Erich Lessing

A pagan river god, or more precisely a personification of the Jordan River, at right, observes Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist (Luke 3:22 and parallels). The covering of his hands is a traditional Eastern ns Christian sign of respect in the presence of the divine one. This mosaic in the Neonian Baptistry in Ravenna, Italy, exemplifies some of the qualities of the Eastern type of river god—partially or wholly submerged, occasionally turning away and wearing a somewhat demonic look of surprise or alarm—a variant of the classical type (see next photo). The defeat of the pagan god by Christianity may help explain some of these characteristics.

Bishop Neone oversaw the completion of the Neonian Baptistry in the fifth century, at which time he had the dome and mosaics added. The bejeweled cross was added at an unknown date, and the cup from which John pours the baptismal water was added during a 19th-century restoration.