Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (Mausoleo di Galla Placidia)
Ravenna is famous for the ornate Byzantine mosaics that cover the interiors of its 6th-century basilicas, but some of the city’s oldest can be found in the mausoleum commissioned by Galla Placidia, the powerful sister of Honorius, Rome’s final emperor. Unassuming on the outside, the mausoleum is home to intricate mosaic decorations dating from more than a century before other Byzantine works in the city, making it an important example of the evolution from the Roman to the Byzantine style.
A visit to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is a highlight of Ravenna walking tours, and taking in the mosaics with the help of a guide is the best way to fully appreciate these singular works of art. Most tours of Ravenna include a stop at the Mausoleo di Galla Placidia along with the Basilicas of San Vitale and Sant'Apollinare Nuovo. Ravenna is a popular day trip from Venice or Bologna, and can be combined with a stop in the nearby city of Ferrara.
Things to know before you go
- Walking tours of Ravenna include stretches outdoors, so dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes.
- The mausoleum is accessible to wheelchair users.
- Photography without flash is allowed inside the mausoleum.
- Art enthusiasts will especially enjoy a tour of Ravenna’s spectacular Byzantine mosaics.
How to get there
The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is located adjacent to the Basilica di San Vitale on Piazza San Vitale in the historic center of Ravenna, a short walk from the train station and the city’s other top attractions.
When to get there
Ravenna is a popular day trip from Bologna and Venice, so try to visit its most important sights in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the tour bus crowds.
The Extraordinary Life of Galla Placidia
Galla Placidia led a dramatic life, marked by kidnappings, tactical marriages, twisted plots, and unsolved murders. From Roman princess, she gradually rose to great power during the decline of the Roman Empire by marrying Ataulf, King of the Visigoths, and acting as regent for 12 years. Galla Placidia died in Rome in AD 450, and is probably buried there, but her official mausoleum is the brick chapel behind Ravenna’s San Vitale Basilica. Three marble sarcophagi inside the mausoleum are reputed to contain the bodies of Galla Placidia, her second husband, and son, but research found that these were placed in the mausoleum in the Middle Ages.
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