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E05950: Mosaic portraits of twelve apostles and twelve martyrs (six female, six male) depicted on the barrel vaults of the Cappella Arcivescovile in Ravenna (northern Italy), datable 494/520.

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posted on 2018-07-13, 00:00 authored by frances
Mosaic from the Capella Arcivescovile, Ravenna

Images of the heads of apostles and martyrs without haloes are depicted against blue backgrounds, in medallions. These images are presented on the barrel vaults containing one row of medallions each. The image of each saint is labelled. The saints depicted are as follows (here listed in order, from left to right):

Northeast (Apostles)

IOHA NNIS (*John, the Apostle and Evangelist, S00042)
IACO BVS (*James, the Apostle, son of Alpaeus, S01801, or son of Zebedee, S00108)
PAV LVS (*Paul, the Apostle, S00008)

Beardless Christ

PET RVS (*Peter the Apostle, S00036)
AND REAS (*Andrew, the Apostle, S00288)
FILIP PVS (*Philip, the Apostle, S00109)

Southeast (Male Martyrs)

CHRYS ANTHVS (*Chrysanthus, husband of Daria and martyr of Rome, S00306)
CHRYS OCONVS (*Chrysogonus, martyr of Aquileia venerated in Rome, S00911)
CASSI ANVS (*Cassianus, teacher and martyr of Imola, S00309)


POLYCA RPVS (*Polycarpus, bishop and martyr of Smyrna, S00004)
COS MAS (*Kosmas, brother of Damianos, physician martyr of Syria, S00385)
DAM IANVS (*Damianos, brother of Kosmas, physician martyr of Syria, S00385)

Southwest (Apostles)

SIMONCA NANEVS (*Simon Kananaios, the Zealot, apostle of Christ, S00835)
TAD DAEVS (*Jude Thaddeus, Apostle, one of the Twelve, S00792)
IACO BVS (*James, the Apostle, son of Alpaeus, S01801, or son of Zebedee, S00108)

(Beardless Christ)

THO MAS (*Thomas, the Apostle, S00199)
MAT THEVS *Matthew, the Apostle and Evangelist (S00791)
BARTH OLOMEVS *Bartholomew, the Apostle (S00256)

Northwest (Female Martyrs)

CECI LIA (*Caecilia, virgin and martyr of Rome, S00146)
EVGE NIA (*Eugenia, martyr of Rome, S00401)
EVFI MIA (*Euphemia, martyr of Chalcedon, S00017)


DA RIA (*Daria, wife of Chrysanthus and martyr of Rome, S00306)
PERPE TVA (*Perpetua, martyr of Carthage, S00009)
FELICI TAS (*Felicitas, martyr of Carthage, S00009)

Description: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John, the Apostle and Evangelist : S00042 James, the Apostle, son of Zebedee : S00108 James, the Apostle, son of Alphaeus : S01801 Paul, the Apostle : S00008 Peter the Apostle : S00036 Andrew, the Apostle : S00288 Philip, the Apostle : S00109

Saint Name in Source

Iohannis Iacobvs Iacobvs Pavlvs Petrvs Andreas Filippvs Caecilia Chrysanthvs, Daria Chrisoconvs [Polyca]rpvs [Cos]mas, Damianvs Simon Cananevs Taddaevs Thomas Matthevs Bartholemevs Eugenia Evfemia Perpetva, Felicitas

Related Saint Records

Type of Evidence

Images and objects - Wall paintings and mosaics

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Ravenna Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Public display of an image


These mosaics adorn the vaults of the Cappella Arcivescovile, which was probably dedicated to *Andrew, the Apostle (S00288), where they are still visible today. They have been restored – along with several other late antique mosaics from Ravenna – to reflect their late antique form. Agnellus of Ravenna, writing in 830/846, provides an account of the chapel's foundation, which he attributes to Peter II, bishop of Ravenna (494-520), probably reliably. See E05772.


This is a varied selection of martyrs. It is possible they were chosen because their relics were held in the chapel. Yet it is much more likely they were simply popular martyrs in Ravenna and Italy in the sixth century. Euphemia had become a symbol of Chalcedonian orthodoxy. Chrysogonus, Perpetua, Felicitas and Caecilia were all popular across Italy. Cassianus was the local saint of nearby Imola. Eugenia, Daria and Chrysanthus were all popular in Rome. The relics of Cosmas and Damian were brought to Rome by Pope Symmachus (498-514) and they were venerated in Rome in the sixth century (see for example E01361). Other martyrs, who were venerated more widely in the east, are recognised elsewhere in Ravenna. One example is Polycarp of Smyrna, whose image can also be found in Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo (E06046). This suggests – although his cult wasn’t widely known in Italy – he was known and venerated in Ravenna. There is very little variety in the representation of the female martyrs here. Only Felicitas wears different clothes to denote her status as a slave, and Daria wears her hair in a different style, perhaps to reflect her greater age. A comparable case can be found in Sant'Apollinare Nuovo. In this church two large mosaics depicting processions of male and female martyrs can be found. As in the Cappella Archivescovile, the male saints are depicted in various poses with various hairstyles. There is little, on the other hand, to differentiate the females saints from one another (see E06046). Similar portraits of martyrs in medallions were once to be found in Santa Sabina in Rome from the 420s (Deliyannis, 194).


Further Reading: Deichmann, Friederich Wilhelm, Ravenna, Hauptstadt des spätantiken Abendlandes, vol. 1-3, (Wiesbaden, 1958-89). Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, Ravenna in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, 2010). Jäggi, Carola, Ravenna: Kunst und Kultur einer spätantiken Residenzstadt; die Bauten und Mosaiken des 5. und 6. Jahrhunderts (Regensburg, 2016). 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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