Wednesday 19th October
We were going to give Ravenna a miss, never heard of it before but we’ve since found out that it is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Monuments and we are so glad we visited.
I’d found a sosta in the heart of the city which was free, the rating wasn’t great but we were only stopping for a quick look around.
The parking was right next to the City walls but this isn’t where the action is, looking at the map it was all happening behind us, the walls now enclose a park.
Walking into town we start seeing the bell towers, I just love the look of them.
Another bell tower with a slight lean to it.
Ravenna became the capital of the Western Roman world in about 402. Emperor Horonius became alarmed by northern invaders so the court was moved here because it was easy to defend and was close to the port of Classis, which at the time was the largest naval base on the Adriatic. Eventually the Goths invaded in 476 but being Christian they continued to embellish the city. By the end of the eight century the glory years were over and the Adriatic Sea had begun to recede, the city is now joined to the sea by an 11km long canal.
We found the tourist office, took a map and went in search of our first treasure.
This is the ceiling dome of Battistero Degli Ortodossi. The building was originally a Roman baths which was easily converted into a baptismal chamber. Every square inch of the ceiling is covered in mosaics dating from the 4th and 5th century. Central is Christ being baptised by John with the apostles depicted around the edge.
A detail from lower down showing the craftsmanship.
And here is the bath itself with a small alter in the apse beyond. The whole effect was breathtaking.
Next door to the Baptistry was the Museo Arcivescovile which was unfortunately a heavily guarded no photo zone so Mr sneaky camera man only managed to get one shot. This is the ivory throne of Maximillian. The museum contained lots of Roman artefacts, the pierced marble screens were amazing.
Another bell tower, this is attached to the Cappella di San Andrea. The main cathedral was damaged by an earthquake in 1733 but the tower and baptistry adjoining were spared. It must be remembered that Ravenna was badly damaged during the Second World War and it is difficult to say whether everything we saw today is original or has been extensively repaired.
The outside of the Cappella with the Baptistry to the right.
After seeing the inside of the Baptistry the Cappella was a bit disappointing other than the Bishops marble throne.
It’s beer break time. We were told that Ravenna was very untouristy, life just goes on without taking too much notice of them. That was great due to the almost complete lack of tourist tat shops but the bars certainly hadn’t been told. This is about a pint of light beer next to a red bitter beer, both very good but €6 each?? The meal that went with them was a bit nondescript as well, pizza and spaghetti, OK but nothing special.
While we are sitting having lunch it started raining but that doesn’t stop the cyclists. We’ve seen dozens struggling to control an umbrella whilst trying to steer, they get a lot of practise since when it isn’t raining they will be texting.
Our next target is the Basilica di San Vitale, I’m glad we paused for a break before going in.
The first view you get is the stunning mosaic flooring and you’re allowed to walk on it.
And then you look up and see the mosaics. Everything you can see here is covered in mosaic which are considered to be one of the last great works of art of the ancient world.
And looking back you see the painted walls through the mosaic covered arches with arches behind the arches.
Looking up at the dome of the Basilica. The octagonal church began in 525ad is itself a fine example of the sophisticated architecture of it’s age
At the rear of the Basilica is the Mausoleo di Galla Placidia, a small chapel holding three sarcophagus and again richly decorated on every surface.
A close up of one of the arches. When we started we bought a multi ticket costing €9.50 each which enables you to visit four of the UNESCO World Heritage sites plus the Museum. Two of the UNESCO monuments are free to visit anyway but aiming to get our full moneys worth we headed off to our final paid for destination.
The Basilica di San Apollinare Nuovo, we were lucky, a large group of tourists were just leaving.
Along one side we have all the female saints again all in mosaics.
And the male Saints cover the opposing wall..
And a detail from part of the frieze. It’s incredible to think that this is 1400 years old and made up of little bits of glass and ceramic.
We’ve got one more place to visit which is the Battistero Degli Ariani. Only the mosaic on the ceiling remains but it is complete and beautiful. Again Christ is shown being baptised by John.
A detail of one Apostles on the ceiling.
If you ever get the chance to visit Ravenna then please do. I’ve had to trim down the number of photos to a bare minimum from the hundreds that I took so you’re only getting a very small idea of what is here. As you know we’ve been to a few churches and religious monuments and thought we’d seen the best, today I feel that we really have.