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Ravenna and its treasures

Ravenna and its Lidos

Ravenna is the biggest and historically most important city in Romagna. It has ancient origins and a glorious past: from the 5th to the 8th century it has been capital of the Western Roman Empire, of the Goths Empire and of the Bizantine Empire in Europe.

In memory of this bright past, its early Christian and Bizantine buildings have been recognised by Unesco as World Heritage in 1996.


BASILICA OF SAN VITALE

The Basilica of San Vitale is one of the most important Catholic worship places in Ravenna, an absolut masterpiece.

The basilica has been built between 525 and 547, in obedience to Bishop Ecclesio's will and completed by his successor, Archbishop Massimiano, when the city was under Giustiniano I’s Empire.

The building combines roman architectural elements such as the dome, with bizantine ones such as the capitals, moreover it represents a huge evolution of the classic longitudinal plan churches, since it has got an octagonal plan surmounted by a dome, hidden from the outside by the structure called tiburio.


MAUSOLEUM OF GALLA PLACIDIA

This small Mausoleum was built halfway through the 5th century by Galla Placidia, sister of the Emperor Honorius and it has got an irregular Latin cross plan, since one side is just slightly longer than the others.

The simplicity of the exterior contrasts with the lavish decoration of the interior. Inside there are three marble sarcophaguses: the one in the middle is roman and the others are dated between the 4th and the 5th century.

The barrel vaults and the arches are richly decorated with stars, flowers, fruits and geometrical mazes.


ARIAN BAPTISTERY

It was buit in the late 5th century under Theoderic, when the Arian cult was the official State religion. Inside it is empty: nothing remains of the ancient stuccos and decorations of the internal walls and there is no forniture. The baptismal basin used to be in the middle of the round plan, replaced today by a marble plate. The dome, instead, is completely decorated with the original mosaics, depicting the Baptism of Christ, with Giovanni Battista, the personification of the Giordano river, the twelve apostles and the Holy Spirit in bodily form like a dove.


NEONIAN (ORTHODOX) BAPTISTERY

The Baptistery, dating back to the early 5th century, was buit in obedience to Bishop Orso's will and restored by Bishop Neon around 458: he replaced the original simple ceiling, with a dome decorated with the Baptism of Christ mosaics.


ARCHIEPISCOPAL CHAPEL (ST. ANDREW’S CHAPEL)

Built as a private chapel by Bishop Peter II during Theoderic’s reign, it is the only existing intact archiepiscopal chapel of the Early Christian era, dedicated to Saint Peter Crisologo, archbishop of Ravenna between 433 and 450.

The cross-shaped chapel is preceded by a small vestibule covered by marble and mosaics. The decoration of the vault shows the pictures of the four archangels holding a shield, surrounded by plants and animals.


BASILICA OF SANT’APOLLINARE NUOVO

As other monuments of Ravenna, the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo is made of bricks. On the right side of the facade there is the cylindrical bell tower built during the 9th century. The marble colonnade outside in Corinthian style is still intact.

Inside, the central nave is circumscribed by twelve couples of columns which are supported by rounded arches. Between the windows there are mosaics with prophets and evangelists, and the apse is decorated by colorful and outstanding mosaics too.


THE MAUSOLEUM OF THEODERIC

The Mausoleum is the most famous Goths funerary monument, built around 520 by Theoderic The Great as his grave. It has a decagon plan and it is made by Istria Stone blocks, a calcareous rock. It is considered an architectural masterpiece thanks to its monolithic roof covering.

On the outside there is a decorative line with a pincer motif, the only proof in Ravenna of a particular decoration inspired by the Goths goldsmithing and not by the Roman-Bizantine repertoire.


BASILICA OF SANT’APOLLINARE IN CLASSE

The basilica is situated approximately five kilometres South from the centre of Ravenna.

Inside the walls are totally bare, whereas the apse is covered by mosaics of different periods: in the lower part there is a green and bloom valley with rocks, plants, bushes and birds, while in the middle of the composition, the solemn figure of Sant’Apollinare first bishop of Ravenna, stands with his arms wide open.

Between the five windows there are the representations of four bishops, founders of the most important basilicas in Ravenna: Ursicino, Orso, Severo and Ecclesio.

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