Detail of the prophet Elijah, 6th century C.E. Mosaic, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna, Italy.

The Byzantine Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe is near Ravenna, Italy. Although mosaic treatment of walls and floors had been known since Sumerian times, the early Christians’ use of mosaics in architecture had no precedent in its extravagance. The nave walls, floors and clerestory were originally also covered in mosaic. Sant’Apollinare is a classic example of a new Christian style of worship space, emphasizing a gathering-in of community instead of outward worship displays. The plain brick exterior encloses a shimmering inner realm of color, with 58 windows flooding the interior with light and slender columns keeping the inner space open.


Relating to the Byzantine empire, which ruled the Eastern Mediterranean from the fifth century CE to 1453; its capital was Byzantium (modern Istanbul).

Artwork composed of small pieces of material—glass, stone, pottery—arranged in patterns or depicting persons and scenes.

The first major civilization of ancient Mesopotamia, arising in the fifth millennium B.C.E. and lasting through the early second millennium B.C.E.; the Sumerians invented the first writing system, cuneiform.

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