The magnificent Ravenna mosaics
Did you know that Italy has the most Unesco World Heritage sites per square mile than any other country in the world? Some of them you already know like historical center of Florence, Rome, Naples and Verona. But have you heard of Ravenna? If yes, you have discovered one of Italy’s best kept secrets. Ravenna is a hidden north Italian gem, one of the least known but most interesting cities in Italy, built around 700 BC most probably by Etruscans, it was once a capital of Western Roman Empire.
Ravenna is one of the “must see” Italian cities for any art or history lover or anybody who appreciates jaw dropping beauty – Byzantine Mosaics, the richest heritage of mosaics in the world. Thousands of small pieces of colored glass, stones, marble, ceramics of different color and even mother of pearl have been put together in magnificent scenes from some 1500 years ago.
There are 8 important buildings including churches in Ravenna built around 5th – 6th centuries that are part of the Unesco World Heritage list. Known for their well preserved mosaics, they are a beautiful example of the outstanding Byzantine art. If you have enough time you can see them all, but if you have just a half day to explore the superb Ravenna mosaics, be sure to visit at least these two. In order to “read” the incredible stories of the mosaics, we suggest to hire a local guide.
Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
Judging from outside you wouldn’t think this building showcase some of the most important Byzantine mosaics in the entire world. Built in early 6th century as a Palatine Church, this Basilica is famed for it’s two side walls of stunning figurative mosaics. The mosaics unfold in three large bands, the upper part contains 26 panels with scenes from the life of Christ as described in the New Testament. The middle band consists of 36 figures of prophets and the lower band contains mosaics that illustrate a magnificent procession of male and female saints. Some historians believe that one of the mosaics contains the first representation of Satan in the history of art.
The Church of San Vitale
Accordingly to Unesco this is one of the most important examples of Byzantine art in Europe. The Most visited Ravenna’s site with it’s glittery gold scenes was my favorite too. Imagine one building that tells you thousands of biblical stories through small pieces of colored glass and gold pieced mosaics. It’s unbelievable how rich this place is, especially the altar area. Marble columns, golden mosaics, saints in elaborate dresses with diamond and pearl jewelry, unbelievable portraits made out of colored rocks. The golden and bright green mosaics combine Roman features with Byzantine elements and reflect political and religious motives.
Ravenna remains the most important site of Byzantine are outside Constantinople (today Istanbul).
If you are amazed by Ravenna mosaics, you have a chance to learn yourself the traditional technics in the City of Mosaics. Ravenna’s Mosaic Art School offers 5 day intensive classes where you can make your own mosaics using the ancient methods and materials. 5 days, 8 hours a day and you will get to take home two of the most special pieces of art, made by you. Prices vary from €590 – €860.
More information here: http://mosaicschool.com/art/
How to get there:
Ravenna is an easy day trip from Venice (2h drive), Bologna (1h drive) or Rimini (50 min drive). Well connected by rail with main lines to Bologna and Rimini. Check http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en for more details on trains.
Would you be interested to visit Ravenna? Let us know in comments below.