These mosaics, below the present-day floor of the Basilica of San Francesco in Ravenna, have become almost a wishing-well (coins can be seen), as well as home to random goldfish and an occasional duck. How that happened is a story in itself.
Ravenna is famed for its Byzantine mosaics, legacy of its glory days as the Byzantine capital of Italy in the 5th and 6th centuries. Most of the important sites in this UNESCO World Heritage area are in buildings from that time; the Basilica of San Francesco is the exception.
San Francesco was built in the 10th century, on top of a former church of Byzantine times, and mosaics that had been part of the floor of the old church disappeared into the crypt and behind the walls of the new church, along with the supposed tomb of the old church's builder, the curiously named Bishop Neon. San Francesco is a large, but fairly plain church, although it likely was more ornate at one point than it is today.
But Ravenna is not a dry city; once it was close enough to the Adriatic to be a port, and its marshy soil has spent centuries lowering its buildings into the earth. Work needed to keep the church afloat long ago revealed the art beneath, and it is viewable from inside the church. But all attempts to keep it dry have failed.
For a longer Gumbo blog on the Glorious Mosaics of Ravenna, click HERE