According to ezinereligion, the former capital of the Western Roman Empire and center of Byzantine Italy has outstanding examples of early Christian architecture, such as the cruciform mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the baptisteries of the Orthodox and Arians, the three-aisled basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, the mausoleum of Theodoric the Great, the Basilica of San Vitale with the first central dome of the West and Sant’Apollinare in Classe south of the city.
|Official title:||Early Christian monuments and mosaics from Ravenna|
|Cultural monument:||former center of the Roman Empire and Byzantine Italy, including with crypt and campanile (9th / 10th century) in the Baroque-style Cathedral of San Orso, the cruciform tomb of Galla Placidia, the Orthodox baptistery built on Roman foundations, the Arian baptistery, the three-aisled basilica of San Apollinare Nuovo, the mausoleum Theodoric, the Church of San Vitale, the first central dome building in the West, and with San Apollinare in Classe, the largest Ravenna basilica|
|Meaning:||extremely important mosaics and early Christian monuments|
|402||under Honorius Ravenna seat of the Western Roman government|
|425-50||first flowering period|
|425||San Giovanni Evangelista, a foundation of the Galla Placidia|
|around 440||Galla Placidia tomb|
|493-526||after conquest by the Ostrogoths|
|500-04||Construction of San Apollinare Nuovo|
|at 520||Tomb of Theodoric the Great (Rotunda)|
|527-65||under Emperor Justinian I new heyday|
|535-49||Construction of San Apollinare in Classe|
|546||Consecration of San Vitale|
|1213||Mosaic floor by San Giovanni Evangelista|
|1321||Burial of Dante on the north wall of San Francesco|
|1780||Tomba di Dante|
|1904||Restoration of San Apollinare in Classe|
Lush colors and strong light
Was Theodoric the Great really terrified of thunderstorms? Legend has it that the king of the Ostrogoths took refuge under the huge dome of his future mausoleum from storms – and yet did not escape his predicted fate. A lightning bolt ran through the one meter thick Istrian limestone and killed the potentate. The proof of this legend is the crack in the dome that is still visible today.
However, many also imagine that the 300-tonne monolith received its crack when it was rudely placed on the two-story building made of blocks without mortar. The mausoleum and its riddles spark all kinds of fantasies. A variety of efforts are being made to clarify whether the statics are a cause for concern or whether the subsurface harbors as yet unknown archaeological treasures. The material used distinguishes Theodoric’s grave from other early Christian monuments; The construction method, typical of Syria and Palestine, has long since become alien in Italy in the 6th century. The tomb should be conspicuous in order to perpetuate the fame of its client for all time. That this has been successful from today’s perspective and that Theoderich will live on for a long time as the legendary figure Dietrich von Bern.
The successors of the Ostrogoth monarch wanted to erase all memories of him, the Arian “heretic” who did not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. Part of this “damnatio memoriae” was that the three-aisled basilica of St. Martin built by Theodoric was renamed San Apollinare Nuovo. Such moves, however, were useless. In the one and a half centuries, in which Ravenna was first the capital of the declining Roman Empire, then that of the Gothic kingdom and finally the center of Byzantine power, an astonishing continuity was maintained in sacred architecture and in the visual arts. This is particularly evident in the outstanding art of mosaics.
In the dome of the Neonian Baptistery, also known as the “Baptistery of the Orthodox”, the “orthodox” Catholics, the baptism of Jesus by John is depicted on a round mosaic. Jesus stands in the water with clearly recognizable masculinity. A dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit and thus a reference to the divine Trinity from the Roman Catholic doctrine, hovers over the scene from Roman times. All of this appears on the dome mosaic of the Arian Baptistery, a few hundred meters further, from the Gothic era. The personification of the Jordan River can be discovered on the two mosaics and is occasionally interpreted as a pagan river god.
The largest of the many basilicas is located outside of Ravenna in a wide, unattractive plain. San Apollinare in Classe is dominated by a mosaic that fills the entire apse and has an impressive luminosity with its strong green and blue tones – Christ as the good shepherd with the believers depicted as sheep. In the bright church, the additional lighting system sometimes seems superfluous.
In the city, the sights crowd into a small space. Sometimes you have to wait for access to the 5th century tomb of Empress Galla Placidia, as too many visitors can mean too much humidity and thus damage to the mosaic stones and their adhesion to the walls. You can spend the waiting time next door in San Vitale. In the apse of this Byzantine central dome building, a guide will certainly explain the representations of Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora. “If the light is not born here, it can develop freely”, this (freely translated) saying from a wall of the St. Andrew’s Chapel, the former house chapel of the Archbishop’s Palace, describes the characteristic of the mosaics of Ravenna: lush colors and strong Light.