EARLY CHRISTIAN SCULPTOR, Byzantine
(active 540s in Ravenna)

Capital

540s
Marble
San Vitale

In the most ornate buildings in Ravenna, interior surfaces were covered with marble from the floor to the base of the vaults, and most architectural supports (e.g. bases, columns, and capitals) were of marble, although some were reused. The use of marble demonstrated Byzantine power and symbolized the ideological hold of the empire. Its value in these respects remained constant through the centuries from the foundation of Constantinople (AD 324–30) to the importation of building material from Constantinople by the Ostrogothic king Theodoric (reg 493–526) for his churches in Ravenna, to Charlemagne who, anxious to demonstrate his imperial legitimacy, recovered the marble of Ravenna and Rome for his palatine chapel at Aachen.

The capitals in San Vitale are of the so-called basket type: the earlier Corinthian type with acanthus leaves were replaced by sculpted basketwork.

The picture shows a detail of the right side wall in San Vitale.