BETA VERSION
Official Tourist Information Site
Municipality of Ravenna

Neonian Baptistery

Piazza Duomo, 1 - Ravenna
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Standing next to the Ravenna Cathedral, the NEONIAN BAPTISTERY (or ORTHODOX BAPTISTERY) is one of the oldest palochristian monuments in Ravenna, as well as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Its inner decorations, especially the mosaics, are so astounding that even Carl Gustav Jung, one of the fathers of Psychoanalysis, was struck by their magic, so much so that he described his visit as a wonderful “hallucination”.

A bit of history

The baptistery probably dates back to the beginning of the 5th century and was built at the behest of Bishop Ursus, when Ravenna became capital of the Western Roman Empire.

Just a few decades after its construction, bishop Neon (450 – 475 AD) ordered a series of restoration works, including the cupola and the inner decorations that we can admire still today.

Unlike other baptisteries of the 4th and 5th century, both in the Western and in the Eastern ancient world (Antioch, Constantinople, Ephesus, Trier, Milan, Aquileia and Rome), this building is the best preserved one, both from the architectural and the ornamental point of view.

Apart from a 3-metre lowering of the ground due to the phenomenon of subsidence, which affected several buildings in the city as well, the baptistery has almost entirely retained its original appearance.

It features an octagonal plan and bare brick walls, which are alternately straight and apsidate, with round arch windows on the top and underground doors.

Inside, two orders of arcades run along the walls, and a threefold decoration embellish the room – marbles in the lower part, stuccoes in the middle, and  mosaics with a clear Greek-Roman influence in the higher part.

Just as in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the decoration is bright and rich, almost encouraging a passage from shadows to light, metaphorically recalling the ritual of baptism.

The dome’s decoration

As usual, the iconography of the dome is to observe in an ascensional direction, from outside to the centre, with its highest accomplishment in the clypeus.

The most external strip is divided in eight parts, in each of which alternate natural motifs, such as plants and flowers, empty thrones that recall the day of Universal Judgement, and altars on which lays a Gospel.

In the middle strip, on a blue backround, the twelve apostles stands out dressed in tunics and cloaks and divided in two groups, one headed by St. Paul and one by St. Peter. Walking hieratically, swinging, they walk in circle, carrying in their hands —veiled as a sign of obeisance— a laurel wrath, the symbol of triumph.

Finally, at the centre of the dome dominates a big medallion depicting Christ immersed until his ankles in the crystal clear waters of the Jordan, with John the Baptist: it is the oldest witness of a mosaic depicting Christ’s baptism inside a monument.

In the middle of the building, an octagonal basin made of Greek marble and porphyry rebuilt in the 6th century still preserves some original fragments of the 5th century.

CONTACTS

FOCUS

The art of mosaic that makes water transparent

Among the waves of the river Jordan, represented in the wonderful mosaic of the dome by an old man pouring water and holding out a green cloth, we can admire a naked and exceptionally beautiful Jesus.

The transparency effect of the water, obtained thanks to a superb mosaic technique, is truly extraordinary.

In a sinuous pose, without other cloth to veil him from sight, the Saviour’s chest appears wet and shiny thanks to the water effect, and as if it were sculpted.

Upon him descends the white dove of the Holy Spirit, while on the left, with one foot raised on the rock, John the Baptist baptizes him.

Further information

Opening times

Until 1st November
Every day: 9 am – 7 pm

Until 2nd November
Every day: 10 am – 5 pm

Last admission: 15 minutes before closing time.

Closing time

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

Entrance fee

Ticket: €10.50
Reduced ticket: €9.50 (*)

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

* Valid for Italian and foreign students during the school year; valid for organizations with special agreements (see details).
** There is an additional charge of €2 that applies to access the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and Neonian Baptistery. Mandatory booking for groups. The charge applies also to children over 6 and residents of Ravenna.

BOOKING
Tickets can be booked online or by contacting the Reservations Center.

In addition, tickets can also be purchased on the day of visit at the ticket offices located in each monumental complex.

For further information: www.ravennamosaici.it

Free of charge

Children up to 10 years, citizens of Ravenna (with valid document), disabled people with certified disability over 74% or “carta bianca” holders, ecclesiastics, soldiers, tourist guides of Region Emilia-Romagna at work.

Journalists must request free admission in advance to the Opera di Religione by writing to info@ravennamosaici.it

For groups: 1 free tour leader every 20 paying visitors. For schools: 1 free teacher every 10 paying students.

Accessibility

The Baptistery is wheelchair accessible.

How to get there

The Baptistery is situated in the controlled traffic zone of the city centre. Close to the Cathedral, Archiepiscopal Museum and Archiepiscopal Chapel.

On foot/by bike: the baptistery can be easily reached on foot or by bike from the railway station.

By bus: the nearest bus stop is only 200m away. in Piazza Caduti della Libertà and in Piazza Kennedy are the bus stops where every urban routes stops. Find your bus on: www.startromagna.it

By car: near the museum are several parking areas. Find the nearest parking areas HERE.

A cura della Redazione Locale
E-mail: turismo@comune.ravenna.it

Last edit:10 October 2022

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