Birding with the Ostrogoths

Rick Wright

Rick Wright

Rick Wright and Marco Valtriani will co-lead VENT’s Italy: Birds & Art in Venice & the Po Delta tour, October 24-November 1, 2016. Join us!

Boethius imprisoned, Consolation of Philosophy. Photo by Bkwillwm, Wikimedia Commons.

Boethius imprisoned, Consolation of Philosophy. Photo by Bkwillwm, Wikimedia Commons.

None of the documents that survive from the Ostrogothic Kingdom of northern Italy suggest that birding was an especially popular hobby.

Meister von san Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna. Photo byThe Yorcke Project, Wikimedia Commons.

Meister von san Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna. Photo by The Yorcke Project, Wikimedia Commons.

But the rich artworks preserved in Ravenna, the capital of Theoderic’s realm, tell a different story.

Consecrated in the late fifth century, the city’s Archepiscopal Chapel is the oldest surviving Christian oratory anywhere. Its marble walls are paved with some of the finest and most famous mosaics in Italy, studded with 1500-year-old images of some 99 species of birds.

Cappella arcivescovile, Ravenna. Photo by Incola, Wikimedia Commons.

Cappella arcivescovile, Ravenna. Photo by Incola, Wikimedia Commons.

Some are purely whimsical, but many of the birds are identifiable as of the very same species that still abound today around the ancient churches and tombs.

Long-tailed Tit on a washing line. Photo by Dave Croker, Wikimedia Commons.

Long-tailed Tit on a washing line. Photo by Dave Croker, Wikimedia Commons.

Others recall the great numbers and variety of waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors that winter around the nearby delta of the mighty Po River.

Smew. Photo by Dick Daniels, Wikimedia Commons.

Smew. Photo by Dick Daniels, Wikimedia Commons.

From Venice to Ravenna, we retrace the steps of the Ostrogoths as they slowly absorbed much of the western Roman Empire. And we retrace the steps of the anonymous artists who, 1500 years ago, recognized that there was a lot to see outdoors in Italy, too.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s