Orthodox Baptistery Dome, DetailNeon Baptistery; Cathedral Baptistery
Cioffi, Paul L., 1928-2004
The Orthodox Baptistery (as distinguished from the city's Arian Baptistery) is Ravenna's most ancient monument, erected by Bishop Ursus around the year 400 partially on the site of Roman baths, during the period when Ravenna was capital of the Western Roman Empire. Originally, the octagonal baptistery was part of Bishop Ursus' great basilica (destroyed 1734). The octagonal brick baptistery was completed and its program of mosaic decoration added at the end of the 5th C. by Bishop Neon. The building plan and the entire program of decoration were harmoniously designed to reinforce and expand upon the significance of the single ritual that would take place inside the building: the Sacrament of Baptism.This image highlights the canopy of figures arching over the baptismal font, positioned in the center of the baptistery. A ring of sixteen stucco arches carved with images of the Minor Prophets is punctuated with eight arched, alabaster windows.Three concentric rings of mosaic decorate the dome: the lowest alternately depicts a jeweled crown enthroned and a book of scripture open on an altar; the next ring portrays a procession of apostles led by Peter and Paul; finally, the central medallion represents the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, with the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove and a personification of the river god holding Jesus' garments. The medallion mosaic's position directly above the octagonal baptismal font renders each enactment of the Sacrament of Initiation a mirror of Christ's baptism.January 1978
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