Serendipity serves up some surprises.
Wikipedia doesn’t have a lot to say about San Giovanni Evangelista.
This might be because most of it’s mosaics were removed in 1747.
In 1747 the church was almost entirely stripped of its mosaics; the only remaining are two fragments of the original 5th-century floor, with the first recorded Christian use of hooked crosses.
This might be because it was badly damaged by Allied bombing in 1944.
Or it might be because scholars struggle to spin a sensible storyline.
The geometric architecture of the apse is very striking and the mainstream likes to emphasise it’s “Biblical squares and double squares” design elements.
In architecture we come across the Biblical squares and double squares.
The plan of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople is made up of two double squares and a central square: the circular central dome is inscribed in a 100 foot square, and the two low semi-domes which abut it also measure 100 feet in diametre.
The secondary columns which surround it make a double square 100 feet by 200 feet, 15 feet apart.
San Vitale in Ravenna is designed around a 50 foot square which defines the limits of the octagonal dome; this central square is flanked by four double squares measuring 25 feet by 50, separated from the central square by the thickness of the masonry of the arcade which supports the dome.
In the Baptistry of Nisibis, the three dimensions are identical, showing that the architect wanted a perfect cube.
Ratios and proportions in the basilicas of the 5th and 6th centuries in Ravenna and on the northern coast of the Adriatic are based on the figures 4, 7 and 8:
in the churches of San Giovanni Evangelista or Sant’Agata Maggiore in Ravenna, started in the 5th century and completed in the 6th, the naos is 4 squares by 7 in dimension and 4 squares by 8 with the apse.
In plans dating from the 5th century, the ratio 4 : 7 always determined the proportions of the naos, while the apse was the part which gave the overall ratio between width and length as 4 : 8 (= 1 : 2); this meant that the design of the whole building was based on 2 squares.
At Sant’Apollinare in Classe, the proportions of the whole complex are 4 : 7 : 11, terms of the mathematical series 1, 3, 4, 7, 11, 18, . . . , where the sum of the last two terms is the next in the series.
Religious Architecture and Mathematics During the Late Antiquity
Mathematics and The Divine: A Historical Study
Edited by T Koetsier and L Bergmans
A visual inspections suggests it’s probably far more accurate to emphasise the curvilinear and polygonal design elements of San Giovanni Evangelista.
The Basilica of San Giovanni Evangelista … The nave, which looks east, ends in an apse, curvilinear internally and polygonal externally. The aisles, on the other hand, terminate in two rectangular sacristies.
Lombardic Architecture – Volume I
Giovanni Teresio Rivoira – 1910
Furthermore, it’s unlikely these design elements are “Biblical” because San Giovanni Evangelista in Ravenna [Italy] is associated with the Roman “Praetorium” in Musmieh [Syria].
The Basilica of San Giovanni Evangelista … The nave, which looks east, ends in an apse, curvilinear internally and polygonal externally. The aisles, on the other hand, terminate in two rectangular sacristies. This arrangement, a very early instance of which is afforded by the church of Musmieh in Syria…
Lombardic Architecture – Volume I
Giovanni Teresio Rivoira – 1910
Due to the number of uses for the word praetorium, describing can be difficult. A praetorium could be a large building, a permanent tent structure, or in some cases even be mobile.
The Pretorium at Musmiyeh, undoubtedly of the time of Marcus Aurelius, though it is possible that the vaults were partly rebuilt two centuries later, is shown as it was drawn by M. Duthoit about 1870.
European Architecture – A Historical Study
Russell Sturgis – 1896
Marcus Aurelius (Latin: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; 121-180) was Roman emperor from 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher.
The major sources depicting the life and rule of Marcus are patchy and frequently unreliable.
The persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire is believed to have increased during his reign.
The Antonine Plague broke out in 165 or 166 and devastated the population of the Roman Empire, causing the deaths of five million people.
Al-Masmiyah (also spelled Musmiyeh, Mesmiyeh, Mismiya and Musmeih) is a town in southern Syria…
Al-Masmiyah is identified with the Roman-era town of Phaena.
The Praetorium was transformed into a church during the Byzantine era and the structural plan makes it one of the oldest examples of Byzantine church architecture.
The ancient city of Phaena had a radius of roughly three miles, making it as large as the ancient walled area of Damascus and larger than the Old City of Jerusalem.
Biblical Branding has attempted to memory hole original architecture by concealing domes, demolishing circular walls and bricking up arched apertures.
The exterior brickwork also suggests the “brick dome” was cleverly concealed by extending it’s supporting brickwork to form “a small quadrangular tower” covered with roofing tiles.
Stripped of Biblical Branding it’s evident the San Giovanni Evangelista “apse” isn’t an “apse” – just like the “mausoleum” of Theoderic isn’t a “mausoleum”.
The original stand-alone structures represent a continuity in design and purpose that bridges the era of massive masonry and the brick building era.
This continuity is based upon Vedic temple design principles.
And this domain of Religious Ambiguity explains why the only limestone building in Ravenna encapsulates the principles of Vedic temple design in one exquisite monument where the “circle of mandala” of the upper floor “circumscribes the square” embedded in the lower floor.
The four cardinal directions help create the axis of a Hindu temple, around which is formed a perfect square in the space available.
The circle of mandala circumscribes the square.
The square is considered divine for its perfection and as a symbolic product of knowledge and human thought, while circle is considered earthly, human and observed in everyday life (moon, sun, horizon, water drop, rainbow).
Each supports the other.
The square is divided into perfect square grids.
In large temples, this is often a 8×8 or 64 grid structure.
In ceremonial temple superstructures, this is an 81 sub-square grid.
The squares are called ‘‘padas’’.
The square is symbolic and has Vedic origins from fire altar, Agni.
The alignment along cardinal direction, similarly is an extension of Vedic rituals of three fires.
This symbolism is also found among Greek and other ancient civilizations, through the gnomon.
In Hindu temple manuals, design plans are described with 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81 up to 1024 squares; 1 pada is considered the simplest plan, as a seat for a hermit or devotee to sit and meditate on, do yoga, or make offerings with Vedic fire in front.
Perforated gnomons projecting a pinhole image of the Sun were described in the Chinese Zhoubi Suanjing writings (1046 BCE—256 BC with material added until circa 220 AD). The location of the bright circle can be measured to tell the time of day and year.
In Arab and European cultures its invention was much later attributed to Egyptian astronomer and mathematician Ibn Yunus around 1000 AD.
Italian astronomer, mathematician and cosmographer Paolo Toscanelli is associated with the 1475 placement of a bronze plate with a round hole in the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence to project an image of the Sun on the cathedral’s floor. With markings on the floor it tells the exact time of each midday (reportedly to within half a second) as well as the date of the summer solstice.
Italian mathematician, engineer, astronomer and geographer Leonardo Ximenes reconstructed the gnomon according to his new measurements in 1756.
Florence Cathedral, formally the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, is the cathedral of Florence, Italy.
It was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to a design of Arnolfo di Cambio and was structurally completed by 1436, with the dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.
This continuity means Hagia Sophia encapsulates Vedic design principles.
Hagia Sophia is the former Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal cathedral, later an Ottoman imperial mosque and now a museum (Ayasofya Müzesi) in Istanbul, Turkey. Built in AD 537 at the beginning of the Middle Ages, it was famous in particular for its massive dome.
From the date of its construction’s completion in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and the seat of the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted by the Fourth Crusaders to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was later converted into an Ottoman mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931.
This continuity suggests Christianity has a Vedic heritage.
A Vedic heritage with clear Persian influences.
The Persian Amu Nowruz became the English Father Christmas.
The Persian Haji Firuz became an English black-face Morris Dancer.
A carol attributed to Richard Smart, Rector of Plymtree from 1435 to 1477, has ‘Sir Christemas’ announcing the news of Christ’s birth and encouraging his listeners to drink: “Buvez bien par toute la compagnie, / Make good cheer and be right merry, / And sing with us now joyfully: Nowell, nowell.”
Whether this Christian heritage includes Islamic ideals is an intriguing idea…