Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wave Hello to Jesus

Once again, I hate this bus system here. We had to get up extra early to get breakfast as soon as they opened the doors, in order to get the 8:36 bus to the train station. Today’s trip was to Ravenna. I owe particular thanks Sandra Molyneaux, our friend from Democrats Abroad who put me onto this city. I would never have known about Ravenna if it weren’t for her sending me a note advising me of the unbelievable collection of mosaics that are throughout the city.

For the first time, as we were approaching the train station stop, a woman flagged down the driver in between stops, which at first seemed quite strange until we watched people squirm. She was a ticket inspector; though the bus was full, she was not able to dispense one fine.

A couple of our train tickets I bought online and printed them out. Other tickets were bought from the self-service machines in the station. What I had forgotten about was that the machine tickets have to be validated before you get on the train. It was not until we were half way to Ravenna when it popped into my mind that we had not done this simple task. Failure to do so is fineable, understandably so as tickets are valid for 3 months unless validated. We reached our destination without incident.

After gawking at some of the architecture, we first entered the Basilica di San Giovanni Evangelist where there is a display of grey and ivory toned mosaics displayed around the church on the walls. They are not protected in any manner, so you can run your fingers over the surface, which of course tactile people like me had to do. This was an impressive display and I love mosaics, yet I could not help but wonder what all the fuss was about if these were prime examples of the work.

When we reached Sant Apollinare Nuovo, we had to buy a 5 church/museum ticket for €9.50 each. Dating back to the 5th or 6th century, it had differing names, but the current one came about in the 9th century when the relics of Sant Apollinare were placed here. Nuovo was added to distinguish it from a smaller church with a similar name. Just walking in will take your breath away. Unlike most churches,  you will not find any pews or chairs, but one long sumptuous empty space. Corinthian columns line the hall while above them are the most spectacular mosaics in primarily shades of gold, green, and white. Directly above the columns on either side there are rows of people with halos, presumably saints. Above these are bible stories including Jesus at the wedding in Cana, Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes, on the other side,  there are scenes from the passion and resurrection. These are unbelievably stunning. Later I read that the different scenes were from different periods, hence different artists created various facial features and expressions. From the floor, it is difficult to tell.

Palazzo detto di Teodorico offered free admission, but didn’t inspire my photo bug tendency. I only took 2 pictures here. This is the ruin of a brick building; it is thought that it dates back to the 6th or 7th century. Its original function is still being speculated, but it is believed to have been a guard room. Inside there are a couple of mosaic floors.

Museo Archivescovile or Museum of the Archbishop of Ravenna did not allow photos at all. It is four rooms with impressive displays that alternate in the historic environment, archaeological finds and works of art.  There were marble pieces that date back to the 1st century. What was truly sad was the ivory throne created for the archbishop. We hope there were not a number of animals killed to make it.

Nearby is the Orthodox Baptistery, Neonian Baptistery, or otherwise known as Battistero della Cattedrale. The exterior is an unassuming building but the interior is filled with mosaics that will make you gasp for air. They date back to the 5th century.

After a lunch stop, we continued on to Domus dei Tappeti di Pieta, but didn’t go in. A small Byzantine palace was discovered here; it dates back to the early 6th century. To enter, you have to go through Church of Sant Eufemia. It was not one of our five, so we skipped it.

With each venue, the mosaics just became more awe inspiring than the last. At the Basilica de San Vitale,  there were still more incredible mosaics and fabulous artsy marbles. This basilica was consecrated in 548. Aside from the outstanding artwork with the mosaics, the marble columns were fascinating too. Each one had a different design like a Rorschach psychology exam. They were beautifully unique.

The pièce de résistance is no doubt the Mausoleo di Galla Placidia. This is the oldest building of its kind, dating back to the late 5th century. Each vault of the four arms of the interior ceiling is covered with mosaics. Many areas are filled with concentric circles with gold stars on indigo blue backgrounds. This is where you will find the mosaic of two doves drinking at a fountain, a theme that is often replicated on many tourist items for sale in the area.

We took a coffee break, before looking for the local COIN department store. Being full sized, it was surprising no shorts on sale. Disappointing!

When I bought the train tickets online, I had purchased our return to Bologna for 6:30 pm, but now we wanted to get back there earlier for more time to explore. We tried changing the ticket, but since it was an online ticket, they could not do anything. Instead, we chucked it and bought another for an earlier train. We just made the bus back to the hotel and dined again at the Blue Café.

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