Ravenna and Its Early Mosaics

Ravenna is a magnificent city in Italy, full of historical buildings and important work of arts (mosaics) in early Christian period.

It’s very easy to reach Ravenna. If you landed in Bologna Airport, you can take bus to Bologna Centrale and within 30 minutes you will reach Ravenna Centrale (train station).

The first stop, not far from the train station is the mesmerizing Battistero Degli Ariani. It is the Baptistery dedicated to the Arian worship. You may need to google the differences between Arian and Orthodox or Catholicism.

Battistero Degli Ariani
The mosaic of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist

The incredible mosaic inside the Arian Baptistery is the mosaic of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist in River Jordan. Do you see the personification of River Jordan as an old man? I think that is marvelous!

The Baptism scene is surrounded by the Twelve Apostles. I was in awe for seeing this mosaic as my first mosaic sighting in Ravenna!

The second fantastic building that we visited is Mausoleo di Galla Placidia.

Mausoleo di Galla Placidia

This is a mausoleum of Galla Placidia. Although Galla Placidia was not buried here, she built this magnificent monument. She probably built it as a Chapel to pray and in a later date probably dedicated the place as mausoleum for her husband.

Galla Placidia is a daughter of a Roman Emperor, the wife of a Roman Emperor and later becomes the mother of a Roman Emperor. She is the daughter of Theodosius I, the wife of Constantius III, and the mother of Valentinian. She sounded to have a grande life!

A Cross at the dome ceiling surrounded with stars
Beautiful mosaic at Mausoleo di Galla Placidia

The mausoleum is decorated with impressive mosaics. They are truly the work of arts of early Christian.

The early Christian image of Jesus as Good Shepherd

The mausoleum also has a sarcophagus which is believed to be assigned to Galla Placidia husband, Constantius III.

Mosaic at Mausoleo di Galla Placidia
Sarcophagus with early symbol of Jesus: Chi-Rho Alpha and Omega
Beautiful carving on sarcophagus at Mausoleum Galla Placidia

It is a must to visit place when you are in Ravenna. The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is one of UNESCO World Heritages.

Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
Entrance to Mausoleum of Gala Placidia

The third impressive building that we visited is Basilica di San Vitale. It is literaly just a stone throw away from Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.

Basilica di San Vitale
Basilica di San Vitale

There are also fantastic mosaics at the Basilica di San Vitale. At the following picture, the top mosaic depicts Bishop of Ecclesius presenting the Church (of San Vitale) to Jesus and his Angels. San Vitale is also present in this mosaic (the figure on the very left).

Bishop Ecclesius and San Vitale present the Church to Jesus
Bishop Ecclesius and San Vitale present the Church to Jesus

At the left side, there is also a famous mosaic of Emperor Justinian (the central figure) with Bishop Maximian (or Maximianus in Latin), the Bishop of Ravenna in the sixth century.

Emperor Justinian I and Bishop Maximian
Impressive Basilica di San Vitale

The Basilica itself has an impressive architecture. We can still see some paintings (al frescoe) inside the Basilica.

Paintings at one of the domes of Basilica di San Vitale

The mosaic below depicts the scene where Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac.

Isaac Sacrifice mosaic

There are also mosaic of the Apostles, listing beautifully in round shape mosaics along the arch.

Mosaic of the Apostles and Jesus (at the top)
Mosaic of Apostles on the arch

Everywhere you look there are mosaics beautifully decorated the Church.

Beautiful ceiling mosaics with Lamb of God in the centre
Fantastic mosaics at Basilica di San Vitale

You are in awe looking up seeing these magnificent mosaics.

Byzantine mosaics and Basilica di San Vitale

Abel and Melchisedec are represented in the mosaic.

Abel and Melchisedec
Empress Theodora (Justinian’s wife)
The exact location of Empress Theodora mosaic

Before we continued our mosaics-seeking travel, we stopped at the city centre and enjoyed our Italian lunch. Please also try the Italian gelato in the main square, the they are delicious!

Italian lunch in Ravenna
Real Italian gelato
Ravenna main square

The fourth place to visit is Battistero Neoniano.

Battistero Neoniano
The Baptistery of Bishop Neon

In this Baptistery of Bishop Neon, there is one huge impressive mosaic of Jesus baptized by John the Baptist.

Baptism scene
Jesus Baptized by John The Baptist

The mosaic depicts the scene of John the Baptist baptized Jesus in River Jordan. There is also the personification of River Jordan as a man (can you spot it on the mosaic?)

Can you spot River Jordan in the mosaic?

There is also The Holy Spirit (as a dove) in the mosaic. There are 12 apostles surrounding the Baptism scene.

One of the altars at Battistero Neoniano

The Baptistery of Neon is also called the Orthodox Baptistery, to differentiate it from the Arian Baptistery (our first place of visit).

The Orthodox Baptistery

The mosaics at Baptistery of Neon dates back to end of fifth century, although the building was constructed at the end of the fourth century or the beginning of the fifth century.

Impressive octagonal Baptistery
The floor of the Baptistery of Neon
Beautiful interior design of the Baptistery

The fifth place that we visited is Museo Arcivescovile di Ravenna. There is a fantastic mosaic to see inside this Museum. It is the mosaic of Jesus stepped on lion and snake, or the mosaic of “Christ treading on the beasts”.

Christ treading on the beasts

The mosaic is located in the Chapel of Sant’Andrea or Archiepiscopal Chapel.

St Andrew’s Chapel, Ravenna
Mosaic of Jesus stepped on lion and snake

The mosaic is also the example of Early Christian art, probably dated to the fifth century AD.

Mosaic at the Archiepiscopal Chapel
Mosaic at the Archiepiscopal Chapel

There are also beautiful mosaic of four of the Evangelists.

Mosaic of the Apostles on the arch
Can anyone translate the writing?
Beautiful mosaic of birds on the ceilings

On the National Museum, you can also find Late Roman tombstone and some early Christian tombstones.

Late Roman and Early Christian tombstones

Please have a look at this early Christian tomb (sarcofagus), isn’t it marvelous to see early Christian art (circa 6th century) depicted in a sarcofagus ?

Early Christian sarcofagus circa sixth century
Easter Calendar for the sixth century
Easter calendar from marble (circa sixth century)
Early Christian reading desk (late sixth century)
Throne of Bishop Maximian (circa sixth century) made from ivory
From Museo Arcivescovile di Ravenna

The sixth place or the last place that we visited while we were in Ravenna is Basilica di Sant’Apolinare Nuovo.

Basilica di Sant’Apolinare Nuovo
Basilica di Sant’Apolinare Nuovo

The Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo also housed UNESCO world heritage mosaics.

On the right side, the is a long mosaic depicting the procession of 26 Saints to give presents to Jesus on the throne – Jesus is accompanied by four Angels.

Procession of 26 Saints (including Saint Appolinaris) to meet Jesus
Procession of 26 Saints depicted in the mosaic

The procession starts from the Palace of Theodoric.

The Palace of Theodoric – mosaic

On the left side is the procession of 22 female saints dressed in Byzantine period led by the Three Kings (The Magis) to meet Madonna and baby Jesus.

22 Female Saints mosaic
The Three Kings procession to meet Maria and Baby Jesus

Maria (Madonna) is sitting on the throne and accompanied by four Angels.

22 Female Saints mosaic

The procession starts from the city of Classe with ships.

Ships and the city of Classe

The ceilings are wonderful too.

Ceiling at Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
Mosaic of Justinian

There is also a mosaic of Justinian the Great (probably using the face of Theodoric the Great).

The Basilica was erected by King Theodoric the Great on the first quarter of the sixth century. King Justinian the Great then re-concecrated the Basilica on 561 AD.

The pillars at Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
Inside Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo

Those are all six places we visited in Ravenna. I hope it enlightens your day!

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