Official Tourist Information Site
of Ravenna

Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe

Via Romea Sud, 224 - Ravenna

Just on the border of the little town of Classe, 8 km south of Ravenna, one of the eight monuments composing the city’s Unesco site stands out – it’s the grandiose and solemn BASILICA OF SANT’APOLLINARE IN CLASSE with its characteristic cylindrical bell tower, UNESCO World Heritage Monument since 1996.

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

Apollinaris and his mosaics

Despite the plunderings 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.

It is also possible to admire the depiction of Apollinaris, founder and first bishop of the church of Ravenna, displayed with raised arms in the age-old gesture of prayer.

In this intensely symbolic context, 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 plants, rocks and birds, some of which are indigenous to the area. The mosaic then honours some important personalities of the Church of Ravenna.

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 gemstones 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 sheeps symbolize 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 you to proceed along the central nave, towards the absis, as if you were 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 surmounted by refined capitals embellished with acanthus leaves. They are so finely hand-made 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 conveying the idea of a 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, in which he wrote “[…] here is Sant’Apollinare in Classe, the basilica known to enthusiasts for its acanthus capitals twisted by the wind”.

Further information

Opening times

From Monday to Saturday: 8.30 am – 7.30 pm
Sundays and holidays: 1.30 pm – 7.30 pm

Last admission: 30 minutes before closing time.

Closing time

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

Entrance fee

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

Every first Sunday of the month admission to the monument 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.

> Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe + Classis Museum: €9; concessions €8 (18-25 years); €6 (7-17 years).
> Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe + Ancient Port of Classe: €9; concessions €4 (18-25 years); Free (7-17 years).
> Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe + Classis Museum + Ancient Port of Classe: €13; €10 (18-25 years); €6 (7-17 years)
> Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe + Mausoleum of Theodoric + National Museum: €10.

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 the further concessions for entry:


The Basilica is accessible to people with disabilities.

How to get there

The basilica is located about 6 km south of the historic center of Ravenna, in the Classe locality, towards Rimini. It is easily reachable on foot from the nearby Classe railway station.

By bus: line 4 departing from Ravenna railway station. Search for your bus:

By bike: the museum is connected to the city by an efficient cycle path.

Bus or car parking: the basilica has a large car and bus parking area nearby, as well as an equipped camper parking area.

A cura della Redazione Locale

Last edit:13 March 2024

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