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E05781: Agnellus of Ravenna, in his Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis, written in Latin, describes how Galla Placidia commissioned a mosaic of *John (the Apostle and Evangelist, S00042) in a church dedicated to the same saint in Ravenna (northern Italy), now known as San Giovanni Evangelista, in 430/450; account written in Ravenna in 830/846.

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posted on 2018-06-19, 00:00 authored by frances
Agnellus of Ravenna, Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis 27

Et infra ecclesiam beati Iohannis euangelistae iussit Galla Placidia pro illius sanctitate eius effigiem tessellis exornari in pariete tribunali post tergum pontificis, supra sedem ubi pontifex sedet.

‘And in the church of the blessed John the Evangelist, because of his sanctity, Galla Placidia ordered that his image in mosaic should adorn the lower apse, behind the back of the bishop, over the seat where the bishop sits.’

Text: Deliyannis 2006. Translation: Deliyannis 2004.

History

Evidence ID

E05781

Saint Name

John, the Apostle and Evangelist : S00042

Saint Name in Source

Iohannes

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

  • Latin

Evidence not before

830

Evidence not after

846

Activity not before

430

Activity not after

450

Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Ravenna

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Ravenna Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Agnellus of Ravenna

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Descriptions of images of saints

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Ecclesiastics - bishops

Source

Agnellus of Ravenna (ob. c. 846) was a deacon of the cathedral in Ravenna and – by hereditary right – abbot of two monasteries in Ravenna. He wrote his Liber Pontificalis Ecclessiae Ravennatis between 830 and 846, following the model of the Roman Liber Pontificalis. This work provides biographies of all the bishops of Ravenna from the legendary founder bishop Apollinaris to those active in Agnellus’ own day, and was originally composed to be delivered orally, most likely to clerics of Ravenna. This text is preserved in two manuscripts: one from the 15th c. (Bibliotec Estense Cod. Lat. 371 X.P.4.9.) and a fragmentary manuscript from the 16th c. (MS Vat. Lat. 5834). Agnellus bases his account of the lives of late antique bishops on documents preserved in Ravenna, stories which had been transmitted orally, and his own experience of the architectural landscape of 9th c. Ravenna. Agnellus' work contains invaluable architectural and art historical information about Ravenna: Agnellus refers to several religious buildings in Ravenna and the neighbouring settlements of Caeserea and Classe. He describes their decoration and preserves several inscriptions, many of which are now lost to us. It must be remembered this is a 9th c. work. Agnellus’ descriptions of buildings and their fixtures is based on his 9th c. experience, and not late antique reality. Indeed, his accounts of the events of earlier years are often riddled with inaccuracies. Yet it is likely that his descriptions of the churches of Ravenna are more trustworthy. As Deborah Mauskopf Deliyannis argues, a comparison of surviving late antique mosaics with Agnellus’ account suggests that his descriptions were largely accurate. This is limited to what he does tell us – for example Arian foundations are often ignored whilst orthodox foundations are emphasised. Yet, overall, this text provides invaluable information about the cult of saints in late antique Ravenna.

Discussion

It is likely that Agnellus saw this image himself. The church, San Giovanni Evangelista, survives today, but its 5th c. mosaic decoration is lost. A map showing the likely locations of the foundations in Classe and Ravenna is attached to this record.

Bibliography

Text: Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, Agnelli Ravennatis Liber pontificalis ecclesiae Ravennatis (Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis 199; Turnhout, 2006). Translation: Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, The Book of Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna (Washington D.C., 2004). Further Reading: Deichmann, Friedrich Wilhelm, Ravenna, Hauptstadt des spätantiken Abendlandes, vol. 1-3, (Wiesbaden, 1958-89). Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, Ravenna in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, 2010). Mackie, Gillian, Early Christian Chapels in the West: Decoration, Function and Patronage (Toronto, 2003). Moffat, Ann, "Sixth Century Ravenna from the Perspective of Abbot Agnellus," in: P. Allen and E.M. Jeffreys (eds,), The Sixth Century – End or Beginning? (Brisbane, 1996), 236-246. Morini, E., "Le strutture monastische a Ravenna," in: Storia di Ravenna, 2.2, Dall’età bizantia all’ età ottania, ed. A. Carile (Ravenna, 1992), 305-312. Schoolman, Edward, Rediscovering Sainthood in Italy: Hagiography and the Late Antique Past in Medieval Ravenna (Basingstoke, 2016). Stansterre, J. M., "Monaci e monastery greci a Ravenna," in: Storia di Ravenna, 2.1, Dall’età bizantia all’ età ottania, ed. A. Carile (Ravenna, 1992), 323-329. Verhoeven, Mariëtte, The Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna: Transformations and Memory (Turnhout, 2011).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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