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Municipality of Ravenna

The (so-called) Theodoric’s Palace

Via di Roma, angolo via Alberoni - Ravenna
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The name THEODORIC’S PALACE commonly refers to the architectonic remains of a building set near the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. It is located in the current Via di Roma, at the intersection with Via Alberoni.

A journey in history

Written sources attest that the Ostrogothic king Theodoric resided in a majestic palace in Ravenna, next to the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. This area had already been chosen as the site of the imperial court by his predecessors, Honorius and Valentinian III.

Today, along the central nave of the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare, ordered by King Theodoric himself as a palatine chapel, is a splendid mosaic depiction of the imperial palace. It is a building on two floors, with side porticoes and a gabled central body with an epigraph. Behind, enclosed within the walls, some other buildings with a circular and a basilica plan emerge.

A building or something else?

The remains of the building in Via di Roma are what is left of an imperial palace only by tradition. History, as it happens, is far more intriguing.

According to some scholars, the remains might be of a guardhouse (7th-8th century), presumably built to control the access to the palace. It must have hosted the exarchs, i.e. the governors of the Italian provinces appointed by the Byzantine Emperor. The house must have resembled another building in Constantinople named “Calce” (i.e. Bronze because of its monumental bronze gate). This is why also the building’s name in Ravenna was “Calce” or “Ad Calchi”.

According to others, however, what we see are the remains of a porticoed vestibule (ardica). The vestibule should have been overlooking the then church of San Salvatore ad Calchi. The church, so medieval sources, was apparently near the palace and the basilica; nevertheless, a document of 1503 states that in those years it was already almost completely in ruins.

This area has been the object of study since the second half of the 18th century, after a fortuitous recovery of some fragments of mosaic floor.

The most ancient layer seems to date back between the end of the 1st century b.C. and the beginning of the 1st century a.D. Those fragments might have been of a suburban villa. Beyond the first layer, later stratigraphies dating back to the 4th century a.D. follow. Since they show palatial features, they might be remains of the imperial palace of Honorius. As a matter of fact, Honorius decided to move in 402 the capital of the Western Roman Empire in Ravenna.

The documents describe a villa of considerable dimensions, with rooms gravitating around a great porticoed court. Among the others, overlooking the court was a room with an apsis and opus sectile floors (5th century a.D.), as well as a triclinium room with three apses and a refined mosaic floor. In Theodoric’s age (493-526), the palace underwent renovation and expansion, and some of its rooms were repaved in mosaic.

Some rooms seem to have an even higher mosaic floor, maybe renovated at the end of the 6th century. Archaeological remains seem to indicate that the palace had been working until the end of the eighth century.

What to see

Through a spiral staircase of the round tower on the eastern side of the so-called Theodoric’s Palace, you can visit the first floor.

The archaeological diggings (1908-1914) carried out in the area brought to light portions of mosaic floors. As a consequence, starting from the end of the 19th century, the palace became a display of those mosaic floors. Mosaic pieces are also on the ground floor, in the tiny front loggia.

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Theodoric’s construction works in Ravenna

Theodoric, son of the Ostrogothic king, was summoned by emperor Zeno to defeat Odoacer in Ravenna, which had been chosen as his capital. Thanks to Odoacer’s defeat, the city of Ravenna began a slow recovery after the years of decline caused by the previous dominion, which saw it overwhelmed by swamps and falling walls.

Starting from 493 a.D., reclamation work and a vast building plan were started. The city began to be endowed with works and monuments- Theodoric ordered the construction of the amazing Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, the Church of Spirito Santo, the Arian Baptistery, his own mausoleum and, a palace in imperial style, like that of Diocletian in Split.

Beyond the remains of the alleged Theodoric’s Palace, the mosaic decorating the right wall of the central nave of the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo suggests the original splendour of the building.

In fact, right in the area of the city depicted in the above-mentioned representations, excavations in 1908-1914 brought to light parts of the floor and sections of rich mosaics, whose magnificence would confirm the presence of multi-layered residential structures.

Further information

Opening times

Every Monday: 8.30am – 1.30pm

Special opening
Sunday, 19 September: 5pm – 7pm
Saturday, 25 and 26 September: 9am – 1pm
Every Saturday of October (2, 9, 16, 23 e 30): 9am – 1pm

Last admission: 30 minutes before closing time

Closing time

The palace is closed from Tuesday to Sunday

Entrance fee

Admission:  €2

The entrance fee can be purchased online or at the ticket offices of all museums managed by the RavennAntica Foundation.

Free of charge

Admission to the Italian State museums, monuments, galleries and archaeological areas is free for EU citizens aged less than 18 years old. In addition, admission to Italian state archives and libraries is free for all citizens (regardless of age).

Discover the further concessions for entry: https://cultura.gov.it/agevolazioni

Accessibility

Monument is completely accessible

How to get there

The Palace is about 700 m from the railway station, in a pedestrian area. Nearby you will also find: the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo (Unesco), the MAR – Ravenna Art Museum and the Basilica of Santa Maria in Porto.

By bus: bus stop connected with every urban rout 200 m. away. Find your bus on: www.startromagna.it

By bike: by the building is a cycle lane

Car and bus parking area: car parking lots 100 m. away. For further information on parking areas in the city for cars and couches see HERE.

A cura della Redazione Locale
E-mail: turismo@comune.ravenna.it

Last edit:13 September 2021

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