The Baptism of Christ

Late 5th century
Mosaic
Neonian Baptistery, Ravenna, Italy

This is the center of the baptistery's ceiling mosaic. Like the similar centerpiece in Ravenna's Arian Baptistery, it includes a bearded personification of the River Jordan holding a reed. In this case, the personification carries Jesus' garment. As specified in the gospels, the Holy Spirit comes down upon Jesus in the form of a dove. Above the dove a hand represents the Father's declaration, "this is my beloved son."

John is in his familiar camel's skin. He pours from a small silver dish. In this image Jesus is bearded and shown naked from top to toe, just like the actual men and women who will be baptized below this mosaic.

In the Arian Baptistery, built a few years before, the twelve Apostles carry golden crowns to the throne of the Father. The Neonian, built for an Orthodox congregation, keeps the circle of Apostles but omits the throne, perhaps owing to the differing Christology.

The ceiling mosaic in full resolution
More of the Baptism of Christ

Photographed at the Neonian Baptistery by Claire Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.