At the time I wrote:
As I strolled through the gate I noticed an intriguing tableau in the greenery surrounding one of the square towers that had been added in the 1700s. A park bench! Not unusual of itself but the fact that a coat and book had been left on it seemed a bit odd.
A closer look revealed - as it often did in Ravenna - the art and artifice behind the reality. A beautifully conceived and crafted modern mosaic calling to mind not legions of angels and saints nor any heavenly vision but a few commonplace items left out in the open.
The mosaics from the earlier periods are filled with symbols and signs meant to convey the messages of religion to the faithful. I'm wondering what message the artist was giving us with this piece. Secular or sacred? Had someone abandoned the book and coat in a moment of abstraction, had they been suddenly forced to flee the bench leaving possessions behind, had they been assumed into one of the heavenly clouds of an earlier mosaic or perhaps had the owner simply wandered over to look in one of the store windows or have a quick espresso knowing that in a small town things could be left unguarded? Unfortunately I was remiss in making note of the details of the work (title, the artist's name etc) that perhaps would have signaled the intent of the work. For me, at least, mosaics seem to have an air of the mysterious about them so I guess this one is no different.
This morning in her e-mail Geraldine from Ireland revealed the mystery behind this strange but somehow touching monument:
Hi, just thought you would like to know that this piece of work was created by a wonderful mosaic artist and teacher called Luciana Notturni*. Along with some of her students she made this work as a monument to a man who was much admired in Ravenna.
People had been very unhappy with local politics in Ravenna and finally someone they felt really cared about them was voted in as mayor. He was popular, intelligent, and cared, according to Luciana. Unfortunately, a very short time after he was elected to the job, he passed away. It was a heart felt tragedy in Ravenna and Luciana made this mosaic, along with some of her students, in his honour. Inside the mosaic coat is his actual coat and the book is there to represent his love of reading and knowledge.
I hope this is as nice a story as you could have imagined. It's true.
All the best,
Geraldine, I think its a nicer story than I could have imagined: a heart-felt tribute to someone who matter to its creators and their community. I can't thank you enough for sharing it with me.
Studio Arte del Mosaico in Ravenna; the school has been in operation since 1969 and offers courses in the techniques of mosaic making. She is also on staff at the Scuola Nazionale del Restauro di Ravenna, teaching restoration work and overseeing the laboratory projects at the school.
January 2 - 1492: Reconquista: the Emirate of Granada, the last Moorish stronghold in Spain, surrenders.