Memories of Ravenna: Baptistery of the Arians and Church of Santo Spirito

By Catherine Tsounis
Greek culture is in Ravenna and the tourist is unaware of it, as it lingers in the shadows. Our destination was the Arians Baptistry. The old cathedral of the Arian cult, built at the beginning of the 6th century, is right next to it. Built by Theodoric, the cathedral was dedicated to Hagia Anastasis, the Greek word for the resurrection of God. Gianfranco Bustacchini emphasizes in his masterpiece Ravenna “this devotion should not surprise us, because it must be emphasized that the links between Greece and Ravenna have been very strong for centuries. »1

Photo credits ; Catherine Tsounis

It was then consecrated after the death of Theodoric in 526 AD to the Catholic religion dedicated to Saint Theodore, soldier and martyr of Amasea in the Hellenistic Greek region of the Black Sea Bridge. Since the 15th century, the definitive name of the church was Spirito Santo associated with a legend. “Severely damaged during the Second World War, the church was renovated several times during the 20th century. Today, it is entrusted to a community of Orthodox monks. »2

Next to the Church of Spirito Santo is the Baptistery of the Arians, built by Theoderic. It is modeled after the Neon Orthodox Baptistery. The difference is in the alien artwork that reflects their religious beliefs. It is stunningly beautiful and a masterpiece of Arian Christian art. the baptism of Christ surrounded by the apostles and an enthroned cross is in the dome. To the left of Jesus sits a bearded figure with a crab on his head, a pagan-influenced depiction of the Jordan River. I am not a theologian and I appreciate the beauty of art.

Photo credits ; Catherine Tsounis

For anyone who wants to study the differences in theology, visit my links. The Byzantines took Ravenna in 540, ending Arian and barbarian rule in Italy. About 10 years later, Emperor Justinian donated the Arians Baptistery to the city’s Orthodox (Catholic) community, who turned it into a church called Santa Maria in Cosmedin.3 See Late Roman/Byzantine Art in Ravenna is a memory to cherish.

Photo credits ; Catherine Tsounis

References:
1. Bustacchini, Gianfranco. RAVENNA: Mosaics, Monuments and Environment,
Ravenna. Salbaroli Editions, 2012, p. 100.
2.https://www.turismo.ra.it/en/culture-and-history/religious-buildings/basilica-spirito-santo/
3. https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/arian-baptistery
Pictures:
Photo1 – Church of Spirito Santo. All photos by Despina Siolas, MD/Ph.D.
Photo 2- Arians Baptistery
Photo 3 – Mosaic of the Baptism of Christ.
Photo 4- Mosaic of the Baptism of Christ.
Photo 5- Interior of the Arians Baptistery.

Photo credits ; Catherine Tsounis

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Martha J. Finley