This guided tour includes the main monuments without entrance fees for students and for this reason it is mainly addressed to schools of all types and levels: it will be a very instructive and funny tour, through the history and the carachters who have made Ravenna famous all around the world during the 5th and 6th century a.d. In the past, Ravenna has been capital for three times, also thanks to its particular geographical position, and this explains the presence of many roman and byzantine treasures that make it one of the most beautiful art heritage cities.
The monuments that you will find on this tour are:
- The Arian Baptistery and the Mausoleum of Theodorico, dated end-5th/beginning-6th century when Ravenna, after the fall of the Roman Empire, was conquered by the Goths and became their capital. An interlude that lasted for 33 years, before Ravenna was recaptured by the romans, on order of the oriental Emperor Giustiniano. The Mausoleum of Theodorico, king of the Goths, is located inside a beautiful park that accentuate all its uniqueness: you will be able to closely observe the many blocks made of Istria’s stone, embedded without mortar, and the massive monolith weighing approximately 400 tons (the only monolith in history that has been used as a dome). Together with the 12 modillions surrounding the wonderful dome we will be able to glimpse a royal crown or a soldier’s helmet.
- The Church of San Giovanni Evangelista, commissioned at the beginning of the 5th century by the Roman empress Galla Placidia. In fact this Church was born right from an ex voto by the same empress, who went back to Ravenna from Costantinopoli during a very dangerous shipwreck. You can clearly notice that all the details of this episode are depicted on the entrance portal, where you can see the empress prostrated at the feet of the Saint, the keeper of her intimate salvation prayer, hoping to come back safe and sound to Ravenna with her son Valentiniano, after the horrible shipwreck that struck them.
- The “centerpiece” is surely represented by the wonderful byzantine basilica dedicated to the first bishop of Ravenna, Sant’Apollinare in Classe, also the city’s patron saint (23rd of July). Apollinare, who came to Rome from Antioquia, will spread (together with the apostle Peter) the Christian cult in this still partly pagan area. His cult spread quickly already since the high Middle Ages and he is considered the national Saint of the western byzantine domination. This wonderful basilica dates back to the first half of the 6th century and it was built just on the place where the Saint was martyred after horrible persecutions. It is located in Classe, about 5 km from Ravenna, where you can also find an ancient roman port. You can find depictions of this Saint also in the Chartres cathedral, in Alsace and in Florence. Next to the depiction of the Saint, who is the guardian of this basilica, the recurring theme chosen by the byzantines to symbolize their political and spiritual power is the Transfiguration of Jesus on the Mount Tabor, an exeptional event of Christ’s life. This really is a very beautiful mosaic work.
- In the end I must talk about the Ancient Port, one of the most important stopovers during the roman and byzantine ages, that was recently unhearted after many years of excavations, enriching this territory with other important witnesses, like part of a cobbled road, the foundation of the ancient port warehouse, mosaic works along with jewels, coins and amphorae. Today, all these findings are exposed in the recently inaugurated museum “Classis”, another exceptionally important site that tells the history of Ravenna from its origins to the Early Middle Ages.
Let’s enjoy these totally free wonders, that allow us to take a real trip back in time and better comprehend also our present.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE GUIDED TOUR
This could be a full-day itinerary (if there’s any time left over we could also add the tomb of Dante and the crypt of San Francesco to our guided tour) or an half-day itinerary, by selecting only a few monuments between the ones described above.
Meeting point: Piazza del Popolo
Free entrance to museums
Guided tour for schoolchildren/little groups/individual tourists