The Baptistry of Neon in Ravenna

Dating from the late 4th to early 5th century, the Baptistry of Neon is claimed to be one of the oldest monuments in Ravenna. One again from the outside this small octagonal structure, built in the familiar red brick common to all of the Ravenna churches, is underwhelming. But inside the variety and richness of the mosaics is stunning.

The centre piece is the dome, very similar to that of the Arian Baptistry, which depicts Christ’s baptism in the Jordan.

On this occasion the figure of Christ is closer to the standard iconographic portrayal, with long hair, beard and moustache. To Christ’s left stands the pagan symbol of the River Jordan, an old man holding a cloth for Christ to dry himself on and a reed. Around this central scene is a procession of Apostles carrying martyrs’ crowns:

On the next level down are a series of almost tromp l’oeil structures featuring altars:

There is an incredibly rich variety of vegetal motifs throughout the mosaics:

I was fascinated to see the use of marble revetments, similar to those found in San Vitale:

In the squinches are simple depictions of saints on richly gilded backgrounds:

At ground level are a series of alcoves with richly decorated arches:

At the level of the windows are another series of depictions of saints and prophets, executed in a limited range of styles in marble relief:

The floor of the Baptistry is occupied by a large but simple marble font:

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