Official Tourist Information Site
Municipality of Ravenna

Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe

Via Romea Sud, 224 - Ravenna
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Just on the border of the little town of Classe, 8 km South of Ravenna,  stands out one of the eight monuments composing the city’s Unesco site: it’s the grandiose and solemn BASILICA OF SANT’APOLLINARE IN CLASSE with its characteristic cylindrical bell tower.

Built to house the remains of the patron St. Apollinaris, the basilica raised over a cemetarial area. The cemetery was in use between the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 3rd century — and supposedly the protobishop Apollinaris himself was buried here.

The Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe was financed by Giuliano Argentario, on behest of Bishop Ursicino (533 – 536 aD). However, it was consecrated only a few years later (549 aD), under the archbishopric of Massimiano.

Imposing and majestic, with a 30 metre-high façade and almost twice as long, it has been defined the greatest basilica of the Early Christian period known today.

Apollinare and its mosaics

Despite the plundering endured over the centuries (originally it was preceded by a four-arched portico, then gone lost), the church still preserves the beauty of the original structure. The basilica, though, is known above all for the magnificent polychrome mosaics in the apse and the ancient marble sarcophagi placed along the naves.

The depiction of Apollinare, founder and first bishop of the church of Ravenna, displayed with raised arms in the age-old gesture of prayer.

In this intensely symbolic painting, every element is full of significance, such as the twelve white lambs immersed in a green landscape, symbol of the twelve apostles.

The mosaics depict a variety of vegetation, rocks and birds, some of which are indigenous to the area. The mosaic then honours some important personalities of the Ravenna Church.

Above the paradisiacal landscape with Apollinaris, on a golden background, the hand of God emerges from the white clouds. Under this, a cross studded with precious stones stands out on a blue sky dotted with 99 golden and silver stars.

Inside the cross, the face of Christ and the apocalyptic letters of the Greek alphabet: the Alpha and the Omega — the Beginning and the End of all things.
Alongside, Moses and Elijah emerge from the clouds, while, just below, three sheep symbolise the apostles  witnessing the Transfiguration.



Walking through acanthus leaves curled by the wind

As soon as you enter the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, you will be immediately struck by the enormous space inside.

A particularly warm light invites the visitor  to proceed along the central nave, towards the absis, almost as if following a path through a wood.

Such can be the effect of the 24 columns in Greek grey-veined marble that outline the central body.

They look like living plants. Each column is namely surmounted by refined capitals embellished with acanthus leaves. They are worked so finely with a drill that the chiaroscuro effect creates the illusion of a canopy of trees moving in the wind.

Counterposed, two by two, the leaves might even recall the wings of a butterfly, thus serving as a constant reminder of lightness and movement, and that idea of forest.

These acanthus leaf capitals have been impressing numerous visitors over time, such as playwright Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965), who refers to them in his poem “Honeymoon” of 1920, when he writes “[…] here is Sant’Apollinare in Classe, the basilica known to enthusiasts for its acanthus capitals twisted by the wind”.

Further information

Opening times

Monday to Wednesday: 1.30pm – 7.30pm
Thursday and Friday: 8.30am – 7.30pm
Sunday: 1.30pm – 7.30pm

Last admission: 30 minutes before closing time

Entrance fee

Ticket: €5
Concession: €2 (Concessions for people aged between 18-25)

Combined ticket
Classis Museum + Basilica Sant’Apollinare in Classe + Ancient Port of Classe: €12

Tickets are available also online
You can book up to 30 minutes before arrival.

Free of charge

EU citizens aged less than 18 years old; non-EU citizens under age; people with disabilities and carer who proves to be member of the social-medical assistance services ; non-EU citizens with “conditions of reciprocity”; EU guides and interpreters; MIBACT staff; I.C.O.M. members; students of EU public and private schools accompanied by teachers; students of Higher Education courses organized by MIBACT (Istituto Centrale per il Restauro, Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Scuola per il Restauro del Mosaico); teachers and students of the Fine Arts Academy and corresponding institutes of the European Union; art history high school teachers; professors and graduate or post-graduate students of Art and Architecture; journalists with card


The Basilica is accessible to people with disabilities

How to get there

8km south of Ravenna, in the town of Classe.
Railway station a 5-minute walk; bus stop (line no. 4), car and coach parking area is next to the basilica. In the area is also a rest area for motor caravans.

A cura della Redazione Locale

Last edit:22 July 2021