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with a cupola at the cross. In the centre is an ancient altar of Oriental alabaster, formerly in S. Vitale, and referred to as existing in the 6th century. The three great sarcophagi are the only tombs of the Caesars, Oriental or Occidental, which remain in their original places. That in the chancel, of Greek marble, contained the body of the Empress Galla Placidia. Through a hole (now closed) in one of its sides the embalmed body of the Empress might once be seen (as Charlemagne at Aix-la-Chapelle), seated in her cypress wood chair and clad in her imperial robes, but in 1577 some boys set the robes on fire and the body was consumed.
Placidia was daughter of the great Theodosius by his second wife Galla. After her father's death at Milan, in A.D. 395, and the removal of the court of her brother Honoriusto Ravenna, she continued to reside in Rome. She was there during the siege by Alaric, was amongst the prisoners, and afterwards married Adolphus, King of the Visigoths, brother of Alaric. This husband, whom she loved, was murdered in his palace at Barcelona, A.D. 414, and Placidia herself treated with great cruelty by his assassin, the barbarian Sarus. Having been ransomed by her brother from the Goths for 600,000 measures of wheat, she was shortly afterwards married to Constantius, the successful general of Honorius, by whom she became the mother of Honoria and Valentinian III. Her second husband was associated with Honorius in the government, but died in the 7th month of his reign, and, after a violent quarrel with her brother, Placidia and her children were forced to fly to Constantinople. Upon the death of Honorius she returned to capture Ravenna, and execute justice upon John, a usurper who had seized the throne. After this she practically ruled the Western Empire for 25 years, in the name of her son, the feeble Valentinian III., who was only six years old at the time of her return to Ravenna, and during this time she devoted her great wealth to the adornment of the capital. She died at Rome in 440.
The sarcophagus in the right transept contains the body of Valentinian III., son of Galla Placidia; that in the left transept the body of Constantius III., the second husband of Galla Placidia and father of Valentinian III. Near the entrance are two smaller sarcophagi containing the ashes of the tutors of Valentinian, son of Placidia, and of her daughter Honoria.
The story of Honoria is a tragic romance. Forbidden to make any but a distasteful and political marriage, she was discovered at 17 in an intrigue with her chamberlain Eugenius, and, after having been cruelly imprisoned by her mother, was exiled to pass the rest of her days in a weary confinement with her cousins at Constantinople, the sisters of Theodosius, Emperor of the East. Sick of her life she adopted the desperate remedy of writing to Attila, King of the Goths, offering him her hand, if he would obtain her freedom. He listened to her proposal, but in asking her from her family, demanded also her share of the imperial patrimony. He was indignantly refused (the right of female succession being denied), and Honoria, removed to Italy, was condemned to languish in a perpetual prison for the rest of her life.
The whole of the roof is covered with mosaics of the 5 th century.
'Before A. D. 450, we may consider the rich decorations of the monumental chapel of Galla Placidia, preserved entire with all its mosaics; and therefore alone fitted to give us an idea of the general decorations of the ornamented buildings of that period. This chapel is built in the form of the cross, a centre being occupied by a square elevation, arched over in the form of a segment of a cupola : aisles and transepts terminate above in waggon roofs. The lower walls were formerly faced with marble slabs. From the cornice upwards begin the mosaics, chiefly gold upon a dark-blue ground, which binds the whole together with a pleasant effect. Upon the arches are ornaments, which, though not in the antique taste, belong, in point of elegance, to the most excellent of their kind. On the lunettes, at the termination of the transepts, are seen stags advancing between green-gold arabesques upon a blue ground towards a fountain—an emblem of the conversion of the heathen. In the lunette over the entrance of the nave we observe the Good Shepherd, of a very youthful character, seated among his flock; while in the chief lunette over the altar Christ appears full length with the flag of victory, burning the writings of the heretics (or of the philosophers) upon a grate. On the walls of the elevated portion before alluded to are seen the Apostles, two-and-two, without any particular attributes; between, and below each, a pair of doves sipping out of basins ; and finally, in the cupola itself, between large stars, a richly decorated cross and the symbols of the Evangelists. Upon the whole, the combination of symbols and historical characters in these mosaics evinces no definite principle or consistently carried out thought; and, with the exception of the Good Shepherd, the figures are of inferior character. At the same time, in point of decorative harmony, the effect of the whole is incomparable. On that account we may the more lament the loss of the very extensive mosaics of S. Giovanni Evangelista, also built by the Empress Galla Placidia.'—Kugler.
'The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia presents by far the most interesting and perfect example of early Symbolism—its architecture, its mosaics, aad its tombs thoroughly harmonizing. The mosaics are peculiarly beautiful; in one of them the Good Shepherd is represented feeding one of his sheep with one hand, holding a small cross in the other. Another represents our Saviour, the youthful head with a cross in his hand, standing behind a brazier of burning coals,1 beyond which appears an open scrinium, or book-case, containing volumes of the Gospels, each marked with the Evangelist's name; the cross glitters in a heaven of stars in the centre of the dome, and the emblematical animals of the Evangelists watch around it; other symbols, also, are introduced, all most appropriate. But the tombs are still more interesting, as (with the exception, perhaps, of a few busts) the earliest specimens existing of Byzantine sculpture: taken together with those of Galla Placidia's confessor, S. Harbation, and of the Archbishop Rinaldo, in the chapel of the south transept of the Duomo, and those of the eight archbishops of Ravenna, who lived in the seventh and eighth centuries, now ranged in the aisles of S. Apollinare di Fuori, they will enable you to form a satisfactory idea of its merits during these early ages. They are, for the most part, fairly executed for the time, especially those done by order of Placidia. Nothing can be more striking than the contrast they present in their simplicity to the tombs of the catacombs, so over
1 Probably in allusion to Isaiah vi. 6
loaded with typical compositions. In these everything is symbolical. A cross, with two birds perched upon it—or supporting the monogram of Christ— between two lighted candles, or two sheep; birds or stags drinking at a fountain, which springs up below the monogram enclosed in a wreath—or a lamb carrying a cross and standing on the Mount of Paradise—are the most frequent subjects; occasionally but very rarely, the beardless figure of our Saviour occurs, seated on his throne. Of historical subjects, properly so called, none are to be met with in the whole series.'—Lindsay's ' Christian Art.'
Passing (left) the Church of S. Maria Maggiore (built first in 526, but entirely modernised, except its round campanile, in the 16th century, only sixteen ancient columns remaining in the interior), we reach (right) the magnificent Church of S. Vitale. This masterpiece of Byzantine architecture, externally a mass of rugged brick, was begun in 526, the year of the death of Theodoric, under the superintendence of the Archbishop S. Ecclesius and the Julianus Argentarius, under whom S. Apollinare in Classe was also built. Its resemblance to the recently erected S. Sophia at Constantinople reveals its Eastern origin. It was erected in honour of S. Vitale upon the place where he suffered martyrdom.
1 According to the Ambrosian legend, S. Vitalis, the famous patron saint of Ravenna, was the father of SS. Gervasius and Protasius, served in the army of the Emperor Nero, and was one of the converts of S. Peter. Seeing a Christian martyr led to death, whose courage appeared to be sinking, he exhorted him to endure bravely to the end, carried off his body, and buried it honourably; for which crime, as it was then considered, he was first tortured, and then burned alive. His wife Valeria, and his two sons Gervasius and Protasius, fled to Milan.'— Jameson's ' Sacred Art.'
The church (which was consecrated in A.d. 547) is approached by a court, where there is a pretty portico with ornamented pillars. The interior is octagonal, and is surrounded by eight round-headed arches resting on wide piers, which each contain semi-circular recesses, one story above the other, with three small arches. Above is a semicircular cupola, painted in the last century with coarse frescoes which greatly interfere with the harmony of this building, 'where Justinian and Theodora still dimly blaze in the gold and purple of the mosaics.'1
'The chief architectural novelty and leading feature in this building is the dome. No vaulting of any kind had ever been hitherto employed in the roofs of churches, much less that most skilful and admired of all vaulting, the cupola, or dome; a mode of covering buildings perfectly well understood by the Romans, but discontinued as art declined, and, for the first time, reproduced by the Greek architects of Constantinople, in the instance of S. Sophia. If it is difficult to support the
downward pressure, and outward thrust, of ordinary vaulting, how much more is required when the pressure has to be resisted at every point, and the circle above has, as is frequently the case, to be connected with a square below! This was accomplished, in the construction of S. Sophia, by means of what are technically called pendentivcs; brackets, on a large scale, projecting from the walls at the angles, and carried up to the base of the dome. At S. Vitale, which is not a square, but an octagon, a series of small arches is employed, instead of pendentives, but acting upon the same principle. By this expedient the dome is