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San Vitale’s Beauty as Seen Through the Eyes of Plotinus

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  1. Introduction
  2. God as the divine source of all things
  3. Plotinus and the ideal of beauty as a problem of metaphysics
  4. The metaphysical connection and entering into the sanctuary of San Vitale.
  5. The mosaic is beautiful because its flat
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

Architectural beauty is a concept that is continually changing and entirely subjective. It is dependent upon who is doing the evaluating and the criteria with which they are basing their evaluation. Usually, the structure's ultimate function weighs in heavily in the determination of its beauty.Churches function as houses of God, and therefore have, up until recently, been held to higher standards of beauty than other structures. I say until recently because most of the newly erected houses of worship look like warehouses. Rather than depicting a spiritual connection with the divine through architectural beauty, their intention is to be as bare as possible on the outside in order to convey the message that it is what's inside (the fellowship of its congregation and sincerity of their devotion and faith in the concept of a plane of existence beyond our material world) that counts.

[...] However, the beholder whose eyes we are looking at San Vitale through is the Neoplatonist philosopher, Plotinus. According to Plotinus, God is the divine source of all things. God symbolizes all that is beautiful and good. In order for earth, the realm of matter, to be beautiful, it must invoke the harmony and order of the cosmos, God's immaterial realm. This must be done both intellectually and visually. Intellectual beauty begins with one's soul. Plotinus believed that souls are beautiful in so far as they are morally good. [...]

[...] In his book Sacred Forest, Otto von Simson reinforces this opinion through his statement that Vitale was to become the stage and setting proper to the sacred drama by which the emperor meant to communicate his theological and political concepts to the West? Essentially, he wanted to be God; just the opposite of being god-like and truly beautiful. The final specific feature of the Basilica of San Vitale that Plotinus would have no qualms about calling beautiful is its chancel vault. [...]

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