Ravenna - Mosaics

Basillica di San Vitale

Construction of the Basilica of San Vitale began in 527 CE (or as it was known as at the time, the "Year of the Consulship of Mavortius without colleague"). 527 was the first year of the reign of Justinian the Great (more on him later), the founding of the Kingdom of Essex in Britain (with Erkenswine at the helm) and a year after the death of the Ostrogothic rule Theoderic the Great who ruled Italy from Ravenna. So it was a busy news cycle, so to speak.

Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

Dating from 425 CE, the Mausoleum never contained the remains of Galla Placidia, daughter of Roman Emperor Theodosius I, but it does contain what are likely the oldest mosaics in Ravenna. The blues and the golds of the mosaics are incredibly vibrant, and the artwork itself is in nearly pristine condition. Highlights include the “Good Shepard,” a saint (his identity is disputed, the stars on the interior of the central dome, and the “Garden of Eden” motif.

Baptistery of Neon

Also referred to as the “Orthodox Baptistry” to note its builders compared to the Arian Baptistry built by the Ostrogoths, the mosaics date from the end of the 5th Century CE. The building, however, is far older and was built on the site of an even earlier Roman bath.

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo

Built as the palace church for Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths, the church was originally Arian but became Orthodox after the area was retaken by Justinian I. The mosaics date from the original construction, and many were damaged or destroyed as the Arian stream of the church was suppressed.

Arian Baptistery

Originally part of a cathedral built by the Ostrogoths, the Baptistry has had an active history. Note the heavy use of gold in the mosaic.

Basilica of San Francesco

Little remains of the original church, but a look down into the flooded crypt shows the mosaics that covered the floor. The funeral of Dante Alighieri, author of The Devine Comedy, was held here and his tomb is nearby.

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