Orthodox Baptistery Interior and Font Neon 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 brick baptistery was completed and its program of mosaic decoration added at the end of the 5th C. by Bishop Neon. In the center of the interior is a very large octagonal font, designed for baptism by immersion. The octagon shape is significant, referring to the seven days of the week (earthly time) and the eighth day of Resurrection: the endless day of Eternal Life. 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. Marble intarsia patterns between the eight niches incorporate circle-in-square motifs that symbolize divinity entering the earthly realm. Mosaic vines curl around figures of prophets, indicating the vitality of their words. A ring of sixteen stucco arches carved with images of the Minor Prophets is punctuated with eight arched, alabaster windows.July 1986
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