501 Treasures of Byzantium: No.10 The Procession of Female Martyrs, Basilica of San Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna.

During the time of the Byzantine reconquest of the sixth century, General Belisarius made the city of Ravenna the capital of the exarchate that represented the distant Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the West. It probably didn’t come as a surprise that under Justinian’s conquest of the city, Arian property would eventually be requisitioned, which included the Arian palace church of Theodoric. The Byzantines went about tearing down many of the reminders of its former ruler Theodoric the Great. (With an opposing belief that Christ was not fully divine, Arianism was never going to win its battle over the Orthodox Byzantines.) The north side of the nave of San Apollinare Nuovo is one of the best examples of the changes the Byzantines wanted to incorporate (c.560). Although it saw fit to keep much of the original Italian traditions of the mosaics on the nave of the church, obvious eastern influences were added, in particular a newly incorporated procession of female martyrs. It is believed that these female martyrs probably replaced the mosaic images of Theodoric and his court. In early church tradition, the procession was an important part of the Orthodox liturgy, and the fact that it has been replicated on the walls of the nave suggests artistic brilliance. (If I am correct in saying, this was a foreign artistic concept to the Roman West, one that obviously originated in the East?) Just simply look at the walking motion of the martyrs, which is faintly indicated by the lean of their cloaks and the dissymmetry of their veils.