(active 6th century in Ravenna)

Interior decoration

6th century
Sant'Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna

Despite extensive repairs to the clerestory in the 8th century, and the insertion of a crypt and raising of the apse level above the nave floor in the 9th century, the church has largely preserved its original internal design. Much of the sculptural and wall-mosaic decoration has also survived.

The colonnades flanking the nave each consist of 12 richly veined Proconnesian marble columns set on rectangular bases and crowned by wind-blown acanthus capitals. The apse is decorated with marble revetment on the lower zone and mosaic elsewhere, the complex design of which is partly due to changes made in the window zone in the 7th century. On the triumphal arch the mosaics comprise a medallion bust of Christ Pantokrator flanked by the symbols of the Evangelists; below, 12 lambs emerge from Bethlehem and Jerusalem and proceed towards Christ. On either side of the apse are vertical series of three panels depicting palm-trees at the top, archangels in the middle, and half-figures of the Evangelists at the bottom.

The upper half of the apse is dominated by a huge blue disc bearing a bejewelled cross set among 99 stars; in the centre of the cross, which hovers between busts of Moses and Elijah, there is a bust of Christ; the group is a stylized version of the Transfiguration. Below, St Apollinaris stands with his arms raised in prayer in the centre of an idealized landscape, with six lambs on either side and three lambs representing SS Peter, James, and John above him to the left and right. The green and gold zones of this composition are carefully balanced and create a strong two-dimensional surface, revealing more abstract principles of design than those in the San Vitale mosaics.

Between the windows of the apse are four full-length portraits of bishops of Ravenna, on either side of which are two mosaic panels added by Bishop Reparatus in the 7th century: a conflated version of the scenes of sacrifice involving Abel, Melchisedech, and Abraham (right) and Constantine IV Pogonatus (reg 668–85) conferring privileges on the church accompanied by his brothers Heraclius and Tiberius and his son Justinian II (reg 689–95, 705–11), and attended by Reparatus, a priest, and three deacons (left). Other objects of interest in the church are the altar of Bishop Maximian in the centre of the nave (rest. 1753), eight columns from the two original ciboria at the west end of the church, and sarcophagi of the 6th century and later carved with chi-rho monograms, lambs, birds, vine scrolls, and other symbolic motifs.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.