The Apse Mosaic at San Vitale: Detail, Christ in Majesty

A youthful Christ sits on a globe representing the universe. Except for a bit of shadow at his feet he does not seem to be relying on the globe for support. He wears a toga with two vertical stripes, as do the archangels beside him. The marking on the hem is seen on a number of garments in mosaics of the period. It may be the first Greek letter in Ζωη, "life."

The archangels carry sceptres. They could be identified as Michael and Gabriel, who sometimes flank important figures in images of this period. They present Bishop Ecclesius and Saint Vitalis, identified by the inscriptions above their heads.

The bishop wears the pontifical pallium around his neck and holds forth a model of the basilica, which was built under his direction. He uses his chasuble to cover his hands while offering the gift, as was the custom at the time in the Imperial court.

As a military saint, St. Vitalis is the only one shown wearing boots. His hands are also covered, as he has just handed to Christ his golden crown of martyrdom. This is a reference to Revelation 4:4,9, "And round about the throne were…four and twenty ancients sitting, clothed in white garments, and on their heads were crowns of gold.… The four and twenty ancients fell down before him that sitteth on the throne, and adored him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne.…"

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Photographed at the basilica by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.