501 Treasures of Byzantium: No. 68 Choir and apse of San Vitale with mosaic of Christ in Majesty, circa 532-548 CE, Ravenna, Italy.

An image of Christ sitting enthroned like an emperor on a blue globe (representing the world) dominates the centre of this wonderful mosaic on the apse of San Vitale. He is flanked by two angels, St. Vitalis, patron saint of Ravenna (on our left) and Bishop Ecclesius (on our right), who offers a model of the church to Christ as donor. The mosaic is in essence a vision of the second coming. Christ sits as ruler and judge, holding a scroll with seven seals, with four rivers of paradise beneath his feet.

What I am most intrigued about with this mosaic is Christ youthful (beardless) face. Dating from the late 2nd to early 4th centuries, this was somewhat of an Early Christian tradition, in how he was portrayed. Later depictions of Jesus would show him with a beard, something that would become the norm in Christian art. On a personal note, I quite like Jesus’ beautiful appearance here, with his red lips and huge brown eyes. He reminds me of a young classical hero. But lets make no mistake, Christ dressed in imperial purple, is meant to present here a dignified vision of power and glory.

Photo credit: The mosaic of Christ in Majesty is licensed and used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license.