Mosaics of Ravenna Walking Tour in Pictures.

Ravenna is one of the most historical cities in Northern Italy, thanks to its spectacular 5th- 6th-century monuments that still stands to date with eye-catching mosaics. Known as the city of Mosaics, Ravenna was once the western capital of the late Roman Empire and is now home to the eight UNESCO World Heritage sites.

A day trip to Ravenna is very interesting and one that involves a lot of video taking, photography and amusement. You’ll be marveled beyond imagination by the ancient art and history and how people were able to create such magnificent portraits from patterns of tiles and stones. Some of the monuments and churches remain fresh and undisturbed and one can easily feel the passage of time with the nostalgic mode autographed on the early Christian arts and symbols.

If you’re planning a trip to Italy, you really can’t afford to miss a tour to Ravenna. Even if you’re daring enough, your conscience won’t allow you to pass the scenic beauty of museums, historic centers, ancient tombs, etc. Here are some of the must-visit Mosaic centers of Ravenna. Read on to get started.

Basilica di San Vitale.

This is one of the most popular among the eight UNESCO sites. The beauty of its surrounding attracts the curious mind and a step into the building proves more than you can possibly imagine. Here, you get to see everything in all the aspects of the building; from the high-walls & floors, arches to the ceilings. Anywhere you stand you’ll have a perfect shot of colorful mosaics. 

San Vitale’s mosaics include biblical art from the Old Testament such as Abraham & the Sacrifice of Isaac, the story of Moses and the burning bush, etc. On the side walls are mosaics of the four main disciples: Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John- under their respective symbols; angle, lion, ox, and eagle. 

The Byzantine mosaics are the largest and well-preserved ancient marvels you can find in Basilica di San Vitale. The collection of these mosaics are second only to those found in Constantinople- so if you can’t be in Turkey to witness the same, it’s better to take more time here. Apart from mosaics and fabulous paintings, early Christian art can also be spotted on the apse and on different sections of the archway. 

Galla Placidia Mausoleum

According to UNESCO, this is the best and well preserved of all the mosaic monuments in Ravenna. This Mausoleum was initially a martyrium rather than a tomb and is believed to have been used as a resting place for the daughter of Roman Empire Theodosius I, Galla Placidia. 

The inside structure of this monument offers an exquisite view. The upper parts of the walls and domes are furnished with Roman mosaics on a blue ground augmented with star and floral motifs. The lower parts, on the other hand, are decorated with ancient plaquettes of yellow marble. Most decorations in the building are symbolic meaning you might need a guide to understand some portraits. 

Light enters the monument via the tiny windows coated with thin layers of alabaster. From the symbolic crosses to doves & animals, fixed on the walls; one can clearly appreciate the painstaking care and prowess of the early architectures.

Baptistery of Neon

This monument was built and completed towards the end of the 5th century. It’s an octagonal tower with its eight sides symbolizing the seven days of the week and the 8th one represents the day of Resurrection.

Here you’ll see a variety of mosaics; those in the dome shows the Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist. The surrounding mosaics depict the 12 disciples in a fluid style borrowed from the pagan Greek art. What looks like a collection of lovely tiles and bright tiny glasses, on close inspection, transform into an arresting image of Jesus or a choir of angles. 

The Baptistery of Neon is regarded by historians as the most relevant and complete example of the early Christian baptistery. 

The above monuments are just but a few of the eight UNESCO sites that attract people from all corners across the world. Most drawings and mosaic portraits in the churches and monuments are inspired by the real and ancient Christian life. A good history of dates and events have also been preserved to accompany vivid pictures and images. 

History And Art Tour Of Ravenna (Half Day Itinerary)

Welcome to Ravenna, a quaint town that lies in the Italian province of Emilia Romagna. This city, known as the mosaic capital of the world, has more than enough to offer to a curious traveller. If you are an art or a history lover, this is the place to be. This town with its rich heritage was the capital of Western Roman Empire for three centuries. It is home to the famous Italian Poet Dante, who spent the last years of his life here. You can see the churches and baptisteries adorned with beautiful mosaics, which is the work of skilled craftsmen that gave their best to beautify this town. Eight of the world’s UNESCO heritage sites are housed here. The historic Christian monuments, its proximity to Adriatic Riviera, the food and the art make it a place worth visiting once and again.
The city is very popular with tourists who are looking for a day excursion from other towns of the country such as Venice, Bologna and Rome.

Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

Mausoleum di Galla Placida

On this tour, we will visit four of the significant Christian monuments in the city of Ravenna. It will take us back in time to as early as the 5th century. We will begin the tour of this ancient and artistic city with a visit to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. With it, enter the Roman Empire in the 5th century. We will also visit Basilica  of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Basilica of San Vitale and visit Basilica of Saint Francis and Tomb of Dante Alighieri. We will end our tour with a visit to Piazza del Popolo, the city’s town hall.

Mausoleum of Galla Placidia: Galla Placidia was a talented and a
religious woman who was the daughter of Emperor Theodocius I the Great. Her father was the ruler of both the western and eastern empires. Galla Placidia lived from AD 392 to AD 450 and ruled the city of Ravenna.

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia was erected by Galla during her reign in Ravenna along with her other grand building projects in Rome, Jerusalem and Ravenna. It was constructed to bury the empress and other noble family members’ remains. The structure is known for the most impressive mosaics in the entire city. The UNESCO documents list these mosaics as artistically perfect as compared to the others in the town. The mausoleum is situated behind the Basilica de San Vitale and is approximately 100 years older than the Basilica. From outside, the building looks small and simple. However, the interiors are entirely covered in mosaic artwork, which can be dated back to the 5th century. The entry to the building is through the corridors that lead to National Museum. One batch of visitors is allowed to stay for five minutes. You can quickly go for the next five minutes viewing on a non-rush day.

Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo

Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo: Next we go to see the Basilica of
Sant’Apollinare Nuovo to explore the Theodoric empire in the 5-6th centuries.
It was built as a Palatine church of Arian religion next to the palace of
Theodoric who lived from AD 493 to AD 526. Here you can admire the Byzantine wall mosaics and see how those evolved in style, ideology and iconography. The mosaics depict tales of Jesus and showcase the crucial areas in the historic city of Ravenna. You can see the original mosaic work that illustrates the New Testament in the 26 scenes from the Theodoric empire. You can see the two side pilasters and mullioned windows adorning the façade of the Basilica. The original four-sided porch was renovated with a marble porch in the 16th century. Towards the right of the façade lies a cylindrical structure that dates back to the 9th century.

Basilica of San Vitale

Basilica di San Vitale

Basilica of San Vitale: It is one of the most important examples of
Christian art in the entire country. The church is not architecturally a
basilica. But this honourable title was given to it by the Roman Catholic
Church; it is a title bestowed to buildings of significant historical and
religious significance. It was started by Bishop Ecclesius and completed in AD 548 by Archbishop Maximian. The mosaics in the Basilica represent the
ideological and religious beliefs of the empire of Justinian who reigned from
527 to 565. These are the best preserved Byzantine mosaics outside
Constantinople. Once you enter the octagonal Basilica, you will be mesmerised by the width and elevation of the spaces and the beautiful frescoes of the cupola that were painted by the Bolognese painters. The structure is made of marble with the dome made of terra-cotta, which lies on eight pilasters. You can see the merger of eastern and western art, which represents the oriental art influence. It was marked as a UNESCO world heritage site in the year 1996.

Basilica of Saint Francis and Tomb of Dante Alighieri: We now visit the Italian poet’s area where we pay homage and discover Italians love for him. We also go back in history and learn how his remains were stolen to be kept in Ravenna.
The original church was built in AD 450 by Bishop Neone and almost replaced in 9th  century by a more massive structure. From the ground plan, it looks like a smaller version of Old St. Peters in Rome. This is Dante’s last church and is the place where Dante’s funeral took place in the year 1321. The church was again renovated in the 17th and 18th century.

We conclude the historic tour with a visit to the city’s town hall square Piazza del Popolo. It was built by Venetians and has a resemblance to St. Mark’s Square in Venice. Here you can enjoy some ice cream, have a hot cup of coffee or dine at any of the restaurants. You can roam around the Piazza and also visit the many mosaic workshops that sell mosaic art pieces.

There is no better way to explore the city than this guided tour that shares the secrets and treasures of Ravenna’s with the travellers. The duration of this walking tour is approximately three hours. Please ensure to
wear suitable clothing as you are going to visit places of worship. Also, it
would be advisable to wear comfortable footwear to ease your walking while you peek into the historical past of the city.

Ravenna a marvel of the ancient world

A cultural trip to Ravenna should definitely include a visit to the early Christian monuments and mosaics realized among the 5th and the 8th century.

Eight buildings – the Neonian Baptistery, the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, the Arian Baptistery, the Mausoleum of Theodoric, the Church of San Vitale, the Archiepiscopal Chapel and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia – are now inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List for a unique treasure of mosaic art enriches their interiors and show how religion could influence artistic world.

Mausoleum di Galla Placida
Mausoleum of Galla Placida – Source

 The Mosaics Of Ravenna

It has been made such an abundant use of this artistic technique, that Ravenna is commonly known as the “city of mosaic”.

The mosaic art in Ravenna have a clear influence from the Byzantine culture and the Christianity. Then great works can be seen at the Basilica di San Vitale, such as an outstanding portrait of Emperor Justinian and a portrait of Jesus Christ in the Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo.

Moreover, every year you can take part to the night festival Mosaico di Notte – which entertains visitors with guided tours of buildings concealing mosaics and performances of poets and musicians – and to the International Mosaic Festival, which promotes contemporary mosaic works.

 The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

One of the most important examples of Paleochristian architecture in Ravenna is the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, which honours the memory of the Empress who lived at the time when the city was the Western Roman Empire capital. The monument is situated on the backyard of the Basilica di San Vitale, an important Paleochristian and Byzantine church famous for its great mosaics.

Once you reach Via San Vitale, turn on Via degli Ariani and you will find a simple building made of bricks. At first glance you wouldn’t realize why it is a must-see attraction in Ravenna, but after you enter the small door, you will be surprised by the stunning view of the majestic mosaics decorating the inside walls.

Your attention will be soon caught by the wonderful blue sky mosaic full of thousands stars on the vault. Then you will notice the impressive mosaic of the Good Shepherd framed by an arch. On the other walls you can see other symbols of Christianity as a saint – probably Saint Lawrence who was martyred for its faith – the four gospels and the apostles pictured in mosaics. The chapel has three niches which host the sarcophagi of Constantius III, Valentinian III and a Roman noble man.

Built in 430 AD to be an oratory, Galla Placidia was never buried there but the Masousoleum was rightly entitled to Empress who commissioned the construction. During the reign of Galla Placidia, Ravenna become an important place and often represented religion through art. That is evident in the themes of the mosaics that you can see if you do a cultural and artistic tour in Ravenna.

Many important personalities such as Boccaccio, Gustav Klimt and Cole Porter fell in love with this extraordinary city of Emilia Romagna by the Adriatic Sea.

Come and see why during your holidays in Ravenna – European Cultural Capital to be in 2019!