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Jubal

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Of Tesserae Discarded: A Trip to Ravenna and San Marino
« on: March 27, 2024, 07:39:15 PM »
Of Tesserae Discarded: A Trip to Ravenna and San Marino



The streets at night were quiet, and somewhat pale even in the shadows, but immediately different in many ways to the streets of central Europe with which I was more familiar. The air was warmer than it had been back in Vienna, and this small city where I had just arrived on the train from Bologna felt like a little exhalation after the rush of the journey.

Floodlit, on my left, orange stone and pillared archways were thrown into sharp focus against the darkness of night. A cluster of palms between the building and the street added to the definite sense of a change of place, but the building alone told me enough. A tall, round brick tower that had probably stood for a thousand years before anyone I ever knew was even born, its triple arched windows a much more southern European style. Inside, though, would be sights older still, memories of an empire and its successors who struggled over this land to contest yet older Imperial memories in turn. Here their power and faith would be picked out in fragments of glass and stone, destroyed and repaired and remembered with the changing years: for this low-lying wetland city was the hope and home of kings and emperors, once - and its name was and is Ravenna.





The archepiscopal palace complex.
This trip was rather different to most of the travels in my doctoral years, in that I was not alone, accompanied by three friends from my university days. Without having to rely on my often very haphazard organisational capacity my plans were less chaotic than usual (helpful given that a lot of things in Ravenna required bookings and thus forward planning). Equally helpfully, I did not have nearly so many problems ambling about vaguely staring at eateries failing to decide where to go, a problem that has left me ambling around very hungrily on some previous parts of my travels.

On the other hand, I couldn’t in good conscience drag my travelling companions far out of the city on the off-chance of seeing the odd slightly unusual lizard or interesting woodpecker: as such, readers eager to hear about the wildlife of Ravenna may be disappointed. In any case the centre of the city is, much like the other cities of that peninsula that I have visited to date (Bologna, Ravenna, San Marino and Venice) surprisingly devoid of green space, and I was surprised to not see even sparrows in the city proper, occasional pigeons being the majority of the avian life. There are wetlands outside the city – indeed part of the reason for its historical significance was likely the defensibility that the more extensive ancient counterparts of these offered – but I shall have to visit them another time.

The promise of this place for us was, regardless, not in the surrounding wetlands but in the shining remnants of its distant past: Ravenna is a city whose name is soaked deep in the mires of history. It was occupied as an Umbrian settlement even before classical Roman period, but rose to its primary fame in the latest days of western Rome and during the period of Ostrogothic rule: needing a defensible frontier city to rule from but with his capital in Milan under too much pressure from the Goths, Honorius moved the capital of the Western Empire there in 402 AD and it remained a key capital for the last Western Emperors, the Ostrogothic kings, and the Eastern Roman Exarchs over the following centuries. Ravenna’s great treasures are the Byzantine mosaics from this period which still adorn a number of spectacular religious buildings around the city.



The roof of the Neonian baptistry.
One would not always know this from the exterior views, for the buildings of the modern city are somewhat muted in their colouration: the local stone and brick is not vivid or deep in colour, and the Italian flags hanging from buildings likewise tend to have sympathetically faded with the years. Much of the city centre is pedestrianised: the urban heart of the old city is somewhat inland, with a newer seaward part of the city holding more recent industrial and marina development (and fewer tourists, including us: we remained in the older parts of the city). The port in the Roman era was south of the city proper, at Classe (from Latin classis, meaning fleet) but silted up over time and is now seven kilometres inland. The modern city has grown in the direction of the retreating waves, with the newer areas stretching along an eighteenth century canal that stretches from the edge of the old city to the Adriatic.

Our first stop was the ‘Neonian’ baptistry, so named for Bishop Neon who ordered its construction. A lot of spots in Ravenna have timed entries, and this was one of the shortest, with only around five minutes to look inside (though nobody was taking the timings in a terribly exact way). The baptistry is not overly large, and like many buildings in the soft wetland ground of Ravenna has sunk somewhat over the years, but the mosaics inside are breathtaking. The intensity of surrounding deep colour that mosaic permits is something that neither words nor indeed a camera can capture well, especially when produced as a total surrounding effect in a tall but narrow-floored room. I was very conscious from the start that, whilst I could and did take many a picture, no angle could capture more than quite a small percentage of the experience, which relies both on peripheral vision and on drawing one’s eye up from the wall art to the roof detail without the viewer being able to take in both at once.

Ravenna is not short of later religious architecture too: next door to the baptistry is the large baroque-interior cathedral, which would have been more impressive had it not been for seeing the baptistry. The pale colours and larger scale of the baroque interior create a space that sharply contrasts with the incredible intensity of the baptistry. Some elements, including parts of the pulpit, are spolia from earlier churches, but these too are pale stone, feeling almost like ghost monuments when compared to the heavy colour of the baptistry.



Mosaic birds outside the Archepiscopal chapel.
The third part of the same building complex that one can look round is the Archepiscopal museum. This contains some immensely interesting treasures, from a headless porphyry statue to many lapidary inscriptions to a sixth century bishop’s throne with incredibly fine ivory decorations. Its crowning glory, however, is the late sixth century chapel, a private space for the archbishops of Ravenna. Here, like in the baptistry, one goes from the pale stone of the inscriptions and the delicate pale imagery of the throne to being bombarded with an intensity of colour, nature and sacred imagery. The outer ceiling covered in birds was a particular favourite of mine. Unlike in some Catholic churches of more modern periods, the intensely busy mosaic work in Ravenna manages to draw me in rather than put me off: it may partly be its use in smaller spaces, but I think also the use of colour and bolder imagery helps: mosaic necessitates a certain simplicity in its styles which at times feels easier on the eye.

Later in the day we had yet more churches to look at: San Apollinare, a church built and initially decorated in the Ostrogothic era, was the first of these. This was the church that had loomed out of the night as I first walked the streets of Ravenna the previous evening: it was originally the church of Christ the Redeemer, built by Theodoric the Great, and was heavily redecorated and re-consecrated by the Emperor Justinian to remove the Arian and pro-Theodoric elements of the decorative scheme (on which more later). What we see of the mosaics of Ravenna today is often not just a case  of unintentional survivability or the ravages of time, but also an intentional sorting between time periods, decorative preferences, and power politics.

The next stop was the complex around San Vitale – though before the church itself  we looked at the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, a tiny cross-shaped building behind the main church which was not in fact the mausoleum of the fifth century queen and Imperial advisor Galla Placidia (one of a number of later attributions of buildings in Ravenna). Of all the Ravenna mosaic spaces, this was in some ways the most intense experience. The unusually small size made for a sharply contrasting experience: whilst the enclosed space was quite small, paradoxically the nature and sky symbolism and patterns of the mosaics conveyed vast and open concepts, with deer and birds and stars all taking their place among the inevitable saints. The brightness of the in-fill patterns also amazed me. It is easy, and indeed intentional, that one’s eye is drawn to the centrepiece images of the mosaics, but the little side-sections easily forgotten beneath the archways are themselves stunning pieces of design, even if some of them curiously resemble early Microsoft windows screensavers.



The mosaics at San Vitale.
And then, at last, San Vitale itself. It is probably the most impressive of the surviving mosaic assemblages, built around soaringly high curving walls and with a wealth of bright greens and blues. The church as a whole is much larger than the surviving mosaic sections, which cover one main section leading away from the central dome (whose later baroque decorations might be impressive anywhere else, but the mosaic outshines them by far). The larger space also means that the San Vitale mosaics are more airily lit than many of the smaller buildings, and the scheme feels more surrounding and all-encompassing than the more frieze-like mosaics high on the wall of San Apollinare. A key point of note in San Vitale’s decorations are the portraits of Justinian and Theodora, two of the most famous images of these key figures of the sixth century world. What one often does not realise without being in the physical space itself, however, is that these famous pictures of the ruling couple are surprisingly hard to see in a direct way. They form the sides of the main apse from the perspective of an approaching viewer, thus only being particularly dominant pieces of imagery to those standing inside the apse itself. To the viewer from any further away it is the religious imagery that dominates, with Christ, the apostles, the angels and the cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem taking particular prominence. Faith was, of course, far from apolitical itself, but it is important to remember that nor was it solely a matter of display, and nor were politics and faith separable for the creators of these works. Mosaic was the manifestation of belief, which in turn was power, power which mobilised wealth and human energy, which in turn commanded yet more tesserae into place.

Food in the evening was at Osteria Passatelli, a restaurant on the other side of the centre which we also used on our last night, going to a smaller and more traditional place, Trattoria Al Cerchio, on the intervening evening. The main comment I have about the food in Ravenna is that, as a foreigner outside Italy, “Italian” food often seems like an omnipresent part of life, encompassing core daily staples, unquestioned and consistent. When one actually goes to Italy, however, it becomes very quickly apparent how little one knows about Italian food. Besides eating some good pizza I came across quite a variety of new foodstuffs in just a few short days in Ravenna, including cappelletti, a local filled pasta, and squacquerone, a sort of crumble or biscuit cake made with almonds. The food we had was also consistently very good, with no real misses in the entirety of the trip (of course, had we had any Italians present they may have been more discerning than we mere Angles).

The next day, in any case, experiences rather different – and not strictly speaking Italian – beckoned. On that second morning we took the train to Rimini, and thereafter a bus inland, crossing the border into another country altogether.





San Marino, as seen from the second tower.
The tiny state of San Marino lies to the south of Ravenna, its old city being on the crest of Monte Titano, an imposing mountain whose ridge hosts the three towers that are visible on the city’s flag. The primary things I learned about San Marino were its love of liberty, and the fact that in Sammarinese eyes this is defined in particular by a) its constitutional republican independence, b) having a lot of towers, and c) its right to slightly undercut the government of Italy via differential tax rates. The lowland parts of San Marino have a disproportionate number of car dealerships, and the core city a disproportionate number of luxury goods and weaponry shops, largely for the latter reason.

Sammarinese independence and liberty is in a sense the whole notable thing about San Marino, and is very much a historical anomaly. States like it were far more common in the medieval period, sometimes nominally acknowledging some overlordship from a pope or Holy Roman Emperor but being largely self-governing. San Marino managed, however, to retain its republican system through the Renaissance as larger city-states began to impose control on smaller neighbours to form larger dukedoms and republics. It perhaps benefited from being roughly in the papal-dominated parts of Italy, but at the far edge where perhaps negotiation was more possible. Certainly the Republic was under papal protection by treaty for the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries without becoming part of the Papal States proper.

Medieval San Marino invested in its own defence, as its towers show. All three are medieval, some later than others: The first and second are small castle style arrangements with an outer wall and central bastion: the first contains some museum exhibits and a heavily graffitied prison room with nineteenth century scribblings that I wish I knew enough history to interpret, while the second hosts a weaponry museum which makes some slightly dubious sweeping statements but does include some rather pretty equipment. This includes a number of crossbows: it used to be the case that a newly elected captain-general (one of San Marino’s dual heads of state) had to provide two crossbows to the city’s armouries, which given the city elected two such leaders annually must have made a fairly significant contribution to a small medieval city’s armouries. The third and last of the towers is just a watchtower and indeed curiously has no ground level entrance, so it may never have been used for more than lookout duty from the top: I am unsure if it has any internal space.



The second tower, and the sheer cliffs on the city's northeastern side.
One of the main things that can really be said about the towers is that they are immensely pretty. They are in a sense on the wrong side of Monte Titano to be true defensive fortifications, hanging on the edge of the extremely sheer northeastern slopes which would be hard to scale regardless instead of protecting the shallower slope on the southwestern side of the ridge. Their true function and great advantage is in visibility, both seeing and being seen: on the crest of the hill they must have been visible for many miles: lighting a beacon on one of them could certainly be seen from as far away as the coast if one had a direct view inland. The views that they, and the mountain in general, offer are likewise magnificent, stretching from the sea to the dramatic high hills and mountains inland with almost nothing out of the line of sight. Being on the steep side of the mountain also gives the towers some very dramatic visual angles, their walls transferring straight into cliff-edge plunges down towards the ground far below.

By the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in any case, the towers were still prisons and arsenals but no longer a fundamental part of Sammarinese strategy. As the modern era loomed, the cause of San Marino’s independence was increasingly down not to the imposing nature of its defences but to the brilliance of its diplomats. Whilst Monte Titano is an imposing defensive position, San Marino has never had the manpower to seriously face down armies in the later parts of its history. Instead its destiny was guided by figures like Antonio Onofri, who managed to persuade Napoleon not to invade, perhaps on the grounds that this tiny republic could stand as a bastion of the less monarchic virtues of Bonaparte’s post-revolutionary France. Onofri turned down Napoleon’s offer of expanded lands for the city-state with the apocryphal quip that “wars end, but neighbours remain”: small, in the world of Sammarinese liberty, is beautiful.

Returning to the old town centre, we stopped for lunch, getting piadine, a sort of folded flatbread sandwich common in the surrounding regions of Italy as well, before heading to the state museum of San Marino. This occupies a full building and includes some international antiquities as well as artefacts from San Marino itself and a wide collection of pottery proudly bearing the three towered emblem.

Giuseppe Garibaldi’s statue stands at the heart of San Marino, near the state museum: a curious public monument for the state defined more than anything else by having chosen not to be part of the Italian unifier’s lifetime achievement. But like Napoleon before him, Garibaldi ended up with a soft spot for San Marino, not least because the republic sheltered him during a disastrous retreat from his attempt to create a republic in Rome in 1849: consequently, one of the greatest architects of modern Italy  was more than prepared to go to bat for San Marino staying out. The Sammarinese stayed out of World War Two, though under their own fascist government, again somehow treading a line that avoided either Mussolini trying to crush the Republic or the Allies wanting to liquidate it after the war. In its ability to appeal through sheer charm to those in power, it is arguably possible that San Marino represents the puppy sized elephant theory – that is to say, the idea that puppy sized elephants will, in a world of humans, eventually evolve because humans like cute things and being adorable and high in people’s affections is a survival strategy. It is a novel strategy to utilise for statecraft, but it seems to have served San Marino really rather well.

San Marino’s apocryphal history starts that way, in a sense: Marinus, the patron saint, moved inland from the coast after being (so the story goes) falsely accused of being someone’s estranged husband, and the monastic community he founded was eventually donated the mountain slopes by a landowner, with the city later growing up around it. At its roots, Sammarinese liberty was always a gift of others: an artefact not of strength or power – or even towers - but of the belief that San Marino should be free.



The parliament of San Marino.
It was to two shrines of this history that we went as our last stops: first the basilica of the saint himself, which is a nice but fairly standardly laid out baroque church lined with imposing statues of club-armed saints. We then went to have a look at the outside of the Palazzo Publico – the heart of Sammarinese government – which we then realised that we could go inside as well, and for visitors to San Marino it is absolutely something I’d recommend. The general ticket for most sites in San Marino gets you not just into both of the major towers and the public museum, but also into the Palazzo to have a look round the Sammarinese parliament chamber, which is decorated in extremely pretty nineteenth century painted woodwork. The saint stands at the centre of a pseudo-medieval themed wall painting, looming over the little parliament.

Outside the parliament is another curiosity that might be less expected for travellers: a bust of Abraham Lincoln. Whilst the famous president of the United States never visited San Marino, in a curious letter exchange he was made an honorary citizen. In the spring of 1861 the Sammarinese sent a letter written in “perfect Italian on one side, and imperfect but clear English on the other”, and proposed an alliance based upon their shared republican values, defended by Lincoln against the Confederacy at a time when the Sammarinese were trying to ensure their independence against the imminent unification of Italy. Lincoln replied and accepted the offer. “Although your dominion is small”, he wrote back “your State is nevertheless one of the most honored, in all history. It has by its experience demonstrated the truth, so full of encouragement to the friends of Humanity, that Government founded on Republican principles is capable of being so administered as to be secure and enduring.” Such sentiments ensured that it did, indeed, endure.

The fog rolled in as we left, falling fast around the mountain slopes: the wide landscape visibility of the earlier part of today was rapidly lost, curtains rolling across the sky in front of our eyes. The shrouded mountain, wrapped in protective cloud away from the world, was no longer visible as the bus rolled back to Rimini – but, somewhere behind us, invisible, knowing that the towers still stood upon the crest of Monte Titano meant something that it might not have done before. Just as in Ravenna, representations and symbols in San Marino held a real power.





The palace mosaic in San Apollinare - note the hands of erased Ostrogothic courtiers on the columns.
Our last day back in Ravenna included some brushes with the alternative ways the city might have been put together, the paths less trodden in its history, and this began with the other of the old baptistry buildings in the city. Unlike its Neonian counterpart this one only really had the roof remaining of the original decorative scheme, with rather plain walls. There was a definite historical reason for this, however, for this was the Arian baptistry. The followers of Arius, notably and prominently including the Ostrogothic king Theodoric who ruled in Ravenna, believed that the Son was subordinate to the Father, clashing with the view of equality in the holy trinity that was favoured in Constantinople. Religious difference was tolerated by Theodoric for much of his reign, through the time of the emperors Zeno and Anastasius, and indeed he reportedly even ordered citizens who attack Ravenna’s synagogue in a riot to pay for its repair. Late in his reign, however the new emperor Justin and his nephew, Justinian, began persecutions of Arians in the Byzantine east. This caused a tit-for-tat escalation of religious suppression, and after Theodoric’s death when Justinian as Emperor attempted to re-establish Imperial control over Italy a purge of Arian imagery was certainly on his agenda. The roof of the Arian baptistry was apparently deemed uncontroversial enough to survive. The wall decoration, like much of the decorative scheme in San Apollinare where the hands of members of Theodoric’s court can still be seen on the pillars of an edited palace mosaic, did not survive Justinianic ire.

That, however, was not Justinian’s greatest insult to the memory of the Ostrogothic king. Theodoric’s mausoleum is a little way from the core of the city, sitting lower than its original two-storey height would imply in a park that has been somewhat lowered to account for the sinkage over the years. It is deeply unlike the round brick towers and arches of the typical Italianate churches, with a shallow round dome that has an almost science-fiction look to it (add a couple of sigils here and there and the T’au of Warhammer: 40,000 would consider it well within their aesthetic range).

There is little to see inside the mausoleum, which somehow adds to the strangeness of the place. The ground floor is empty except for two scallop shell carvings and some vaguely funereal emotional music for some reason, while the top floor has a porphyry bathtub and a cross and likewise nothing else. Theodoric himself was removed not long after he was interred: Justinian had no wish for the building to remain a bastion of one of Arianism’s greatest champions, and the deceased was rather less than ceremoniously removed from his intended eternal resting place. Theodoric would doubtless have been rather displeased had he been alive to know, but he might also have been a little upset at the thought that, regardless, his tomb would eventually become a traipsing ground for camera wielding foreigners of all kinds. On the other hand, we’re still talking about him now, so perhaps in a sense the building served its purpose.



The mausoleum of Theodoric.
We did a loop around the park outside Theodoric’s palace, which is a fairly open grassy square that had a few more birds than the inner city but still very little – the potential for significantly better urban wildlife spaces once again being there but very much untapped. We also stopped briefly at the city’s old fortress on the way back, into town, much of which was being renovated and which contained a small park.

Lunch was, once again, piadine, which continued to both be very good indeed if not the most efficient variant on sandwiches and wraps as far as the desideratum of retaining its contents is concerned. Thereafter we set out for Ravenna’s secondary claim to fame, right at Ravenna’s heart and dating to a much later part of the Middle Ages. There in the centre of the city lie the multiple tombs (he has been moved more than once) of Dante Alighieri, the Italian writer whose name hangs over the language much as Shakespeare does for English or Rustaveli for Georgian. With only a passing familiarity – whilst one can’t avoid picking up bits as a medievalist, as of the time of writing I am yet to read any of Dante’s major works even in translation – I for one was nonetheless  keen to find out more about how his life and work were intertwined, and to learn more about the texts that had produced such a great literary impact.

Unfortunately, I would have been better off browsing Wikipedia rather than paying for the hour spent going around the Dante museums. There are three parts to the ticket, two of which are Dante related: the first is the Dante House, which is mostly a museum of later artistic representations and reception of Dante, small and possibly interesting if one was already a Dante specialist, but probably not for the average viewer. The supposed main event, the Dante Museum, is a psychotropic mess of over-interactivity: no manuscripts or particularly effective summaries of Dante’s work, displays only in weird moving technological blob-scapes that change according to where the viewer is standing making them frankly impossible to read, and artefacts really only related to Dante as a cultic figure rather than a historical one.

The third part of the ticket, a rooftop garden and small underground mosaic in one of the civic buildings, is unrelated to Dante. The garden does however have nice views and is probably nice in summer, and is therefore decidedly more worth the time than the Dante museum. The mosaics beneath it are small, and also contained some curious modern artworks including a tiny pig with giant bull horns which was rather endearing whilst also feeling rather out of place. Also on the list of nearby curiosities more worth visiting than the Dante museum is the next door church, which has some very nice and really rather impressive mosaics positioned underneath the altar beneath a filled pool which also contains fish.



Mosaics for the home: part of the "stone carpets".
Our return to the real tiled treasures of Ravenna was made with a visit to the Domus dei Tappeti di Pietra, or House of the Stone Carpets. This is somewhat out of the centre, but not very far: one has to walk through a rather unprepossessing little 18th century church to St. Euphemia and down some steps. There, the stone carpets in question are laid out in all their glory, a huge room of mosaic floors forming an intricate dance of pattern and colour. Unlike in the Byzantine churches for which Ravenna is famous, these are slightly earlier secular mosaics, with a soft, warm orange rather than the heavily rich blues and greens that dominate San Vitale or the smaller baptistries. There are a couple of pictorial mosaics, most notably a “dance of the four seasons” which shows an array of dancers with banners and a piper, but the majority of the room is intricate patterning. As a result of the extreme skill and visual centrepiece nature of mosaic pictures, it is often easy to overlook the brilliance of simple pattern, but it is something that I think deserves more attention: except perhaps for some rugs, people in modern western cultures like myself are often a bit unused to artistic intricacy in what we have underfoot, and imagining the effect of a specifically eye-catching and visually interesting floor on a room is quite an interesting thing to consider.

Another thing that is worthwhile doing in a city is to avoid mentally trapping it in time: for many smaller cities and even some larger ones, a single time period tends to dominate the public consciousness and be the view presented to the world. But Ravenna had long been an important city before the era of Theodoric and Justinian, and the statistically average inhabitant of Ravenna over the course of human history lived well after the city’s days as an Imperial capital. Even in those Imperial days, beyond the soaring domes of the churches lay homes and market stalls, fishing boats and a synagogue, children discovering for the first time the colour of a butterfly’s wing and old men seeing the latest soldiers arriving and remembering the faces of a hundred others flickering past over the decades. As these ephemera and old stories are forgotten, there is often a tendency to fit a city’s history more and more into its expected boxes, much to the detriment of our imagination and understanding alike.

The very last stop, the so-called Palace of Theodoric, exemplified this process. It fits the category of somewhat erroneously named sites in that it is probably not a palace and certainly does not date back to the Ostrogothic period: the name pushes it back into the expected frame of Ravenna’s past. It may be, at best, on part of the approximate site of Theodoric’s residence, and a number of – in the least surprising news ever to hit Ravenna – mosaics have been found underneath the site. The present partial building may be a guardhouse or gateway for a previous church on the site, and houses some impressive mosaic sections including lizards, patterns, and fragments of riding scenes. Some more understated black and white sections were quite interesting to me, differing rather in style from the rest: perhaps minimalist aesthetics were not entirely beyond imagination even in the days of great floor-tiled battle scenes and dancing gods.

The next day it was time to journey home, though I had a brief stop in Bologna city centre before heading to the airport for my flight. Bologna would need another travelogue to itself: it is outwardly vivid in a way that Ravenna is not, a city of vibrant red stones and bricks that is adorned with pseudo-classical statues and immensely tall towers, some of which were clearly undergoing significant building work to try and shore them up against the ravages of time. One thing that Ravenna could have done with more of, and which this reminded me of, was more explanation of the various renovations and repairs in intervening and more recent centuries. Even an earnest attempt at restoration is a subtle change to what once was, and often such attempts come with new tweaks and reimaginations that slowly change the pasts we once knew.




History is, after all, as much about what is not present as what is. Faced with the incomplete past, we fill things in around it and create totality out of the holes in our tiled patchworks. The pictures we see today are selected parts of lost artworks and the imaginaries that came with them, reimagined into singular new images whose incompleteness we must take our time to realise, and whose antecedents we can often never fully recover. Beyond them lie a mass of discarded tesserae, the little pieces of human pasts that fill in colours we have forgotten the names of and fragile realities long since lost. Understanding the tiles piece by piece, allowing us to reimagine them in different frames, is the best we can do: the corner decorations beyond the pomp of the centrepiece, the fragments of the church art of a purged belief system, the changes in name of an unfamiliar building, or even an entire little city left out of the march of national unification.

Caught half within the mire-mist and mountain fogs of historical memory, Ravenna and San Marino faded into the night behind me. Their histories cannot and should not be ignored or rejected: their intensity of their impact on viewers and on modern realities is too great for that. With a consciousness of how such pasts are put together, however, and with an understanding of how art, belief, and power build upon one another, we can rediscover them from new angles and in new ways. There, somewhere in a cold church amid the verdant tiles, we might find mosaic pasts that are more wonderfully alive than we ever dared to imagine.

« Last Edit: March 27, 2024, 10:59:36 PM by Jubal »
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

Jubal

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Re: Of Tesserae Discarded: A Trip to Ravenna and San Marino
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2024, 10:05:53 AM »
~Placeholder post for bonus pictures~



Also of note and interest: one of the other people on the trip, Samuel (Tar-Palantir) wrote a two part blog post set covering our time in Ravenna and San Marino respectively if you want a comparison to my feelings on the same trip.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2024, 10:14:36 AM by Jubal »
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

BeerDrinkingBurke

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Re: Of Tesserae Discarded: A Trip to Ravenna and San Marino
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2024, 02:09:34 AM »
Beautifully written. I feel like I was there too. Thank you for sharing. :-)

I have not been to Italy since I was 20, when I did some olive picking in Abruzzi and visited Rome (fun memory: I was kicked out of the Borghese Gallery for taking photos when I failed to see the no photograph signs).
 
Speaking of little European states, my sister's husband is from Monaco, and they have been looking at buying their own apartment right on the Italian border. Maybe I'll have my chance to visit again not too long from now. :-)
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Pentagathus

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Re: Of Tesserae Discarded: A Trip to Ravenna and San Marino
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2024, 02:00:27 PM »
Ayyy I've actually been to Ravenna and San Marino. 10/10 would recommend

Jubal

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Re: Of Tesserae Discarded: A Trip to Ravenna and San Marino
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2024, 09:09:40 PM »
Yeah, it was a nice and interesting place to visit. I've still not been to Rome - or to Monaco, though maybe it should be on my list as I seem to be doing a bit of a run of microstates this year (watch this space, etc...)
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