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Here the first thing that stroke me was the diffused pale blue light. [...] I was quite surprised because instead of the windows that I remembered having seen in my first visit, there were now four large mosaics of incredible beauty, that apparently I had completely forgotten. It irritated me discovering that I could not trust my memory. [...] After my moving experience in the baptistery of Ravenna, I know with certainty that an internal fact can look external, and vice versa. The very walls of the baptistry, that my physical eyes necessarily saw were covered and transformed by a vision that was equally true as the unchanged baptismal font. What was actually real in that moment? C.G. Jung, 1934. Memories, Dreams and Reflections. Travel. RCS Libri Editore.
Jung's words lead us to another enigmatic monument of Ravenna. Slightly different from the Arian baptistery but not less surprising, the baptistery of Neon is one of those works that may not fascinate at first glance but that create an unusual suggestion thanks to the many details ehich can be seen.
The baptistery was built around the fifth Century AD, when Bishop Orso began building the cathedral Ursiana, of which we can see some remains in the Duomo of Ravenna and in the Archbishop museum. Along with the cathedral it was erected the baptistery, completed in 450 AD. The successor of Orso, Neone, slightly modified the structure of the baptistery in 458, adorning the cupola with mosaics that we can still admire.
A set of colors and symbols
There are two elements that make the baptistery of Neon special: its colours and the richness of decorations.
The blue of the cupola is the main colour and the background of many scenes and cartouches that decorate the inside perimeter of the monument. At the center, as in the Arian baptistery, there is the scene of the baptism of Jesus. The faces are not the original ones, but they are the result of a restoration undergone in the sixteenth Century. All around there is the procession of the apostles, once again led by Peter and Paul.
In the band under the procession we can see how mosaic is used to create a series of tripartite architectures that create niches: in four niches there are the Gospels while in the other four we see the empty thrones of Christ. At the niches side there are the seats that the Righteous will occupy after the Last Judgment. Looking down we meet the central band of decoration where there are windows juxtaposed by altars in stucco. These altars are actually a remake of the original ones which were destroyed during a restoration at the beginning of the twentieth Century because they were considered non-original.
In the lower band the marble columns that support all the overhead decoration stand out while the gold vines on the blue background unravel between human figures and some passages of the Bible.
One look is not enough to understand what the Baptistery of Neon hides – or else are you ready to be "deceived" as it happened to Jung?
How to get there
On foot: 15 minutes from the railway station
By car: follow the signs centro storico/Duomo. There is a big parking lot in Via Guidarello Guidarelli .