Tuesday, 15 October 2013


The Severn Forum runs a programme of lectures on theological subjects, so tonight's "The mosaics of Ravenna" may have seemed a bit of a let off. It turned out to be nothing of the sort. Christopher Herbert, now the retired Bishop of St Albans, had the good fortune to visit Ravenna when his diocese was twinned with dioceses local to that city. Making full use of his red carpet reception, he has now put together a splendid talk, explaining what caused Ravenna to become the focus of so many "glittering prizes", and how they illustrate the development of doctrine in the early church.

So, through a sequence of excellent slides, we came to consider the absence of representations of Christ crucified; to observe that Jesus - shown naked in the Jordan in the late 5th Century - was not baptized by total immersion; and why the Good Shepherd was portrayed wearing a toga.

My photograph shows Dr. Herbert in front of a photograph of the figure of Archbishop Maximiamus - "drawn" in mosaic more than 1,500 years ago, he could be at home amongst our National Portrait Gallery's Contemporary Displays.

And the lecturer is clearly himself at home in the world of art - not just church/biblical - history: parallels with David Hockney's swimming pool pictures and an Anish Kapoor sculpture round out his talk, though he wears his learning lightly.

Great stuff, and deserving of a larger audience than the 50 or so who turned out. Surely it wasn't the football? I didn't even notice that it was being sacrificed: anyway, the talk ended early enough to let me watch the final 20 minutes - a satisfactory result!

On Sunday evening, we were in the (virtual) presence of another master of his art, Woody Allen - his Blue Jasmine, brilliantly over ripe, and redolent of the world of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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