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Photo of Ravenna Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

Visit Ravenna Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

The Mausoleum of Galla Placida is an ancient monument in the city of Ravenna, in north-east Italy, and one of several UNESCO listed World Heritage Sites in the town. It is next to the Basilica of San Vitale.

Discover the Ravenna Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

Italy This Way comment: the mausoleum in Ravenna is a remarkable building, simple from the outside but with an interior decorated with mosaics that cover most of the walls and the ceiling

Exterior of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

Like many of the monuments in Ravenna, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is quite small and unimposing from the outside, although it is an attractive building in the roman style. About 12 metres by 10 metres in size, and built of red brick in the shape of a small cross and with a small dome, it was built in the first half of the 5th century making it one of the most ancient of the monuments in the city.

Galla Placidia, Roman empress from Thesallonica, built the mausoleum to be her shrine, although she died in Rome and it is thought that here remains were never brought here.

Another possibility of the origins of the building according to historians is that originally the 5th century Church of Saint-Croce was also in this location, and the mausoleum was the oratory of the church, connected to the narthex of the church. There is no longer any trace of the church.

Light enters the mausoleum through numerous windows of various sizes, unusual because they contain alabaster instead of glass, so the light is a diffused orange colour (although these are a more recent addition to the mausoleum).

 
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Mosais of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

The mosaics were added between 425 and 450 AD. The art of the mosaics is in the primitive Christian style, with the influence of byzantine art that was starting to be popular at this time. There are numerous mosaics covering the walls, celing and dome including:

  • the golden stars and the cross on an azure blue background that decorate the central dome, along with the signs of creatures of the apocalypse
  • the martyrdom of Saint-Laurent, with the Saint next to the burning grill on which he was martyred
  • Saint Peter and Saint Paul with two doves
  • two deer drinking from the 'source of life'
  • the Good Shepherd, as a beardless representation of Christ surrounded by sheep

The lower part of the interior walls is covered with marble, and around the edges of the inside of the mausoleum you can see three sarcophagi (tombs), that were brought here in the 14th century.

One of these is the 6th century sarcphagus of Valentiano III, and another (unfinished) is that of Constanzo III, while the third is the sarcophagus intended for the remains of Galla Placidia (although historians doubt whether these claims for the histories of the sarcophagi are correct).

A visit will not take long, and it is a shame that the mausoleum is so popular with vistors to Ravenna because it can be very crowded inside, but it is an indispensable part of your tour of the UNESCO listed monuments of Ravenna

Mosaics inside the Mausoleum

Attractions nearby

As well as the basilica of San Vitale next to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, there are six other monuments listed as UNESCO heritage sites in Ravenna, as well as other sites of interest such as the tomb of Dante: see the Ravenna guide.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Emilia-Romagna guide.

See also: 

Photos of Ravenna Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

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Map of Ravenna Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and places to visit

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Ravenna Mausoleum of Galla Placidia places to visit

Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna

Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna

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Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna guide
Ravenna Arian Baptistery

Ravenna Arian Baptistery

The Arian baptistery in Ravenna was built in the 5th century and retains its original mosaic ceiling in the dome

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Ravenna Baptistery of Neon guide
Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna

The Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo is a christian-byzantine monuments in Ravenna built in the 6th century and with impressive mosaics from this period

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna guide
Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe in Ravenna

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe in Ravenna

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Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe in Ravenna guide

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