Viewing the mosaics of Ravenna, Italy, is a truly visionary experience — even for those of us who have never seen them up close. They were completed during a transitional period in a true cultural borderland. Ravenna was Byzantium’s capital in the West, and so the images shine with the transcendent quality of eastern icons. Yet they also possess the warmth and representational character of western art. Somehow, too, they incorporate the most developed symbolic sense of paleo-Christian art. I’m no art historian and no critic, so I’m making it sound like a mishmash. But it’s not. For the Christian who’s passionate about patristic history, Ravenna is the sweetest eye-candy the world has to offer.
It’s probably best if you just go and see for yourself. There’s an Italian website that offers a a virtual tour in English. Another site gives you a sampling of the images, but the text is in Italian. Same goes for this one, which offers a catalog of many mosaic details, close-up.
The Ravenna mosaics make great screen savers, desktop backgrounds, and e-cards. They’ll inspire you to pray. Go wild.
Oh, by the way, the image of the Fathers at the top of this blog — it’s from Ravenna, of course.