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The church of San Vitale in Ravenna was dedicated to St Vitalis After the discovery of the bones of the reputed martyrs Agricola and his slave Vitalis at Bologna in the fourth century Vitalis was widely venerated in the west The church of which he is the patron saint in Ravenna was begun by Bishop Ecclesius in the second quarter of the sixth century when the Goths still ruled there Funds for its construction were supplied by Julianus Argentarius The church was completed and consecrated by Bishop Maximian in 5478 after control had passed to the Byzantines San Vitale was built on an octagonal plan Ills 1 with eight heavy piers supporting the drum and dome The inspiration for the central plan likely came from the east for Ecclesius had recently returned from a visit to Constantinople but the construction is Roman Of special interest are the mosaics of the sanctuary and apse The mosaics in San Vitale cover the entire sanctuary Ills 23 In different symbols and images they all convey one idea the redemption of mankind by Christ and the sacramental re-enactment of this event in the eucharistic sacrifice The compositions must thus be understood as the setting for the rite celebrated in this room and as closely related to itIn the vault there appears the Lamb of God in the midst of a wreath which is supported by four angels standing on globes The image of the lamb was introduced into the Roman rite only at the end of the seventh century by Pope Sergius I a Syrian But in the liturgies of the East this symbol of the Christian sacrifice appears at an earlier date and we are justified in interpreting its representation in San Vitale as alluding to the eucharistic liturgy Ills 4The first arcade of the sanctuary is decorated with fifteen medallions showing the images of Christ of the twelve apostles and of Gervase and Protase who
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