ARCHITECT, Italian
(active 540s in Ravenna)

Aerial view

547
Photo
San Vitale, Ravenna

The church was begun by Bishop Ecclesius (reg 521-32) and financed by Julianus Argentarius, who spent 26,000 solidi on its construction; work progressed under bishops Ursicinus (reg 534-36) and Victor (reg 538-45), and the church was consecrated in 547 by Bishop Maximian.

The basic design is unquestionably Byzantine in conception and comprises a centrally planned octagon with seven arched niches and a square apsed chancel to the east, resting on eight piers, an enveloping ambulatory and gallery, and a narthex set obliquely to the church. Although its resemblance to Sts Sergios and Bakchos (now the Little Hagia Sophia) in Istanbul is obvious, there are considerable differences between the two buildings, among them being the greater vertical emphasis of San Vitale, which can probably be attributed to a local architect. The use of thin bricks held together by fairly wide bands of mortar also follows Byzantine practice, but the work of local craftsmen is again apparent in the dome, which is made of terracotta tubes set in horizontal courses.

View the ground plan of the building.




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