Official Tourist Information Site
of Ravenna

Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo

Via Di Roma, 53 - Ravenna

In Via di Roma — not far from MAR – Ravenna Art Museum — stands in its grandeur the bell tower of one of the most ancient churches in the city, UNESCO World Heritage monument since 1996.

We’re talking about the BASILICA OF SANT’APOLLINARE NUOVO – not to be mistaken with the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, which is just outside the city.

It was built between the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 6th century AD by the Gothic king Theodoric (493-526), next to his palace, as an Arian palatine chapel.

“King Theoderic had this church erected from its foundations in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord”

So says the inscription reported by Andrea Agnello in his Liber Pontificalis, a book on the history of the Church in Ravenna (9th century). According to the historian, the inscription was located in the apse.

A walk in history

Originally dedicated to the Saviour and consecrated to the Arian cult, after the Byzantine Empire conquered the city (mid 6th century), the church was converted to the Orthodox religion.

It was therefore dedicated to St. Martin, bishop of Tours, who stood out for the fight against the heretics.

According to tradition, in the 9th century the remains of the holy founder of the church of Ravenna, St. Apollinaris, were transferred here from Classe. On this occasion, the church was definitely named after Apollinaris, but with the suffix “Nuovo” (new).

Architecture and mosaics

Seen from the outside, the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo is architecturally quite simple. The tympanum façade, made of brick, is framed by two pilasters and a mullioned window, surmounted by two small windows.

Originally, it must have been enclosed by a four-sided portico, but it is now preceded by a simple and harmonious marble portico dating back to the 16th century.

On the right, the cylindrical bell tower, which is typical of the Ravenna architecture, dates back between the 9th and the 10th century.

Inside, the basilica boasts one of the most famous Early Christian and Late Antique mosaic cycles in the world.

This extraordinary mosaic decoration runs through the entire central nave. It is a masterpiece of unparalleled value from a stylistic, iconographic and ideological point of view.

The basilica shows the evolution of the Byzantine mosaic — from Theodoric’s to Justinian’s age.

The 26 Christological scenes, dating back to Theodoric, are the largest monumental cycle of the New Testament and, among those made of mosaic, are the oldest ones to date.



The portrait of Classe, a masterpiece within a masterpiece

An unusual feature of the very rich mosaic decoration along the basilica’s central nave, inserted amidst the solemn figures, is a realistic view of the ancient city of Classe, the suburb outside Ravenna where the port was.

The city is depicted with golden brick walls, beyond which it is possible to see monumental buildings with a circular plan and porticoes.

Behind the columns that enclose the port there are three vessels floating in the sea, the last of which is plain sailing.

Next to it, suspended over a flowery meadow, a procession of virgins cover the entire wall.

Each woman is strikingly different from the others, and all of them are moving.

Following the gaze of the procession, our eyes find the famous Three Wise Men. In their precious coloured robes, they bear gifts to Our Lady, Mother of God.

If, on the one hand, the city enjoys a realistic atmosphere, in perfect Hellenistic-Roman style; on the other hand, the procession of Virgins and the Three Kings suggest a solemn and hieratic vision of the Church.

The figures, placed on a golden background, thus become almost abstract to symbolize spirituality.

Similarly, the other nave is decorated with a realistic representation of Theodoric’s Palace in Ravenna, with its furnishings, columns and what remains of human figures (mainly the hands) of court dignitaries, who were later erased in the Byzantine era.

Next to the palace, there is a procession of martyrs in their white garments, including the Saints Lawrence and Martin of Tours.

The procession ends with the homage to Saviour Christ enthroned, surrounded by angels.

Also in this case, there is a realistic touch in the reference to the city and the image of Theodoric’s Palace. The Ostrogothic king Theodoric is depicted in a mosaic, in his imperial robes, so much so that in the 19th century it was believed to be a portrayal of Justinian.

Further information

Opening times

Until 3rd November
Every day: 9 am – 7 pm

Last admission: 30 minutes before closing time.

Closing time

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

Entrance fee

Admission: €10.50
Concession: €9.50 (*)

The ticket is only combined: the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, The Neonian Baptistery (**), the Basilica of San Vitale, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (**), the Archiepiscopal Museum and Chapel.
The ticket is valid for 7 consecutive days from the date of issue and entitles the holder to one admission for each monument.

* Valid for Italian and foreign students during the school year and associations with agreements.
** For the admission to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and Neonian Baptistery applies a € 2 charge (booking is compulsory). The charge also applies to children more than 6 years old and residents of the Municipality of Ravenna.

Tickets can be booked online or by contacting the Reservation Centre.

In addition, tickets can also be purchased on the day of visit at the ticket offices located at the following monumental complexes (priority to pre-booked and pre-sales tickets, subject to availability).

For further information:

Free of charge

Children until 10 years old; residents of the Municipality of Ravenna (with valid ID document proving the residency); people with disabilities (with certified disability higher than 74%  or holders of the Carta Bianca); members of the clergy; servicepersons; tourist guides of the Emilia-Romagna Region working.

Journalists, in order to be granted free admission, have to ask in advance written autorization to Direzione dell’Opera di Religione:

For groups: every 20 paying participants, 1 free group leader.
For schools: 1 free teacher every 10 students.


The basilica is completely accessible to people with physical disabilities.

How to get there

The basilica is about 700 m. from the railway station, in a pedestrian area. Nearby are: the so-called Theodoric’s Palace, the MAR – Ravenna Art Museum and the Basilica of Santa Maria in Porto.

By bus: all the urban routes stop 200 mt. from the basilica. Find your bus on:

By car or bus: car parking area about 100 m. away. For further information on car or bus parking areas see HERE.

A cura della Redazione Locale

Last edit:2 April 2024

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