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E06047: Mosaics from the 6th c. depicting the Apostles, *Gervasius and Protasius (martyrs of Milan, S00313), and *Vitalis (martyr of Ravenna, S02826) in San Vitale, Ravenna (northern Italy).

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posted on 2018-07-26, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Mosaics from San Vitale, Ravenna

Portraits of twelve apostles and Gervasius and Protasius are depicted on the underside of an arch which leads from the presbytery to the nave of the church. The portraits are depicted in highly decorated medallions and are set against a blue background. All figures are dressed in white, are haloed, and their names are given within the medallion.

The order of the portraits is as follows (from the top of the arch to the bottom):


PET RVS (*Peter, the Apostle, S00036).
ANDR EAS (*Andrew, the Apostle, S00288).
IOHAN NIS (*John, the Apostle and Evangelist, S00042).
BARTO LOMEW (*Bartholomew, the Apostle, S00256).
MAT THEV S (*Matthew, the Apostle and Evangelist, S00791).
THAD DEVS (*Jude Thaddaeus, Apostle, S00792).
GERB ASIUS (*Gervasius, martyr of Milan, S00313).


[PAV] LVS (*Paul, the Apostle, S00008).
IACO BVS (*James, the Apostle, son of Zebedee, S00108).
PHILI PPVS (*Philip, the Apostle, S00109).
THO MAS (*Thomas, the Apostle, S00199).
IACO BVSA̅L̅ (*James, the Apostle, son of Alphaeus, S01801).
SIM̅O̅ C̅H̅A̅N̅ (*Simon Kananaios, the Zealot, the Apostle, S00835).
PRO TASIV S (*Protasius, martyr of Milan, S00313).

An image in the apse depicts four figures standing in a landscape against a gold background. A beardless Christ sits haloed in the centre on an orb and is flanked by two angels. On the far right, Ecclesius (bishop of Ravenna, 522-532), the only figure represented without a halo, offers up the church to Christ. On the far left, Vitalis is represented as an old man with a halo. Labels are provided for both Ecclesius (ECCLESIVSEPIS) and Vitalis (SCSVITALIS).

Description: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008 Andrew, the Apostle : S00288 John, the Apostle and Evangelist : S00042 Bartholomew, the Apostle : S00256 Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist : S00791 Jude Thaddaeus, Apostle, one of the Twelve :

Saint Name in Source

Petrvs [Paul]us Andreas Iohannis Bartholemew Mattevs Thaddevs Iacobvs Al[pheus] Protasivs, Gerbasivs Philippvs Thomas Iacobvs Simo[n] Chan[aneus]

Type of Evidence

Images and objects - Wall paintings and mosaics Inscriptions - Inscribed architectural elements


  • Latin

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 - independent (church)

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Public display of an image


These mosaics are still visible in San Vitale today. They have been restored - along with several other late antique mosaics in Ravenna - to reflect their late antique form. Agnellus of Ravenna, writing in 830/846, quotes an inscription from 549 which refers to the foundation of the church under Bishop Ecclesius and its consecration under Bishop Maximian. This inscription is now lost. See E05787.


The representation of Vitalis as an old man is interesting. It is likely a reference to a legend, associated with Ravenna, which claimed he was the father of Gervasius and Protasius, who were depicted as brothers. Indeed, the inclusion of Gervasius and Protasius alongside the apostles, and their representation as young men, can similarly be explained with reference to this legend. See E06046 and E02498.


Further Reading: Deichmann, Friederich Wilhelm, Ravenna, Hauptstadt des spätantiken Abendlandes, vol. 1-3 (Wiesbaden, 1958-89). Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, "Ecclesius of Ravenna as Donor in Text and Image," in: S. Danielson and E. Gatti (eds.), Envisioning the Bishop: Images and the Episcopacy in the Middle Ages (Turnhout, 2014), 41-62. 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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