the supporting arches, in three decorative fascias. The outer band depicts a Procession of Martyrs and Virgins; the center one filling the areas between the windows, depicts majestic white-robed male figures (probably prophets), which the innermost fascia shows the Miracles and Passion of Christ. The Christ scenes occupy 26 panels, thirteen on each side, interspersed with other panels repeating the same symbolic motifs. Towards the foot of the right wall, the city of Ravenna is seen behind Theodoric’s palace. A Procession of 26 Martyrs leads from the palace to the apse: each haloed martyr has his name inscribed above; the figures emerge from a golden background and wending its way towards the Enthroned Christ, in an attitude of blessing, flanked by four archangels. On the left wall facing the palace and the city is the Civitas Classis. From the city of Classe, the walls of which contained the images of five personages removed by Agnello and substituted with gold, a Procession of Virgins moves towards the throne of the Madonna. Many artists must have taken part in the mosaic work of S. Apollinare Nuovo, for a number of different hands are distinguishable in the variations of line, style and those slight effects by which, from natural reality, one reaches the metaphysical abstract of the communion with the mysteries, express as though in the cadence of a liturgical chant.