Greetings family and friends, coworkers and peers, fangirls and fanboys,
I hope you've enjoyed reading about the adventures and misadventures of the freshmen honors fellows in Italy so far. If you're trying to vicariously relive your sweet summers in the Italian countryside or get some inside dirt on the most popular tourist attractions so you can plan your own trip here, you're in the wrong place. We aren't just a bunch of hooligans who thought it would be funny to wear boots in a country that looks like a boot, but scholars. We've been digging into the deeply rich, complicated, and intersting history of Italy, unearthing the common story of a people who collectively have gone through more identity crises than a freshly graduated college student. Today it's me, Selina Guevara, telling you all about our excursion to the glorious lil city of Ravenna, which some call the "New Rome."
Before we get to what Mike and Lynn would consider the "good stuff," I would like to take a moment to appreciate our bus rides. The bus is our main way of getting around, and not gonna lie it has probs been one of my favorite parts of the course. We don't really get a lot of down time, so riding the bus you get to sit there, relax, maybe sleep, maybe have a lifechat with a fellow student, all whilst the beautiful countryside of Italy whizzes by in your window. It's just one of those things that seems so trivial but is actually a huge part of my Italy experience, and people don't seem to take the time to appreciate the small things in life as much nowadays.
So back to Ravenna. If you've never heard of it until this blog post, thats a shame, because it was a pretty big deal back in the day. It's located on the north east part of the boot right on the Adriatic Sea but south of Venice, and was at the edge of Christian rule during the time of the Papal States. When we visited, our tour guide took us to see the Basilica San Vitale, a beautiful church in the center of town. It was a perfect example of architectural "spolia," which is really just an academic way of saying recycling. The Venetians reused pillars from the original Theodoric church when constructing the new one, because it was symbolic and sacred. You could tell they were legit because they had the crest and Latin inscriptions on the sides.
The mosaics inside the church were an interesting example of a crossroad of cultures (in a case you haven't caught on yet, that's kind of the theme of our course) because they were created during the same time period, but by two different groups of people. The Western (Greek and Roman) school uses more bright colors like green, and all of the people are depicted looking at each other, to the side, or gazing off into the distance. On the other side of the ceiling, the Byzantines made their mark with mostly gold-plated tiles as a background and figures that are staring straight out into the church (and right into your soul. It's kind of intimidating, tbh). The mosaics aren't just decorations, but a mechanism that helps people worship. There are biblical scenes for those who can't read or write, and a lot of hidden symbolism in there too. Like for example, there's a bunch of stuff in huge. Old Testament in threes, that is an allusion to the holy trinity. In one of the pictures there are twenty seven stars, which is three to the third power. Trippyyyyy.
Later on in Ravenna, we also went to a Mosileum, which is kind of like a grave for people who are either really important or have a reticule us amount of money (or both). It was a big room with the tombs of a Byzantine ruler and their sons, along with some more mosaics, including a really schnazzy hallway with stars and the ancient Indian version of a swastika, which was Sanskrit for "all is well" before the Nazis ruined it.
Last, we went to an Arian baptistery. This one was different than most of the other ones we visited because the depiction of Jesus getting baptized was, let's just say a little more risqué than the ones we saw in Palermo. The significance behind this "heroic nudity" comes from the artist wanting patrons of the baptistery to view Jesus as more human than god, so He could be #relatable. Besides, in the ancient days people had more of a public and general knowledge of the human body, and there wasn't this shameful stigma about nude. That sets #freethenipple back just a few thousand years.
Anyways, that concluded our little excursion in Ravenna as we finished our day bussing to Venice and (reluctantly) taking a water taxi to our hotel. Mike keeps promising us freezing rain, but Siri says sun, so we will see who wins that bet (my money's on apple, but Mike already owes us gelato for mentioning Turkey over seventy times now). I hope you are staying warm or cool or dry or whatever weather preference floats your boat, and we will talk you upon our completion of the course in the states, or maybe sooner if ya wanna hit us up on Skype or FaceTime.
Ciao for now, homies.
Selina Guevara, signing out.