Basilica of San Vitale (Basilica di San Vitale)
The rather plain brick exterior of the octagonal Basilica di San Vitale belies the sumptuous 6th-century mosaics covering the apse and choir within, executed by unknown master craftsmen over many years and said one of the finest examples of Byzantine art in the world. Detailed Biblical scenes contrast with depictions of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, surrounded by stylized floral motifs in green, red, and gold. A visit to the basilica to take in its extraordinary mosaics is a must during any visit to Ravenna; join a guided tour to best appreciate these uniquely important works of Byzantine art along with other top attractions like the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the Basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, and Dante’s Tomb. Ravenna is an easy 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, as well as visits inside the city’s historic churches. Dress for the weather, keeping in mind that you need to cover your shoulders and knees to enter the basilica.
- The basilica is accessible to wheelchair users.
- The mosaics are high above on church ceiling and upper walls, so it’s a good idea to bring small binoculars if you want to take in the details.
- Ravenna’s 5th- and 6th-century mosaics are particularly interesting when compared to later mosaic works covering St. Mark’s Basilica in nearby Venice.
How to get there
The San Vitale Basilica is located on Piazza San Vitale in the historic center of Ravenna, a quick walk from the train station and near the city’s other top attractions.
When to get there
Ravenna is a popular day trip from Bologna and Venice, and its most important sights are best visited in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the tour bus crowds.
Ravenna, The Capital?
During the latter days of the Western Roman Empire, Ravenna was conquered by the Byzantine emperor Justinian and made capital under his rule from AD 527 to 565. During his reign, a number of some of the earliest Christian churches in Italy were built in the city, and ornately decorated with mosaic works that represent the bridge between the earlier, more natural Roman style and the severe yet spiritual Byzantine style.
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