Column: A Thousand Words

Apse Mosaic

Church of Sant'Apollinare in Classe
by Mary Elizabeth Podles

The Church of Sant'Apollinare, particularly its glorious apse mosaic, is the happy byproduct of the political, economic, and artistic boom in Ravenna, Italy, in the fifth and sixth centuries a.d.; the subsequent bust preserved it practically intact. Saint Apollinaris, pictured in the lower half of the mosaic, was the first bishop of Ravenna and was martyred under the reign of Vespasian. His relics were enshrined in the basilica when it was consecrated in 549 by the (legendarily disliked) Bishop Maximianus. Thus the saint's prominent placement in the apse.

The mosaicist presents the saint in classic icon form: a fully frontal, full-length figure, vested as in . . .

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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.

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