Some of the best Byzantine mosaics in the world are in… Italy! It’s true: Although the Byzantine Empire, which dated from the 4th to 15th centuries A.D., was based in modern-day Istanbul, it also stretched into Italy””even taking over the entire Italian boot in the reconquest of the 6th century.
(By the way: Art historians usually say that, in Italy, Byzantine mosaics were done after Emperor Justinian I tried to reunite the Byzantine empire’s two halves during his reign from 527-565. Before that, mosaics still were in the ancient Roman, classical style. So it wasn’t until the 6th century that the Byzantine style really was codified. It was characterized by a severe, ethereal style that was much different from the naturalism of ancient Roman art. Those are the mosaics we’ve included in this post!).
Most of the mosaics in Italy are original to the churchs””i.e. date to the early 6th century! Extraordinary examples of Byzantine mosaic, those on the nave and clerestory show scenes from the life of Christ and saints. The mosaics at the top of each wall are the church’s oldest and show scenes from the New Testament.