Monday, September 19, 2011

Byzantine mosaics and sacred art: Porec

                                                  Exterior mosaic in entry door archway

The most striking feature of the Euphrasian Basilica of Porec are its mosaics , dating from the 6th century, and which are considered amongst the finest examples of Byzantine art in the world.  For this reason after leaving Ravinj on the 5th day, we made a special trip to see them.

 According to the wiki:    (These are the parts that are not easily photographed so here is the explanation.)

The central mosaics between the windows of the apse represent the Annunciation and the Visitation. In the Annunciation mosaic an angel raises his hand to indicate a message. In his left hand he holds the staff of a messenger. Mary wears a purplish blue dress and a veil. She holds yarn in her left hand. On the other side the mosaics depicts the visitation of Mary to Elisabeth. Both wear contemporary sacerdotal vestments with a cape full of ribbons. A small female figure is looking from behind the curtain of a house. The three small medallions depict St. John the Baptist, Zacharias and an angel. 

Between these two large mosaics are smaller mosaics depicting the Young Christ with halo, and two martyrs with their martyr crown. In the northern apse these are probably Cosmas and Damian, in the south apse Ursus (or another Bishop of Ravenna), and Severus.

The front wall of the apse is framed with a narrow decorated band filled with praise of Euphrasius and his works. The lower part of the apse is decorated with stone slabs encrusted with mother-of-pearl. Part of these came from an earlier wainscotting. They consist of 21 fields with 11 different decorations. In the middle stands the bishop's throne, flanked by candlesticks.


                         Saints Bartholomew, Jacob and Andrea ,  apostles each with their attribute

13th century wooden crucifix 

                                                  One of 12 female martyrs

The vault over the apse is decorated with mosaics with Mary and Child, sitting on the Heavenly throne, under a wreath held by a hand - symbol of God the Father. This is the only surviving depiction of the Mother of God in an early-Christian western basilica. She is flanked by angels, Bishop Euphrasius, holding the model of the church; also local saints are depicted, including St. Maurus, the first bishop of Poreč and the Istrian diocese, and the archdeacon Claudius . The child between Euphrasius and Claudius is accompanied by the inscription "Euphrasius, son of the archdeacon". All figures stand on a meadow covered with flowers.

 These are the  mosaics in the triumphal arch over the apse represent Christ; holding an opened book with the text "Ego sum Lux vera" (I am the true light) with the Apostles, each with their attribute, The arch below contains mosaic medallions with the Lamb of God and portraits of twelve female martyrs. 

  13th century cross transformed in 14 and 15th centuries which can be viewed in bishops quarters.

                                                  Middle panel of altar piece above

      Statues of two saints , two prophets and 2 reliquary in the form of busts of saints, around 1770

                                                            View from Bell tower

                                                                 Town of Porec

 I was pleased to have seen the well preserved Byzantine mosaics , a United Nations World Heritage site, but was not happy that you must go through all the displays before you can see the mosaics.

 My advice if you are there on a very hot day like we were,  is to read about the Basilica first in English, so you know what you are witnessing.  Skip the bell tower (unless you are with children who will insist) and its narrow one way system of steps, and convince the guard ( like we did ) to let you bypass the outdoor ruins of the former church which can be seen from the view ways.

  Go directly to the main sanctuary with its intricate well maintained mosaics.  And sit and observe for a while before you exit into the busy streets of Porec town.  Like any great collection, you need some time to take this all in.

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