Ravenna has an incredibly rich collection of mosaics from the 5th and 6th centuries. The city has eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. Ravenna was an easy train ride from our hub city, Bologna. We did our own walking tour, generally following Rick Steves suggestions.
The Arian Baptistery was built around 526. The mosaic ceiling is a rare survivor. Most Arian art was destroyed when Emperor Justinian and the Nicenes took control of the city in 540. It was interesting to learn how the Arians saw Jesus’ humanity and divinity differently than the way the mainstream of the time did, hence the need for the council at Nicaea and the Nicene Creed. Here’s a link if you’d like to learn more. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arianism
Unlike other art forms, Mosaics do not fade as they age so the colors are as clear and bright as the day they were made. It’s hard to believe they are 1500 years old! Notice the dove spitting divinity on the head of Jesus at his baptism.
Piazza del Popolo was created by the Venetians in the 15th century.
The Neonian Baptistery dates from around the year 400.
The two baptisteries were beautiful but they were only the appetizer. The main dish was the Basilica di San Vitale.
This basilica was built around 540, just after the fall of Rome. It is astonishingly covered with tiny gold and glass mosaics.
Rick Steves’ Ravenna guide says the Viennese artist Gustav Klimt sat right here around 1900 and was inspired by the glint of the light on the gold leaf.
Across the courtyard from the Basilica is the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. Here are the oldest mosaics in Ravenna. 95% of these mosaics are originals. Galla Placidia was the daughter, sister and mother of Roman emperors. She died in Rome around 450 and her body was never returned to Ravenna.
So much detail in such a small space leaves you in awe.
Other sites are also in walking distance through Ravenna’s attractive streets.
This is the tomb of Dante. He was exiled from Florence and spent the rest of his life in Ravenna.
In the garden next door is a mound where Dante’s bones were hidden during WW II.
The Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo was started around 500 as the Palace Church of King Theodoric of the Goths. He decorated it with scenes of himself and his palace amid Christ and the saints. Some of these scenes survive but most are Byzantine, from the mid-500s.
The Baroque altar was added 1000 years later.
I’m afraid my pictures do not do justice to the mosaics of Ravenna. It is definitely worth a trip if your travels take you nearby. They are exquisite.