Thursday, January 21, 2010

Breakfast at Justinian and Theodora's

Starring Audrey Hepburn. UGH. I really need to put more thought into these blog post titles. Anyway I probably can't because I'm SO TIRED FROM SEEING EVERY PIECE OF EARLY CHRISTIAN ART THAT IS EVEN REMOTELY IMPORTANT. What's that, Christina and Ricardo? I hate you because you've seen everything EVER? that's right.

So we woke up ass early to get on a bus with our prof. Helen, who was very chipper on the bus PA. When we were more awake a little later Ricardo was very taken with the country side and took 3 gazillion pictures. Here are a few of them:

Mausoleum of Theodoric

Our first stop was the Mausoleum of Theodoric which was a little outside Ravenna. It was mega cold out, because it was still a little early and the mausoleum was not very cozy as it's made of bare rock. However we bought some ROCKIN' Ravenna postcards at the gist shop which picture the major sights of Ravenna surrounding the central image of two kittens labeled "Ravenna" in wavy rainbow script. THE FUTURE OF GRAPHIC DESIGN.

Helen Waterson with her CRAZY warbly voice

Residual debris from the archeological dig of the
cemetery that once surrounded the mausoleum

The crazy part is that the dome was made of a SINGLE PIECE of stone, which, since it's not local they brought here on a ship and presumably built an earth ramp up the building to get it to the top. Apparently it got damaged during one of these processes because it has a giant crack on one side. The legend goes that Theodoric was convinced that he would die by lightening strike, so he would come to the mausoleum because he thought it was safe and then one day during a storm a bolt of lightening struck him dead THROUGH THE CRACK. He actually died of a heart problem.

Well well, what is this?? I guess Christina left this unfinished.... Well, Ricardo's here now (sounding like a badly written villain)! After the mausoleum we got back on the bus, which drove us into central Ravenna. There we walked to the first church Empress Galla Placidia built when she arrived in Ravenna. It was dedicated to St. John, because she prayed to him on the sea voyage from Constantinople during a really bad storm and she told him that she would build him a glorius church if he spared her and her family. They arrived safely and now we have this church.

Me in front of the church, under this cool lookin' arch.

They had a bunch of old awesome Mosaics that used to be the floor. Because of the soggy ground in Ravenna, all the really heavy buildings sink slowly over time, so a lot of the churches we saw were actually rebuilt on higher foundations, and some of them even had little squares of the old floor left, so you could see how much the building had sunk. SCIENCE!

Crazy fighting dudes

I was born a Unicorn (and thus I was a symbol for incorruptabilty)

aaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnddddddddd we're back (Christina). In case you didn't know, when you are in Europe you must take an artsy picture of a bike. Don't leave Europe without one!

This is St. Apollinare Nuovo, which was built as Theodoric's (the mausoleum guy) palatine chapel. As a typical Early Christian Basilica it's pretty plain on the outside, made of brick and freakin' fantastic on the inside. MOSIACS EVERYWHERE, just like the Duomo baptistery.

The port of Classe (10 minutes away) where Galla Placidia would have landed safely and a row of female early Christian martyrs.

The ceiling is a later Baroque addition as is the apse (high altar area) which is even a little Rococo. They're pretty sweet.

There's the Port again

evidence of figures that were stricken from the
visual record for political reasons (floating arms)

St. Christina!

Madonna and Child

The three magi

After this we walked a bit to this tiny baptistery which was for the Arian sect of Christians which could not accept that Christ was 100% divine, but believed in his humanity and mortality.

THUS JESUS IS VERY VERY HUMAN and classicly portrayed in the nudie!
note the river god has crab legs on it's head

We passed a protest on our way to San Vitale which is the mega highlight of....the world.
When you walk in you see this:

and this:

and this:

and it's cool and all, but it seems pretty standard, you know, Baroque shit's everywhere. what you really came to see is much older, more mystical and awe inducing.


Justinian and his court (posse)

Theodora and her court (entourage)

SO UMM YEAH. San Vitale was Justinian and Theodora's (The Holy Roman Emperor and Wife) palatine chapel, even though they never even came to Ravenna. It was meant to imitate the Hagia Sophia which was their palatine chapel in Constantinople. The star of the show however is Theodora who is a BAD ASS. Theodora was born a circus performer, the daughter of a bear tamer, which is below the dregs of society on the social scale at the time. Since she was incredibly beautiful and a god damn smarty pants, her mother encouraged her to become an actress/entertainer. Eventually she worked her way up the social ladder to become a very high level and desirable companion, or courtesan. She caught the emperor's eye and eventually he married her. Daughter of bear tamer to basically Holy Roman Empress and Co-Regent. She was ery influential to Justinian and had a lot of input in law writing.

Back to our other heroine, this is Galla Placidia's mausoleum right outside San Vitale. Her mausoleum is another art historical heavy hitter for it's crazy awesome mosaics.

Beautiful pattern work

This was one of my (Christina) favorite things I'd seen all day. That meander next to that blue pattern makes me swoon. I'm cutting that exact meander out of paper in my current KenTisa project. FUN TIMES.

A dome made of Heaven and the symbols of the four evangelists

one of them martyrs gettin' grilled and shit
(he's got his flippie floppies)

a classicising Christ as young shepherd.

This single mosaic in the inner tympanum (that half circle shape above a door) is own of the most famous of all early christian mosiacs. oh wait hold on GEEKING OUT. sorry about that.

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha no caption necessary but here's one anyways.

After Galla Placidia we headed over to the non-Arian baptistery that was a lot bigger and had more naked Christ getting baptized (exciting because it's rare in art history). We saw JFK on the way. (he was hanging out with Elvis)

THIS IS SO EXCITING GUYS. Not in the way the other things were exciting but still AWESOME. THIS CRYPT IS CONSTANTLY FLOODED SO THEY FILLED IT WITH GOLD FISH. THERE ARE GOLD FISH SWIMMING IN A BUILDING. my apologies, you can't see them in this photo cause they were moving around a lot. BUT THEY'RE THERE.

Lastly we bussed it over to Classe, our last stop, (were Galla Placidia would have landed) which had another church with a mega famous apse which we'd seen many many times projected on the wall of a dark classroom. It's a beautiful example of early Christian mosaics moving away from the naturalism of Greco-Roman artistic ideals and moving towards a more Byzantine, Medieval style, which is more stylized, more schematic, flatter, and weirdly awesome.

we were so god freaking tired. We did NOTHING on Sunday, except at night about 15 people showed up at our house and we cooked delicious delicious beans with onions and sausage. And a boy named Galen spent all day making us fresh pasta, and we drank wine, and it was a nice time. This week has been pretty standard so far.
Ricardo is drawing a tree branch pattern for his first Lithography stone! he really likes it so far and it's really intense to scrape the stone down and everything so he feels very accomplished. I just proofed two of my etching plates today and I'm very pleased. ALSO we worked it out so that we can audit and Italian class, which means we get to sit in, but we don't have to do anything like participate, or do homework if you don't want to but we can of course. It's a little bit of a tight fit, but we think it's worth it. We're learning a lot and fast!
Tonight we're getting ready to go to Rome for three days FOR FREE. (woot on sight Art History) but we have to be up at 6:00 am to get to the train station on time, so good night and Ciao!

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