Ravenna – The City of Mosaics
(2 min read)
Remember the beauty of Venice and Florence? Now, imagine something that lies right in between them. Yes, you are right! We’re talking about Ravenna – the magnificent city in Italy, that is also known as the City of Mosaics.
Apart from being the burial place of Danthe and former home to Byron, Ravenna is today best known for being a proud possessor of eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s home to impressive Byzantine mosaics and attracts thousands of mosaic enthusiasts and art lovers. Here we combined a few reasons why you should include this stunning city in your must-see bucket list.
Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
According to tradition, the Mausoleum was built to hold the tomb of Galla Placidia, the daughter of Emperor Theodosius I (379-395). Described by UNESCO experts as the best preserved of all mosaic monuments and one of the most artistically perfect, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is a home to unique and powerful mosaics. The most famous and important one perhaps is the early depiction of Christ as the Good Shepherd, located on the entrance on the north side.
Even if nothing remains of the decorations that once covered the walls, the dome of the Arian Baptistery still contains a beautifully restored mosaic depicting the baptism of Christ and the Twelve Apostles. While admiring the mosaic artwork, you’ll find a lot of unique touches in the Arian version and notice that the figures are a lot simpler.
Here comes the smallest but definitely not least interesting of the mosaic sites of Ravenna. The Archiepiscopal Chapel dating back to the 6th century is the only existing archiepiscopal chapel of the early Christian era that has been preserved intact to the present day. The cross-shaped chapel is preceded by a small barrel-vaulted rectangular vestibule, entirely covered with marble in its lower part and decorated with mosaics at the top.
Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
Apart from being a wonderful work of art and a place where you can admire the magnificent mosaic decoration documenting the stylistic, iconographical and ideological evolution of Byzantine wall mosaics from the era of Theodoric to that of Justinian, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo is also full of history. It is known as the most important evidence of the encounter between Arian and Catholic worship.
Basilica of San Vitale
While admiring the great basilica with spectacular architecture, the symbolism of the mosaic artwork here is very significant. Upon entering, the eyes are captured by the elevation and width of spaces, by the stunning mosaic decorations of the apse and by the baroque frescoes of the cupola. It is probably due to this upward thrust that a small and lesser-known treasure often goes unnoticed: a labyrinth is represented on the floor of the presbytery. In the early years of Christianity, mazes were often the symbol of sin and of a possible purification. Finding the way out of the maze thus represented an act of rebirth.
There is so much more to discover and admire in the gorgeous city of mosaics. Our list and stories could go on forever. And anyone who is a lover of contemporary mosaic art would surely add Ravenna to their bucket list. And just like the blogger, traveler and art lover Joanne Shurvell says – “Ravenna is simply an art and history lover’s dream”.
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