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Byzantine Beauty in Berlin

We are happy to welcome back Jaunting Jen to AHEtc!

Surprise! Byzantine at the Bode

church-of-san-michele-in-africisco-mosiac-from-ravenna-in-bode-museum-berlin-detailOne would never guess that the main attraction of the Bode Museum in Berlin is a mosaic from Ravenna, Italy. The Bode Museum, on Museum Island, houses a unique collection of Byzantine art, and I went there specifically for their Byzantine collection. I had no idea that a mosaic from Ravenna was waiting for me at the end of the exhibition hall. Ravenna holds a special place in my heart because it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. I have not yet been to Turkey to visit the Byzantine splendors there, but I’ve been to Ravenna and the Torcello Church in Venice, and there is just something special about those places and that time period.

The Ravenna Mosaic at the Bode Museum came from the Church of San Michele in Africisco in Ravenna, was dedicated by church-of-san-michele-in-africisco-mosiac-from-ravenna-in-berlinBishop Vittore in May 545 CE, and was consecrated by Archbishop Maximianus in 547 CE.  The mosaic depicts Christ in the center with the Archangels Gabriel and Michael on either side. The frieze of vine and doves is supposed to represent the twelve apostles. The basilica was paid for by a banker, Giuliano Argentario, and was originally intended as an offering to the Archangel Michael. The church survived until the time of Napoleon, when it was dismantled and sold to fill one of his requisitions. The bronze horses of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice suffered a similar fate, but they were eventually returned to the cathedral. The Ravenna Mosaic would never again return to its place of origin.

The fact that this mosaic survives at all is a miracle. The Church of San Michele in Africisco is not one of Ravenna’s Byzantine beauties or even a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is in ruin today and used as a shopping area. If the mosaic had not been dismantled and sold in the early 19th century CE, it may have crumbled into ruin with the church. Somehow it managed to survive. In 1843 CE the King of Prussia, Frederick William IV, saw something special in the mosaic when he purchased it and had it brought to Germany. 160 years later, it stands as a monument to the Byzantine past at the Bode Museum.

Part of the mystery of the Ravenna Mosaic in Berlin is what happened to the two saints on either side. Saints Damian and Cosmus (physicians) were depicted on either side of the mosaic, but their images have been completely removed. I’d like to think they were saved and sit on the wall of someone’s private collection today.

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Images: Byzantine mosaics from the Church of San Michele in Africisco in Ravenna, Italy, now in the Bode Museum, Berlin. Photos by Jennifer Brown, licensed under a Creative Commons – Attribution-Non-Commerical-ShareAlike 3.o license.

All images and videos featured in this post have been properly attributed to their respective owners. Unauthorized reproduction of text and images is prohibited. Ms. Karen Barrett-Wilt and Mr. James Blake Wiener were responsible for the editorial process. The views presented here are not necessarily those of the Ancient History Encyclopedia. Original blog post can be found at http://jauntingjen.com/2013/12/30/the-byzantine-beauty-in-berlin/

 

Paint It Black? Understanding Black Figure Pottery

by Karen Barrett-Wilt December 31, 2013 Blogs, Featured 0 Comments
Welcome to our third post on AHEtc! This week we welcome Ancient History Encyclopedia Editor Ms. Karen Barrett-Wilt. Karen is a freelance editor, writer, and blogger who loves to tap into her inner history nerd at AHE.  She holds a BA in English, an MA in the History of Art (focusing on Medieval and Islamic Art), and her current obsession is the art and architectural history of Turkey, particularly Istanbul. In the following blog post, she traces the path that she followed to finally really understand how black figure pottery was made by the ancient Greeks. Enjoy!

So how is black figure pottery created, anyway?

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The Horses of St. Mark’s

by Jennifer Brown December 09, 2013 Blogs 0 Comments

Welcome to the second post on our new blog AHEtc! This time we welcome Ms. Jennifer Brown (Jaunting Jen) of the blog Jaunting Jen. Jen is an Army veteran, archaeologist, photographer, and historian working on her MA in ancient and classical history. We hope you enjoy her post as much as we do!

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Beauty Reigns Eternally

Beauty. The four horses at St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, can only be described with one word: beauty. They are called the bronze horses, but they are actually almost pure copper. If you stare at them long enough, they almost seem real. The two horses pictured above are looking at each other like they are sharing a secret, and we are left in the dark. It’s a miracle of history, time, and circumstance that these horses exist today. We are able to stand and admire their craftsmanship because of a long history of looting, theft, and historic preservation.

The history of the four horses stretches the imagination. They may have been created by a very famous sculptor, Lyssippos, in the fourth century BCE. However, recent studies suggest that the horses have a Roman origin. If the antiquity of the horses is not enough to produce a feeling of awe, then the story of how they made their way from Constantinople to Venice will surely amaze. From at least the ninth century CE, and possibly much earlier, the horses stood on top of the Hippodrome in Constantinople. In 1204 CE, Constantinople was sacked by Crusaders, and many of the treasures, including the four horses, were shipped to western Europe.

From 1204 CE, these four beautiful horses grace the terrace at St. Mark’s Basilica. In 1797 CE, Napoleon decided that he wanted horses and carried them off to Paris. They were returned to Venice a short time later in 1815 CE. There they stood on the terrace until the 1980s, when they were moved inside to save them from pollution. Today on the terrace you can view the replicas, but the real treasure is located inside. The horses stand guard just inside the entrance and look like they are in motion, prancing towards the visitors to greet them. There they will stand for future generations to admire their beauty and realism. Photography is not allowed, but I won’t tell if you won’t!

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Both images: Horse sculptures, St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy. Photos by Jennifer Brown, licensed under a Creative Commons – Attribution-Non-Commerical-ShareAlike 3.o license.

All images and videos featured in this post have been properly attributed to their respective owners. Unauthorized reproduction of text and images is prohibited. Ms. Karen Barrett-Wilt and Mr. James Blake Wiener were responsible for the editorial process. The views presented here are not necessarily those of the Ancient History Encyclopedia. Original blog post can be found at http://jauntingjen.com/2013/12/01/the-horses-of-st-mark/.

 

Scota: Mother of the Scottish People

It gives us great pleasure to welcome Ms. Susan Abernethy, manager of The Freelance History Writer, to the Ancient History Encyclopedia as our first guest blogger. AHE’s “AHEtc. blog” will function as a place where ideas and experiences can be shared casually by those interested in all things “ancient.” We hope you enjoy it!

Scota: Mother of the Scottish People

ScotavoyageAn ardent, lifelong passion for history compelled me recently to start researching and writing on various historical topics. Curiosity, along with the presence of certain books in my library, led me to look into the history of Scotland. Scottish history is chock full of fascinating stories and quaint legends. Surprisingly, I discovered that the founding, mythical ancestor of the Scottish people was a woman named Scota, daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh and wife of a Greek prince, whose story may be based on actual events as borne out by DNA evidence.

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