The Basilica of San Vitale is one of the most important monuments of Early Christian art in Italy, especially for the splendour of its mosaics. Founded by Julianus Argentarius and commissioned by Bishop Ecclesius, the octagonal church was consecrated by Archbishop Maximian in 548.
The influence of oriental art, a typical feature of Ravenna buildings, plays a dominant role both for the architecture of the basilica, where elements of Eastern art merge with Western tradition, and for its mosaic decoration, that expresses the ideology and religious beliefs of the Justinian era. The typical division into nave and two aisles is replaced here by a central, octagonal plan, topped by a cupola that rests on eight pilasters and arches. The cupola and the niches were frescoed in 1780 by Bolognese painters Barozzi and Gandolfi and Guarana from Veneto.
On entering the Basilica of San Vitale, the eyes are captured by the elevation and width of spaces, by the stunning mosaic decorations of the apse and by the baroque frescoes of the cupola. It is probably due to this upward thrust that a small and lesser-known treasure often goes unnoticed: a labyrinth is represented on the floor of the presbytery, right in front of the altar. Small arrows start at the centre of the labyrinth and lead towards the centre of the basilica, going through a winding path. In the early years of Christianity, mazes were often the symbol of sin and of a possible purification. Finding the way out of the maze thus represented an act of rebirth. Once followed the path of the labyrinth, the eyes may contemplate the altar of San Vitale and some of the most beautiful mosaics of Christendom.
From November: every day 9.30am - 5pm, except January 1st 2pm - 5pm.
Last admittance 15 minutes before closing time.
The Basilica is closed on December 25th.
Every Sunday from 29th May to 6th November the Basilica of San Vitale will remain closed during the celebration of the Mass, from 10am to 12pm.
The ticket includes the entry to Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Neonian Baptistery, Basilica of San Vitale, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia,** and Archiepiscopal Museum and Chapel.
* Valid for Italian and foreign students during the school year; valid for organizations with special agreements (see details).
** From March 1st to June 15th, an additional charge of 2€ applies to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. Mandatory booking for groups
Children up to 10 years, citizens of Ravenna, disabled people and carers, ecclesiastics, soldiers, journalists (with document). For groups: 1 free tour leader every 20 paying visitors. For schools: 1 free teacher every 10 paying students.
The Basilica of San Vitale and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia offer alternative access solutions for disabled people.
The Basilica is situated in the controlled traffic zone of the city centre. Line 1, bus stop 200m away (Piazza Baracca), car park (parking spaces with fee available in Piazza Baracca, guarded car park in Largo Giustiniano), wheelchair accessible. Close to Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and to National Museum.
Edited by the editorial team
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Last modified date: 14/11/2016