Basilica of San Vitale
The “Basilica of San Vitale” is a church in Ravenna, Italy, and one of the most important examples of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture in Europe. The Roman Catholic Church has designated the building a “basilica”, the honorific title bestowed on church buildings of exceptional historic and ecclesial importance, although of course it is not of architectural basilica form. It is one of eight Ravenna structures inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The church was begun by Bishop Ecclesius in 526, when Ravenna was under the rule of the Ostrogoths and completed by the 27th Bishop of Ravenna, Maximian, in 547 preceding the Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna. The construction of the church was sponsored by Julius Argentarius, a Roman banker and architect, of whom very little is known, except that he also sponsored the construction of the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe at around the same time. (A donor portrait of the Julius Argentarius may appear among the courtiers on the Justinian mosaic.) The final cost amounted to 26,000 solidi (gold pieces). The central vault used a western technique of hollow tubes inserted into each other, rather than bricks. The ambulatory and gallery were vaulted only later in the Middle Ages. The Baroque fresco on the dome was made between 1778 and 1782 by S. Barozzi, U. Gandolfi and E. Guarana.