Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Byzantine:Basilica of San Vitale

Basilica of San Vitale begun ca. 527, Ravenna ,Italy

Perhaps one of the most significant examples of Early Byzantine architecture and arts is the Basilica of San Vitale, which was built during the reign of Justinian, one of the major patrons of the arts during the Byzantine period ; it is estimated that during his lifetime he restored and built about 30 churches. Some of the same traditions of Christian art carried over to Byzantine art, the subject matter still was considered more important than the accurate representation of the figures, biblical subjects were still being used and represented in mosaics and reliefs, painting was also started to be used but it wasn’t as popular as the two mentioned before. In less words, Spiritual matters were more important to  represent even though secular subjects were started to be represented in mosaic as ell. One of the differences of Byzantine art is that it is not as simple as previous art, early Christian art was more simplistic and less elaborate but Byzantine art though religious seemed to be more elegant, and a bit more exaggerated and luxurious. It could be very possible that the legalization of Christianity and allowing early Christians to publicly worship , what lead Christianity to expand and to create architecture, relief and mosaics that would reverence god and would celebrate the divinity of Christ. The Icon was another major “invention” in Byzantine art, an Icon is a painting that represents a holy being and is made with the purpose to be used as method of worshiping that holy being, in the basilica of San Vitale many of these icons can still be seen in many of the mosaics within the building. San Vitale’s Basilica itself it’s a great symbol of worshiping, the simplicity of the outside doesn’t do it justice to the magnificently decorated inside of the church, mosaics representing the lives of the apostles, Jesus and biblical stories cover the walls, also the used of the Dome is something pretty significant, one of the first buildings to use a dome was the Pantheon, or the temple to many gods, the Pantheon’s dome, was build to represent the heavens and proximity to God, perhaps that was the reason of why the Christians took this pagan idea and applied it to their temples, so that the worshipers at the moment they stepped into the temple they would know that this place was a different place, set apart from the world , a place so sacred that it had to resemble the heavens in order for it to make the followers of Christ feel closer to him than before. San Vitale’s dome used pendentives to distribute the weight of the dome evenly, and to give it that sense of space and height. When looking at San Vitale one can see the importance of man on creating such a luxurious building for their God, but one can’t  not ignore thinking that such a magnificent structure could have been used for political purposes also, to show their power to other countries.