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Official Tourist Information Site
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, on the corner of Via Alberoni.

A journey through history

Written sources attest that the Ostrogothic king Theodoric lived in a majestic palace located 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, you will be able to see a splendid mosaic depiction of the imperial palace.

The mosaic depicts a building on two floors, with side porticoes and a larger gabled central body with an epigraph. Behind, enclosed within the walls, there are some other buildings with a circular and a basilica plan.

A palace 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 present remains might be of a guardhouse (7th -8th century), presumably built to control the access to the palace as it hosted the exarchs, i.e. the governors of the Italian provinces appointed by the Byzantine Emperor.

The house had to resemble another building in Constantinople named “Calce” (i.e. Bronze) because of its monumental bronze gate. This is the reason 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) that overlooked 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 an object of study since the second half of the 19th 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 BC and the beginning of the 1st century AD. Those fragments might have been of a suburban villa.

Beyond the first layer, later stratigraphies dating back to the 4th century AD follow. Since they show palatial features, they might be remains of the imperial palace of Honorius, who decided to move the capital of the Western Roman Empire in Ravenna in 402.

The documents describe a villa of considerable dimensions with rooms gravitating around a great porticoed court. Among the others, a room with an apsis and opus sectile floors (5th century AD), as well as a triclinium room with three apses and a refined mosaic floor overlooked the court.

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 remained active until the end of the 8th century.

What to see

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

The archaeological diggings carried out in the area (1908-1914) brought to light portions of mosaic floors that were displayed here starting from the beginning of the 19th century. Mosaic pieces are also on the ground floor, in the tiny front loggia.

CONTACTS

FOCUS

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 to slowly recover after the years of decline caused by the previous dominion, which saw it overwhelmed by swamps and falling walls.

Starting from 493 AD, reclamation works 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

Orario

Every Monday: 8.30 am – 1.30 pm
Last admission: 30 minutes before closing time.

Chiusura

The palace is closed from Tuesday to Sunday.

Tariffe

Admission: €2

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

Gratuità

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

Accessibilità

Some parts of the monument are not accessible to people with physical disabilities.

Come Arrivare

The Palace is located about 700 m from the railway station, in a pedestrian area. Nearby you will also find the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo (UNESCO World Heritage Monument), 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 car: car parking lots 100 m. away. For further information on parking areas in the city click HERE.

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

Last edit:23 May 2022

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