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Municipality of Ravenna

Arian Baptistery

Vicolo Degli Ariani, 1 - Ravenna
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Not far from the railway station of Ravenna, in a little piazza paved with sampietrini, stands the ARIAN BAPTISTERY, one of the eight monuments composing the Unesco site in Ravenna.

A bit of history

It was presumably built by king Theodoric at the end of the fifth century a.D., when Arianism was the court’s official religion. Originally, it should have been a complementary building of the nearby Arian Cathedral.

At the end of the 6th century a.D., the baptistery was consecrated to the Orthodox worship, at Justinian’s will, 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 nineteenth 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. Finally, in 1914, it became a State heritage site, restoring the architecture and the mosaics of the dome.

Description

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

It should have looked like far more imposing, almost 3 metres  higher (today the floor is underground, and a system of waterways controls and prevents new flooding). Of the original ambulatory (annular corridor) we can see just small sections, rebuilt only recently in order to recall its connection with the ancient Arian Cathedral, today Church of the Holy Spirit (Chiesa di Santo Spirito).

Almost nothing remains of the original stuccoes and decorations that embellished the walls. The only exception is the mosaic decoration of the dome depicting the baptism of Christ, as it was 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 testimonies the religion of Theodoric’s court, based on the figure of Christ both earthly and divine.

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 to 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; the apostles, though, were almost completely restored in the middle of the sixth century.

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Il Battistero degli Ariani and the Goths

Arian doctrine denied the dogma of the Most Holy Trinity and maintained that the divine nature of the Son was substantially inferior to that of God, subordinating, in fact, the Son to the Father. Although proclaimed 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 of conquest of 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, who is positioned with his head towards the East, the source of the Light, and the red colour of the cloth resting on the throne, which seems to recall the passion and suffering of the Cross, appear to underline the humanity of Jesus, who according to Arianism does not share the divine nature of the Father.

The monument is the only Arian place of worship to have preserved many of the architectural and decorative features of its origins.

Further information

Opening times

Until 30 September
From Monday to Saturday:
9am – 12pm

From 1 October
From Monday to Sunday: 9am – 12pm

Special opening
Sunday, 26 September: 3pm.00 – 7pm
Friday, 22 October: 7.30pm – 11.30pm

In accordance with the health and safety regulations, in order to maintain social distancing, the number of visitors is limited (max. 2 visitors every 10 minutes). For further information see musei.emiliaromagna.beniculturali.it

COVID-19: INFORMATION FOR VISITORS

Access to the monument is allowed only on presenting the EU Digital COVID Certificate (Green Pass) or an equivalent certificate issued by the health authorities (or negative test result performed in the last 48 hours), compulsory for everyone over the age of 12.
For further information, see: Covid-19 updates: information for tourists

Closing time

The Baptistery is closed on Sundays until 30 September. Furthermore, it’s closed on 25th December and on 1st January.

Entrance fee

Ticket: €2

The entrance fee can be purchased online or at the ticket offices six of the following museums:

  • National Museum of Ravenna
  • Mausoleum of Theodoric
  • Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe
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

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 Zonte).

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
E-mail: turismo@comune.ravenna.it

Last edit:13 September 2021

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