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In Ravenna we see proof that although the Western Roman Empire weakened, and ultimately collapsed in the late 5th century, incomparable artistic achievement continued into the mid-6th century. By the time Alaric, the Visigoth, sacked Rome, the Eternal City, in 410, Ravenna had been the imperial capital for eight years. Its 5th-century Roman buildings, including the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, are consequently among the finest that survive, an unlikely patrimony for what had been a marshy, malarial garrison town. Ravenna’s strategic and political importance had been established; the Ostrogoths and in 540, the Byzantine army, fought hard to capture it. The Ostrogothic king Theodoric and the Byzantine Emperor Justinian made Ravenna their Italian capital, and both endowed it with treasures unparalleled in 6th-century Italy. Most glorious are the mosaic and marble filled interiors of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo and San Vitale. Join Dr Sally Dormer on this new Art Pursuits tour, which explores how Ravenna became one of the greatest cultural centres in Italy, a rival to Rome and Milan.
Depart London Heathrow with British Airways flight BA540 at 7:40pm to Bologna Guglielmo Marconi airport. We travel by private coach to Bagnacavallo for lunch at a local restaurant. We then continue to Pomposa, a thousand-year-old abbey to the north of Ravenna and one of the most evocative sites in the Po delta. We then travel to Ravenna to our four-star hotel Palazzo Bezzi in the heart of the city where we will spend the four nights of the tour.
A day to explore Ravenna on foot, starting with the mesmerizing starry mosaic sky of the 5th-century so-called Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, once part of the church of Santa Croce. Next door rises the huge octagon of San Vitale, erected a century later and internally adorned with the spectacular mosaics of a Byzantine Emperor and his Empress, probably Justinian and Theodora, and their entourage. We conclude our morning visits at the church of San Giovanni Evangelista. After lunch we visit the Domus of the Tappeti di Pietra, with its 5th and 6th century mosaics adorning the floor of a private dwelling found under the church of SantiEufemia. We will then walk to the Church of San Francesco, to admire the tomb of Dante Alighieri. In the evening we will return to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia for a private exclusive viewing.
In the morning, we will visit the so-called iPalace of Theodoric,n the impressive remains of a building probably dating from the 7th or 8th century, which may have housed the Exarchs (the city-governors). The Arian Baptistery is a small building, also constructed under Theodoric, with mosaics of the Baptism of Christ, depicted as a beardless young man standing in the River Jordan. Close by stands the Basilica of SantiApollinare Nuovo, built by the Ostrogothic King Theodoric in the early sixth century. The mosaics, some of which were later censored on account of their heretical Arian imagery, contain fine representations of the city of Ravenna and the nearby port of Classe at the time of Theodoric In the afternoon we visit the Baptistery of Bishop Neon, depicting a stately procession in mosaic of white-robed Apostles, while the Archiepiscopal Museum next door contains the early 6th- century Chapel of St Andrew and the Throne of Maximian, a unique ensemble of mid-6th century ivory panels designed as a bishopis cathedra or throne. We then visit the Cathedral to see some fine examples of marble sarcophagi made in Ravenna in the 5th century.
In the morning we set off by coach to the Mausoleum of Theodoric, a monumental structure in Istrian stone, standing in impressive isolation in a garden outside the city walls. We will then continue to Classe, Ravennais Ancient Roman port, where we will visit the excavations of the port and the first of Ravennais eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, the 6th-century Basilica of SantiApollinare in Classe, which is dominated inside by an apse mosaic of the Transfiguration. After a group lunch in a local restaurant, we return to Ravenna for a free afternoon.
In the morning we travel by coach to visit the Pieve of San Pietro in Sivis. We then continue by coach to Bologna Marconi airport.