Apse Semi-Dome of the Basilica of Sant'Appolinare

Classe, Ravenna, Italy


The Basilica of Sant'Appolinare in Classe Ravenna was constructed in the mid-6th century CE and stands as an excellent example of Byzantine art. Though most original mosaics have been removed, the apse semi-dome and the triumphal arch remain intact. Christ, enclosed within a medallion, is the central figure of the arch, with figures representing the four evangelists on either side. Beneath him are twelve lambs in two groups representing the twelve apostles. The central image of the semi-dome is the crux gemmata, or jeweled cross, a common Christian symbol of the time encircled within a representation of the stars. Directly above the cross is the hand of god, another frequent symbol used in Byzantine art with Moses and Elijah flanking against a golden otherworldly background. The presence of these two ancient prophets suggests that the three lambs below may represent Peter, James, and John at the Mount of Transfiguration. Below is a representation of Saint Appolinaris accompanied by the faithful, represented by white lambs. 

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