“A most curious event in my life.” Carl Jung, Ravenna and the mystery of the Neonian Baptistery

In the 1930s, Carl Jung stayed in Ravenna and visited the Baptistery of the Orthodox, also known as the Neonian Baptistery. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections, he described the experience he had there as “among the most curious events in my life”.

He and his companion saw brilliant mosaics that weren’t there, though they did not know it at the time, seeking out reproductions of their vision, which of course didn’t exist. The astonishing event became something of a watershed for Jung: “Since my experience in the baptistery in Ravenna, I know with certainty that something interior can seem to be exterior, and that something exterior can appear to be interior,” he wrote.

So did happened as he gazed at the famous imagery, lit as if from within in blues and golds? In Ravenna myself, and having had something of a mystical experience with these mosaics too, I decided to investigate.