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The Side Chambers of San Giovanni Evangelista in Ravenna: Church Libraries of the Fifth Century

Janet Charlotte Smith
Gesta
Vol. 29, No. 1 (1990), pp. 86-97
DOI: 10.2307/767103
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/767103
Page Count: 12
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The Side Chambers of San Giovanni Evangelista in Ravenna: Church Libraries of the Fifth Century
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Abstract

The small chambers symmetrically flanking the main apse of the early fifth-century church of San Giovanni Evangelista in Ravenna, built under the patronage of the empress Galla Placidia of the Theodosian dynasty, are architecturally designed to function as libraries and possibly scriptoria. Contrary to true pastophoria, as they are often called, they are not intimately connected with the performance of the eucharistic liturgy. They follow the Roman architectural tradition of libraries as twin structures (one for Greek works and one for Latin), symmetrically arranged around an exedra/apse or open room for reading and debate, and supplied with numerous rectangular niches for manuscript storage. Furthermore, archeological evidence supports the presence of a hypocaust in the northern chamber, a necessary provision in marshy Ravenna to keep the humidity out of the walls in order to better preserve the manuscripts.

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