Basilica di San Vitale (Ravenna)( Basilica of San Vitale )
The Basilica of San Vitale is a late antique church in Ravenna, Italy. The sixth-century church is an important surviving example of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture. It is one of eight structures in Ravenna inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Its foundational inscription describes the church as a basilica, though its centrally-planned design is not typical of the basilica form. Within the Roman Catholic Church it holds the honorific title of basilica for its historic and ecclesial importance.
The church's construction began in 526 on the orders of Bishop Ecclesius of Ravenna. At the time, Ravenna was under the rule of the Ostrogoths. Bishop Maximian completed construction in 547, preceding Justinian's creation of the Exarchate of Ravenna, which followed his partial re-conquest of the Western Roman Empire.
The construction of the church was sponsored by local banker and architect Julius Argentarius. Very little is known of Julius, but he also sponsored the construction of the nearby Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe at around the same time. A donor portrait of Julius Argentarius may appear among the courtiers on the Justinian mosaic. The final cost amounted to 26,000 solidi equal to 36.11 lbs of gold. It has been suggested that Julius originated in the eastern part of the Byzantine Empire, where there was a long-standing tradition of public benefactions.
The central vault used a western technique of hollow tubes inserted into each other, rather than bricks. This method was the first recorded structural use of terra-cotta forms, which later evolved into modern structural clay tile. The ambulatory and gallery were vaulted only later in the Middle Ages.
The Baroque frescoes on the dome were made between 1778 and 1782 by S. Barozzi, Ubaldo Gandolfi and Jacopo Guarana.