The Award for the Whole Oeuvre

Empress Teodora, detail of mosaic in the Basilica of San Vitale. Photo: City of Ravenna.

Ravenna, city of the last West-Roman emperor and the city of mosaics, was inscribed in the World Heritage List of Unesco in 1996 with the justification of the significance of early Christian and Byzantine religious buildings due to the supreme artistic mastery of the art of mosaics and the testimony of the important period of European culture. Greco-Roman culture and Arian, Byzantine and Latin Christianity met in Ravenna and the influence can still be seen in Aachen and other imperial cities of the centuries to come.

One of the historic buildings is the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (388-450 AD). She was the daughter of the Roman emperor Theodosius I. In 410 AD, she was taken prisoner by Alarik, the conqueror and plunderer of Rome. Galla had to marry Athulfus, a Goth and Arian, in Barcelona, but he soon died, in 415 AD, and Galla returned to Ravenna. For a while, she was and ruled as empress of the West-Roman Empire, but she died and was buried in Rome and not Ravenna, although the Mausoleum is called after her. The Basilica of Sam Vitale is the second heritage building and dates from the first half of the sixth century and completed by emperor Justinian. The octagonal plan and architecture should inspire the Carolingian and Ottonian rulers.

The Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe was built in the sixth century and the splendid mosaic in the apse exalts Christ and Saint Apollinaris, the first bishop of Ravenna and buried there. The theological and mystic significance of baptism, the important symbolic act of conversion in the Christian belief , comes alive in the Neonian Baptistery. The ceiling consists of refined mosaics of Greco-Roman influence and all those baptized witnessed the story of the saviour. The Arian religion prevailed for a long time in Ravenna and the Arian Baptistery depicts the liturgical rite of baptism and the twelve apostles. The Arian religion, many (Visi) Goths and Vandals, the new rulers of large parts of the western Empire, was an important religious and political power, but faded away when the power of the Vandals and Goths declined. These buildings and the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Theodoric’s Mausoleum and the Saint Andrew’s Chapel are the oeuvre that Ravenna has to offer and its present status of open World Heritage museum is justified by the impact on European history and culture. Source: www.museocitta.ra.it.