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360 • C H R I S T I A N I T Y A N D T H E F O R M A T I O N O F E U R O P E and Isaac, and Cain and Abel. The figures and spaces are flat and static. Bodies appear to have no substance beneath the drapery. Less attention is paid to the figures than to the symbols they wear and carry. The purpose of San Vitale's mosaic imagery was informational, with the goal of helping the faithful to understand the stories and teachings of Christianity. The mosaics at San Vitale also had a political purpose. They include portray- als of the emperor Justinian and the empress Theodora (15.8), under whose patron- age the church was built. These images conveyed the rulers' symbolic presence in this distant portion of their empire. In the view seen here, the empress makes an offering accompanied by members of the court. Her purple wrap, halo, and crown identify her royal stature, a fact reinforced by the shell niche that hovers above her head and makes her the focal point of the image. Her face is identical to those of her female attendants, so we must read the symbolism of her garments and the artist's composition in order to identify her. Mosaic continued as a favored Byzantine technique, resulting in such master- pieces as the interior of the 12th-century Cathedral of Monreale, in Sicily (15.9). Set in the half-dome crowning the apse illustrated here is a large figure of Christ as Pantokrator, Greek for "Ruler of All." A standard element of later Byzantine iconography, the Pantokrator image emphasizes the divine, awe-inspiring, even ter- rifying majesty of Christ, as opposed to his gentle, approachable, human incarnation as Jesus. Directly below Christ is Mary, the mother of Jesus, enthroned with the Christ child on her lap. She is flanked by angels and saints. Hierarchy of scale dictates that Christ as Pantokrator is larger than his mother, while she is larger than the male saints surrounding her. As at San Vitale in Ravenna, we can see here how Byzantine artists had moved away from the naturalism and realism of Greece and Rome toward a flattened, abstracted style. Like the artists of ancient Egypt, Byzantine artists strove to portray often complex religious doctrines and beliefs, not scenes from daily life. Their sub- ject was not the impermanent earthly world of the flesh but the eternal and sacred 15.8 Empress Theodora and Retinue, detail. San Vitale, Ravenna. ca. 547. Mosaic. akg-images/Cameraphoto 15.9 Christ as Pantokrator. Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily. Before 1183. Mosaic. Bridgeman Images R E L A T E D W O R K S 7.16 Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

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