Mosaics in Early Byzantine Era

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The increase in mosaics in churches in Late Antiquity and the Byzantine Era was largely due to the influence of the Roman Emperor Constantine (ruled from 306 to 337 AD). During his rule as emperor, Christianity became the major religion and there was a push for more buildings to house the followers of Christ. Along with the new buildings there was a need to decorate these places of worship accordingly and express the religion in a grandiose sort of way. Mosaics were generally the inexpensive and impressive answer that was used to convey the church’s message. Through mosaics, the people of the church could learn and be informed of the spiritual and cultural symbolism (Kleiner and Mamiya 313).
Early mosaics before this time period had
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Below the sphere are the four rivers of paradise and there are sharp contrasts between the blue sphere, the gold background, and the rainbow-hued clouds above. Saint Vitale, who was martyred in the second century, is just to the right of Christ. An angel is introducing Saint Vitale while Christ offers him a wreath. On the left of Christ, another angel introduces Bishop Ecclesius who presents a small model of the church of San Vitale (Kleiner and Mamiya 332-336).
On the lower north wall to the left and below the apse mosaic, Justinian, Bishop Maximianus, and others are shown in a mosaic rich in color. There are three groupings in this mosaic, the emperor and his staff, the clergy, and the imperial guard. Justinian is in the center garbed in his purple robe and depicted with a halo representing the god-given powers of the emperor. To his left are Bishop Maximianus and two clergymen. The bishop was given a level of importance by the inscription of his name above his head. The emperor appears slightly behind the bishop when looking at their feet but his shoulder is depicted in front of the bishop’s. To Justinian’s right is the imperial guard holding a shield with the monogram of Christ. The artist depicts importance by showing the feet of the leader of each group overlapping the others while depicting the powers of the church and the emperor on an equal level (Kleiner and Mamiya 332-336).
An unusual thing about the mosaics of San
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