Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Ravenna is a port city on the Adriatic, our GPS said it was a little over 2 hours away from Spello, so we thought we'd make a day trip to see the famous 4th century mosaics in the churches there.
Since the tourist season is winding down here, it seemed like a good time to take a ride.
We fired up our VW Tiguan and headed East.

The scenery on the way is spectacular; going through mountain passes, and valleys with green fields, orchards, and some grapes.
After a little bit of Clark Griswold European Vacation maneuvering we found a parking lot and headed to the Basilica di San Vitale.  This 1400 year old church is still standing, and the fact that these mosaics are as startling as they must have been in 450 AD, is astounding.  Mosaics and frescoes were used to tell the stories of Jesus to the believers.  Most couldn't read or write, so their only way to know the stories was to see them, in art, then have them explained by the priests or monks.

Over the main altar

Dr. C. reading the guide book
Even the floor is gorgeous

On the same property is the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, designed for the mother of Emperors.  The mosaics here are some of the oldest in Ravenna.  A small dark place, the mosaics are primarily blue and gold, with gold stars on the vaulted ceiling.

Walking a bit farther into town, we came to the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo.  Started in 500 AD (OK, my mind can't get over the fact that artisans were doing spectacular things during that time) was the palace of King Theodoric of the Goths.  Emperor Justinian transformed the church into the Byzantine style.  The mosaics are the real stars here, the later Baroque altar and other art, are overshadowed by the spectacular mosaics.

Another walk and we were at the Duomo and the Baptistry.  The Baptistry dates from the year 400; in the center is a huge pool with a ceiling depicting John the Baptist baptizing Christ.  Dr. C. said he thought that the apostles all looked like they had dancing feet.  (too much football)

Another walk back to the car, and we were on our way back to Spello.  Ravenna is worth the trip, if you are on your way to Venice, or Bologna, it's a great place to stop and view some of the most beautiful mosaics in the West.  The others are in Istanbul at Hagia Sofia.

Also in Ravenna, there is a small Dante museum, Dante died of malaria in Ravenna, when he was exiled from Florence, and his remains are housed near the Monasterio of San Francesco.  Although the Florentines wanted him back after his death, his remains are in Ravenna.
Author's Note:  the tomb in the Church of Santa Croce in Florence dedicated to Dante does not contain his remains.
Buona Notte from Spello.

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