ancient churches of Ravenna
antiche di Ravenna
les églises anciennes de Ravenne
the European capital of byzantine architecture and mosaic art. The
small Italian town, located on the banks of the Adriatic Sea near
Rimini in the region Emilia-Romagna, conserves a wealth of early
Byzantine churches and monuments inside its walls. Most buildings
date back to the glory age of Ravenna, the 5th and 6th centuries
A.D., when Ravenna was the capital of the Western Roman Empire.
About fifteen monuments from this period can still be visited: columned
basilicas, elegant campaniles, baptisteries and mausoleums, brilliantly
decorated by famous mosaics. See also the page about Byzantine
Main Basilicas and Mosaics
Churches and Campaniles
During the 5th and
6th centuries, Ravenna was the most important city in the mighty
Byzantine world only after Byzantium
(current Istanbul). The souvenirs from this period are the
attraction of the nowadays small town. The monuments show a clear
Byzantine style, influenced by the orient, but at the same time
they stay close to the Western building styles common under the
Romans, in particular the basilicas and the mausoleums. Most churches
are built on a basilica ground plan, with columned naves and an
eastern apse often trapezoidal at the exterior. Other sanctuaries
were built on a central plan, such as the two lovely baptisteries
which were located next to the Orthodox and Arian Cathedrals of
the town, as well as the marvellous S. Vitale church, of
which the original architecture was inspired by the Holy Sepulchre
in Jerusalem. The mosaics decorating the walls and apses
of the most famous churches are celebrated masterpieces in art history.
The green and golden mosaics are Byzantine artworks showing various
religious scenes. The quality and movement in the scenes is superior
to their counterparts in the churches of Rome,
where the mosaics from the same period are more classical in style.
The best mosaics in town can be found in the S. Vitale
and S.Apollinare Nuovo basilicas and in the baptisteries.
These churches also hold other treasures, such as byzantine capitals
and sarcophagi with sculptures. The tall round campaniles, built
along the churches between the 9th and 11th centuries, are a truly
remarkable Romanesque feature and typical for Ravenna. Other than
that, the middle ages have left few monuments, as Ravenna had lost
its power to Venice in that period. Nowadays, the most important
monuments of the town are classified UNESCO world heritage sites
and in good shape for tourism. A two or three day stay is to be
enjoyed as a unique journey across wonderful highlights from the
Byzantine period. Do not forget to visit Classe, the former
roman harbour of the town at 6 km from the centre, where the great
basilica of S.Apollinare in Classe is located.
Main Basilicas and Mosaics
Rotunda (6th, ca 526-547), ambulatory, apse, narthex, mosaics (6th).
S. APOLLINARE NUOVU
Basilica (5th-6th), campanile (10th), mosaics (5th-6th).
S. APOLLINARE IN CLASSE
Basilica (6th, 535-549), campanile (10th-11th), apse, crypt, mosaics
(6th), ciborium, sarcophagi (5th-8th).
MAUSOLEO DI GALLA PLACIDIA
Monument (5th, ca 426-450), mosaics (5th), sarcophagi.
MAUSOLEO DI TEODORICO
Monument (6th, ca 520), sarcophagus.
BATTISTERO NEONIANO (DEGLI ORTODOSSI)
Rotunda (5th, early 5th and ca 450-475), mosaics, sculptures.
BATTISTERO DEGLI ARIANI
Rotunda (5th-6th, ca 493-526), mosaics.
More Churches and Campamiles
DUOMO (BASILICA URSIANA)
Campanile (10th-11th), crypt, sarcophagi, capitals, ambo (6th).
S. AGATA MAGGIORE
Basilica (5th-6th), campanile (16th), sarcophagus.
Basilica (5th), campanile (11th), apse, crypt (10th), floor-mosaics,
S. GIOVANNI EVANGELISTA
Basilica (5th), campanile (10th), apse, floor-mosaics (13th).
S. GIOVANNI BAPTISTA
SS. GIOVANNI E PAOLO
S. MARIA MAGGIORE
Basilica, apse (5th-6th).
CAPELLA ARCIVESCOVILE (S. ANDREA)
Chapel (5th, ca 495), mosaics.
Cathedra (6th), sculptures, mosaics.
PALAZZO DI TEODORICO
Torre Civica (or Pubblica/Communale, 12th) and a former church tower.
Monuments marked by a star are UNESCO World heritage sites.
Pictures: Eduard, 2008. For any comments or
additions feel free to contact me.