Official Tourist Information Site
of Ravenna

Arian Baptistery

Vicolo Degli Ariani, 1 - Ravenna

Not far from the railway station of Ravenna, in a little piazza paved with sampietrini, stands the ARIAN BAPTISTERY, UNESCO World Heritage Monument since 1996.

A bit of history

It was presumably built by king Theodoric at the end of the 5th century AD, when Arianism was the court’s official religion. Originally, it had to serve as a complementary building of the nearby Arian Cathedral.

Halfway through the 6th century AD, the baptistery was consecrated to the Orthodox worship at the behest of Justinian and became an oratory dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Later, during the 13th century, the Benedictine monks took care of it and handed it over to the clergy.

At the end of the 19th century it became an integral part of the new Oratorio della Confraternita della Croce (17th century) and it was then sold to private owners, at risk of becoming a warehouse.

In 1914 it finally became a State heritage site and its structure and the mosaics of the dome underwent restoration works.

A dome with golden mosaics

Nestled amidst the buildings of the historic centre, it is hard to picture the Arian Baptistery in its original splendour.

It had to look far more imposing, almost 3 metres higher (today the floor is underground, and a system of waterways controls and prevents new floodings).

Today, it is possible to see just small rebuilt sections of the original ambulatory (annular corridor), which recall its connection with the ancient Arian Cathedral, today  Chiesa di Santo Spirito (Church of the Holy Spirit).

Almost nothing remains of the original stuccoes and decorations that surely embellished the walls.

The only exception is the mosaic decoration of the dome depicting the baptism of Christ, an image present also in the Neonian (or Orthodox) Baptistery.

Whilst it features the same iconographic design as the Neonian Baptistery, from which it took inspiration, the mosaic decoration of the Arian Baptistery witnesses the religion of Theodoric’s court, based on the both earthly and divine figure of Christ.

In the central clypeus, a young and naked Christ stands immersed in the water up to his hips.

The external concentric band depicts the twelve apostles walking towards a majestic gemmed throne crested by a cross; a purple coat hangs from the cross’ arms, symbol of the bodily nature and human suffering of Christ.

The mosaic of the baptism dates back to Theodoric’s age, while the apostles were almost completely restored in the middle of the 6th century.



Arian Baptistery and the Goths

Arian doctrine denied the dogma of the Most Holy Trinity and claimed that the divine nature of the Son was substantially inferior to that of God, subordinating, in fact, the Son to the Father.

Although it was declared heresy by the Council of Nicaea in 325, with the rise of Constantius II Arianism became the religion of the Eastern Empire and, through the Ostrogoths and Visigoths, it soon reached Ravenna.

It is therefore understandable that the Ostrogoth Theodoric, in his campaign to conquer the West, between 488 and 493, wanted to build Arian places of worship.

Moreover, until the rise of Justinian and the Byzantine reconquest of Ravenna in 540, the Goths and Romans managed to live together with their respective baptisteries and places of worship.

Even the mosaic image of baptism, although recurrent in Christian symbology inspired by the Orthodox Baptistery, could contain some differences linked to the Arian cult.

The figure of Christ and the red colour of the cloth resting on the throne seem to underline the humanity of Jesus.

Further information

Opening times

From Monday to Friday: 9 am – 12 pm
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays: 9 am – 12 pm and 2 pm – 5 pm

Closing time

The Baptistery is closed on December 25th and on January 1st.

Entrance fee

Tickets: €2

Every first Sunday of the month admission to the Baptistery is free.
Furthermore, also on February 7th, April 25th, June 2ndJuly 23rdAugust 30th, October 14th (Notte d’oro), November 4th and December 7th admission is free.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the RavennAntica ticket offices.

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 further concessions for entry.


The Baptistery is accessible to people with disabilities.

How to get there

The Arian Baptistery is in the city centre, near the Basilica of Santo Spirito, and it is in an area closed to the traffic (ZTL Zone).

On foot or by bike: the baptistery can be reached exclusively on foot or by bike, and it is close to the railway station of Ravenna.

By bus: 100 m. away from the baptistery is a bus stop (serviced by all lines).

By car: in the area are several parking lots (paid). For further information see HERE.

A cura della Redazione Locale

Last edit:13 March 2024

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