Political and theological implications in the church of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna
Johnson, Laura Climenko
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The writer of the present thesis examines the political and theological implications of late fifth and sixth century Ravenna and relates this examination to the church and mosaics of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna (c. 520-530). The church of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo was originally constructed during the reign of the Os- trogothic king Theodoric (493-526), and the mosaics date to two different periods: the Ostrogothic (c. 520-530) and the Justinianic (c. 560-561). The mosaics depicting the processions of male and female martyr- saints date to c. 560-561, but the area where these martyr-saints were placed is believed to have originally contained Ostrogothic figures in procession (dated c. 520-530). This writer examines the reason for the replacement of these Ostrogothic figures: the original processions are believed to have been utilized to declare the Ostrogothic supremacy in Ravenna. Thus, the mosaics of the male and female martyr-saints may have replaced the original processions in order to denote the Byzantine reconquest of Ravenna in 540. The examination of the Last Supper scene from the Passion cycle at Sant'Apollinare Nuovo reveals that the mosaics can be both stylistically and iconographically associated with manuscripts, ivories, mosaics and sculptures from Syria, Milan and Rome. This interrelation indicates the existence of contacts between the populace of Ravenna and people from different commercial and artistic centers. It is possible that Theodoric was actively involved in determining the mosaic program of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo and he may have requested that the mosaicists of the christological cycle employ elements which might be associated with both the East and West. Therefore, the christological cycle may have been intended to pictorialize Theodoric's attempt to improve diplomatic relations between the Ostrogoths, the Emperor and the Pope. In addition, the depth of the theological and political implications which existed between the Ostrogoths of Ravenna, the Emperor in Constantinople and the Senate and the Papal court in Rome is discussed. The examination attests to the belief that Theodoric encouraged the formation of political and religious alliances in order to strengthen the power and prestige of the Ostrogoths in Ravenna, and the mosaics of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo are the visual testimony of these highly diplomatic relationships.