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Official Tourist Information Site
Municipality of Ravenna

Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

Via San Vitale, 17 - Ravenna
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Considered as one of the most valuable treasures of the city, the MAUSOLEUM OF GALLA PLACIDIA is one of the oldest buildings in Ravenna, Unesco Heritage monument since 1996.

With its simple and humble aspect, it strikes for the peculiar brick face wall, resting under the shadow of a centuries-old plane tree, standing just behind the Basilica of San Vitale.

History and Architecture

The mausoleum was commissioned in the first half of the fifth century a.D. (after 426 a.D.) by empress Galla Placidia, daughter of Theodosius and sister of emperor Honorius, as well as reagent on account of her son Valentinian III. This little building was meant to be her last home; she wanted to be buried here with her brother and husband, Constance III, married the second time.

However, the mausoleum never fulfilled that purpose: in 450 a.D. the empress died in Rome and was buried there.

If seen from outside, the building seems pretty sombre, with a Latin cross plan of little dimensions. The cupola is hidden by a squared shape tower-lantern at the junction of the cross’ four arms.

Originally, it had to be connected through a narthex with the Church of Santa Croce, which is just behind the mausoleum.
Moreover, it had to be far higher than we see it today. As a matter of fact, due to subsidence (i.e. the progressive lowering of the ground, which affects most of the ancient buildings in Ravenna), the building seems lower of about 1.5 metres.

THE STARRED SKY OF GALLA PLACIDIA

As soon as you enter the building, you’re inebriated by its good vibes. The mosaic decorations, enhanced by the golden light that pours through the tiny alabaster windows, create a magical atmosphere.

Yellow marbles cover the whole lower part, whereas the upper part is entirely made of mosaics: walls, arches, lunettes, the dome: everything is in mosaic!

The simple architecture vanishes in a cloud of colours thanks to the little mosaic tiles that fill every centimetre, rounding the edges and shaping its lines.

In balance between Hellenistic-Roman tradition and Christian heritage, the iconography develops on different interpretational grounds themes like victory over death and eternal life.

At the centre of a dome, an immense starred sky stands out in all its splendour. A golden Latin cross, symbolising Christ the raising sun, is surrounded and celebrated the four beings of Apocalypse. The lunettes, however, depict the apostles, framed by doves, gushes of water, symbolising the Grace drawing from the Divine font.

In accordance with this metaphor, in the lunettes to the East and to the West, a few deer drink from the sacred baptismal font, all surrounded by a celestial garden. In the lunette overlooking the entrance, on the other hand, near a gridiron in flames is St. Lawrence.

Over the entrance is the most refined mosaic: Christ the Good Shepherd amidst his sheep.

Magnificent, everywhere, the floral and geometrical decorations that turn the semi-darkness of the room into an ode to the lights. The visit to this ethereal place is a prayer to eternal life.

Lastly, the three empty marble sarcophagi fill the three spaces of the cross. One sarcophagus is quite simple and dates back to the Roman age (the one in the central arm); the other two are of the Late Christian period (fourth-fifth century), both decorated with the image of the lamb, one of the oldest symbols for Christ.

CONTACTS

FOCUS

Under a mantle of stars, between Earth and Heaven

For the visitor, the entrance to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is an invitation to mystical discovery, it’s a travel experience into a “different” dimension, poised between Earth and Heaven.

As soon as you enter the monument, you are immediately enveloped by a suggestive atmosphere thanks to the sudden switch from the outer light to the semi-darkness. It is an obliged transition that forces you to gaze upward and contemplate the mosaic decoration of the celestial vault, made of golden stars that are set in concentric circles.

All this beauty exudes a powerful energy that has been stirring the imagination and sensibility of visitors from all over the world for centuries.

Even the American jazz master Cole Porter, on his honeymoon in Ravenna, was so impressed by the magnificence of these decorations that he composed his famous song “Night and Day“.

Further information

Opening times

SEPTEMBER
Every day: 9am – 7pm

OCTOBER
Monday to Thursday: 10am – 5pm
Friday to Sunday: 9am – 7pm

NOVEMBER
Monday 1 and Tuesday 2 November: 9am – 7pm
From 3 November, every day: 10am – 5pm

Last admission: 15 minutes before closing time.

In order to maintain social distancing, the number of visitors is limited: admission every 10 minutes, visits limited to 5 minutes.
Advanced booking of a time slot ticket is compulsory.

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 mausoleum is closed on 25 December and 1 January

Entrance fee

Admission: €10.50
Concession: €9.50€ (*)

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

* Valid for Italian and foreign students during the school year; groups (min. 20 paying persons); for organizations with special agreements (see details)

** For the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and the Neonian Baptistery is an additional charge of €2 and mandatory booking. The charge applies also to children over 6 and residents of the Municipality of Ravenna.

BOOKING
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-sale tickets, subject to availability)

  • Archiepiscopal Museum, Piazza Arcivescovado 1
  • Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Via di Roma 53

For further information: www.ravennamosaici.it

Free of charge

Children up to 10 years, citizens of Ravenna (with valid document), people with certified disability over 74% or “carta bianca” holders, ecclesiastics, servicepersons, tourist guides of Regione Emilia-Romagna at work. Journalists must request a written permit of 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 Mausoleum is wheelchair accessible

How to get there

The Mausoleum is in the heart of the city centre, in a limited traffic zone.

By bus: bus no. 70 stops in Piazza Baracca

By bike: it is easily reachable

By car: parking in Piazza Baracca (paid), and Largo Giustiniano (with surveillance). For further information on the parking areas in the city see HERE

 

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

Last edit:15 September 2021

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