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The ancient churches of Ravenna

le chiese antiche di Ravenna
les églises anciennes de Ravenne

 

Ravenna is 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 art.

 

Introduction
Main Basilicas and Mosaics
Mausoleums
Battisteros
More Churches and Campaniles
Other Monuments

 

Introduction

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.

 

San Vitale

 

Main Basilicas and Mosaics

S. VITALE
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).

 

 

Mausoleums

MAUSOLEO DI GALLA PLACIDIA
Monument (5th, ca 426-450), mosaics (5th), sarcophagi.

MAUSOLEO DI TEODORICO
Monument (6th, ca 520), sarcophagus.

 

 

Battisteros

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.

S. FRANCESCO
Basilica (5th), campanile (11th), apse, crypt (10th), floor-mosaics, sarcophagus (5th).

S. GIOVANNI EVANGELISTA
Basilica (5th), campanile (10th), apse, floor-mosaics (13th).

S. GIOVANNI BAPTISTA
Campanile (9th).

SS. GIOVANNI E PAOLO
Campanile (9th-10th).

S. MARIA MAGGIORE
Campanile (9th-10th).

SPIRITO SANTO
Basilica, apse (5th-6th).



Other Monuments

CAPELLA ARCIVESCOVILE (S. ANDREA)
Chapel (5th, ca 495), mosaics.

MUSEO ARCIVESCOVADO
Cathedra (6th), sculptures, mosaics.

MUSEO NAZIONALE
Sculptures, sarcophages.

DOMUS TAPPETI
Mosaics (4th-6th).

PALAZZO DI TEODORICO
Facade (7th-8th).

MEDIEVAL TOWERS
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.

 

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