We are not quite done with mosaics.  And we saved the best group of mosaics for the last.  Mid-morning we walked one short old city block to the Basilica di San Vitale.  Imagine it is 540 A.D.   The city of Rome has been looted, the land is crawling with barbarians, and the infrastructure of Rome’s thousand year empire is crumbling fast.  In comes the emperor of the East Justinian, bringing order and stability, briefly reassembling the empire, and making Ravenna a beacon of civilization.  Stepping into this 1,40-year old basilica is impressive enough but the beauty and brilliance of these old mosaics is awesome!  It still manages to convey the intended feeling that “This peace and stability was brought to you by your emperor and God.”  The churches octagonal design is clearly eastern and inspired at least two other churches.  Emperor Charlemagne in 800 A. D. was so impressed that he built a church in his capital (present-day Aachen, Germany) modeled after this one.  Just across the courtyard from this basilica is the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.  It is a tiny, humble-looking building but with the oldest – and to many, the most precious – mosaics in Ravenna.  95 percent of the mosaics here are original, dating from the late Roman period, when Ravenna was capital of a declining west.  We had two more things we wanted to see before we caught our train back to Florence, so we crossed town again to the Duomo with Neonian Baptistery right beside it.  This dates back to the year 400. Although beautiful in its own right it is very similar to the Arian Baptistery we saw yesterday, with a mosaic of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus who is naked in the Jordan river.  Around the corner and attached to the Duomo is a museum containing the sixth-century Chapel of Sant’ Andrea.  It was built as the private prayer chapel for Theodoric’ bishop, and today is surrounded by a fine collection of Roman, Byzantine-Christian, and pagan statues, reliefs, and mosaics that have been dug up over the years.  From there we went back to collect our things from the B & B and then walked across town for our train.  We always love the train rides and feel very accomplished that we get from point A to point B so comfortably and easily.  After unpacking and cleaning up we went out to celebrate Bruce’s birthday atop the Excelsior Hotel where there is a nice bar where you can buy over-priced drinks and eat apperitivi.

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