now that white shape of a girl with black hair-my own soul-and now that white shape of a man, which also appeared to me at the time it resembles Michelangelo’s sitting Moses-it is Elijah. ~Carl Jung, Liber Novus, Pages 248-9, Footnote 187.
Even on the occasion of my first visit to Ravenna in 1913, the tomb of Galla Placidia seemed to me significant and unusually fascinating.
The second time, twenty years later, I had the same feeling. Once more I fell into a strange mood in the tomb of Galla Placidia; once more I was deeply stirred.
I was there with an acquaintance, and we went directly from the tomb into the Baptistery of the Orthodox.
Here, what struck me first was the mild blue light that filled the room; yet I did not wonder about this at all.
I did not try to account for its source, and so the wonder of this light without any visible source did not trouble me.
I was somewhat amazed because, in place of the windows I remembered having seen on my first visit, there were now four great mosaic frescoes of incredible beauty which, it seemed, I had entirely forgotten.
I was vexed to find my memory so unreliable.
The mosaic on the south side represented the baptism in the Jordan; the second picture, on the north, was of the passage of the Children of Israel through the Red Sea; the third, on the east, soon faded from my memory.
It might have shown Naaman being cleansed of leprosy in the Jordan; there was a picture on this theme in the old Merian Bible in my library, which was much like the mosaic.
The fourth mosaic, on the west side of the baptistery, was the most impressive of all. We looked at this one last.
It represented Christ holding out his hand to Peter, who was sinking beneath the waves.
We stopped in front of this mosaic for at least twenty minutes and discussed the original ritual of baptism, especially the curious archaic conception of it as an initiation connected with real peril of death.
Such initiations were often connected with the peril of death and so served to express the archetypal idea of death and rebirth.
Baptism had originally been a real submersion which at least suggested the danger of drowning.
I retained the most distinct memory of the mosaic of Peter sinking, and to this day can see every detail before my eyes: the blue of the sea, individual chips of the mosaic, the inscribed scrolls proceeding from the mouths of Peter and Christ, which I attempted to decipher.
After we left the baptistery, I went promptly to Alinari to buy photographs of the mosaics, but could not find any.
Time was pressing this was only a short visit and so I postponed the purchase until later.
I thought I might order the pictures from Zurich.
When I was back home, I asked an acquaintance who was going to Ravenna to obtain the pictures for me.
He could not locate them, for he discovered that the mosaics I had described did not exist.
Meanwhile, I had already spoken at a seminar about the original conception of baptism, and on this occasion had also mentioned the mosaics that I had seen in the Baptistery of the Orthodox.
The memory of those pictures is still vivid to me.
The lady who had been there with me long refused to believe that what she had “seen with her own eyes” had not existed.
As we know, it is very difficult to determine whether, and to what extent, two persons simultaneously see the same thing.
In this case, however, I was able to ascertain that at least the main features of what we both saw had been the same.
This experience in Ravenna is among the most curious events in my life. It can scarcely be explained.
A certain light may possibly be cast on it by an incident in the story of Empress Galla Placidia (d. 450).
During a stormy crossing from Byzantium to Ravenna in the worst of winter, she made a vow that if she came through safely, she would build a church and have the perils of the sea represented in it.
She kept this vow by building the basilica of San Giovanni in Ravenna and having it adorned with mosaics.
In the early Middle Ages, San Giovanni, together with its mosaics, was destroyed by fire; but in the Ambrosiana in Milan is still to be found a sketch representing Galla Placidia in a boat.
I had, from the first visit, been personally affected by the figure of Galla Placidia, and had often wondered how it must have been for this highly cultivated, fastidious woman to live at the side of a barbarian prince.
Her tomb seemed to me a final legacy through which I might reach her personality.
Her fate and her whole being were vivid presences to me; with her intense nature, she was a suitable embodiment for my anima.
The anima of a man has a strongly historical character. As a personification of the unconscious she goes back into prehistory, and embodies the contents of the past.
She provides the individual with those elements that he ought to know about his pre-history.
To the individual, the anima is all life that has been in the past and is still alive in him.
In comparison to her I have always felt myself to be a barbarian who really has no history like a creature just sprung out of nothingness, with neither a past nor a future. ~Carl Jung, Memories Dreams and Reflections, Page 286.