the Basilica Virginum (S. Simpliciano) in the north. Ambrose constructed the Basilica Martyrum (S. Ambrogio) on the west side of Milan and S. Dionisio on the east side. With a main hall that was 21.7 m across, the cruciform martyr's church S. Simpliciano counts as one of the largest early churches. In 386 Ambrose constructed the Basilica Ambrosiana for which he selected a conventional three-nave basilica with an apse at one end ofthe nave, ratherthan a cruciform plan. Together with Paulinus of Nola and other Italian bishops, Ambrose advocated the decoration of churches with biblical wall mosaics (see above).

As was initially the case in Milan, the imperial city of Ravenna also suffered from a shortage of martyrs' relics. The only local luminary who could be honoured there was the confessor-bishop Apollinaris, and although imported relics were available it was not until the sixth century that notable martyrs' churches like S. Apollinare in Classe were built. St Vitalis, on the other hand, had no connection to Ravenna. Ambrose of Milan promoted the cult of St Vitalis, but it was not until the fifth century that it arrived in Ravenna, where it was necessary to re-invent the legend of the saint. Both S. Apollinare in Classe (from 549) and S. Vitale (consecrated in 547) were erected with the financial backing of the banker Julianus Argentarius. S. Vitale was constructed inside rather than outside the city walls and was endowed with extremely lavish decoration.

The most architecturally and artistically notable early Christian churches were constructed at the behest of emperors and bishops. Edifices such as the monumental Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (with a space of 74.6 x 69.70m)46 and the large pilgrimage church for St Simeon Stylites in Kalat Seman only make sense as imperial creations. The Christian emperors residing in Constantinople continued a tradition harking back to the first and second centuries, in creating for the decoration of their churches new types of capitals, architraves, friezes and so forth, invented and sculptured by workmen in the quarries of the island of Prokonnesos near Constantinople. From the end of the fourth century to the sixth century, Prokonnesian building material and liturgical furniture - such as chancel screens, altars and ambos - were exported to nearly all countries of the Mediterranean. Most of the churches (e.g., in Ravenna, the residence of the emperor from 402 onwards) were built with capitals, columns and chancel screens from the Prokonnesian quarries. For the church of Hagia Sophia, constructed by the emperor Justinian, many new and fancy types of capitals were invented, but the fanciest were restricted to the

46 R. Mainstone, Hagia Sophia; M. L. Fobelli, Un tempio per Giustiniano.

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