Knight, David J.
The archaeoacoustics of San Vitale, Ravenna
University of Southampton, School of Humanities,
This research tests and assesses whether sixth-century social and cultural dynamics can be archaeologically identified by including the study of acoustics in the context of extant Late Antique Christian architecture, namely the centrally planned domed octagonal church of San Vitale at Ravenna. Implementing a holistic archaeological research strategy that includes human sensory perception of acoustical phenomena is the best approach to unravelling the complexities of social and cultural mechanisms operating in the sixth-century Mediterranean basin. The methods and issues of Archaeoacoustics are critiqued and developed in order to comment on the intentionality of acoustic attributes in sixth-century ecclesiastical architecture.
The space syntax of San Vitale has been considered for isovists at key locations during the liturgical procession and sequence of the Mass celebration. These are compared with mapped areas of perceiving the acoustic characteristics of Clarity and Reverberation Time. Combining the visual and acoustic analysis of San Vitale, with a better understanding of its date and construction phases, the physical geometry and temporal logic of the church are discussed in relation to the reflexive exchange of influence between Ravenna, Milan and Constantinople. It is posited that liturgical and musical time and tempo is materially expressed in the evident and conceptual substance of San Vitale, a suggestion that offers a springboard for future study and debate.
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