Photo: Delphine Achard
The Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy was constructed between 527 and 548 during the reign of Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora. The UNESCO-protected monument is a treasure trove of glittering glass and enamel mosaics, which attracted the lens of Karl Lagerfeld in 2010. Portraying richly-dressed figures laden with jewels, these images bear witness to the extravagance of Constantinople and the splendour of its iconography.
Karl Lagerfeld plays with this aesthetic in conceiving a collection that glitters with reflections of this vanished luxury. Recently unveiled in Istanbul, the collection revives historical ties between Ravenna and Byzantium that saw San Vitale serve as the prototype for the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Now the capital of Turkey, Istanbul was once known as Byzantium and renamed Constantinople in 330, when it became capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. At the peak of its success in the sixth century, the burgeoning empire gave rise to a brilliant, refined civilisation that survived until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Mosaic-lined basilicas are a testament to the society at the heart of the Christian empire. The last remnants of this iconic art survive in Ravenna to this day.