Since Barisano da Trani never signed his name on the bronze doors of Ravello’s Cathedral, nobody can know for certain – although art critics have no doubts about the attribution – whether they were his masterpiece or not.
We know very little about Barisano. He lived in the second half of the 12th century, and created (and signed) at least two other portals, for the cathedrals in Trani and in Monreale.
The one thing we know for sure about the doors of the Ravello Cathedral – built between 1086 and 1087 – is that they were made in 1179, because a silver plaque on the left side reads,
anno millesimo centesimo septuagesimo nono Incarnacio Iesu Christo Domino Nostro (literally, “the one-thousand-and-seventy-ninth year since the incarnation of Jesus Christ our Lord”).
Fifty-four tiles, distributed on nine rows with perfect symmetry on the two doors, have various figures printed on them and point to Byzantine, Eastern, and Arab influences.
They include archers, fighters, prophets, holy knights, apostles, and heraldic animals, as well as Jesus, John the Baptist, and Mary.
There is so much, and yet, no signature at all.