Posted by: debrakolkka | April 19, 2010

Basilica San Vitale – Ravenna

Basilica San Vitale

the exterior of the Basilica

The sombre appearance of the exterior of the Basilica gives no clue to the dazzling brilliance of inside.  The building is immense, and the height of the dome was the first thing that amazed us.  The fact that it is also filled with beautiful mosiacs seemed almost secondary, until we got closer.  When you realise that the building was consecrated in 548 ad, it becomes even more incredible.

inside the dome

amazing construction

looking up

at the top of the dome

this place is huge


The mosiacs include scenes from the Old Testament.  Inside the chancel, the finest mosiacs of the series depict the Byzantine Emperor Justinian with San Massimiano and Empress Theodora It would be easy to spend hours in here trying to take it all in.  Unfortunately photos don’t do the Basilica justice.  It is hard to get a sense of the size and the mosiacs are quite high up.  I would have loved to climb up a long ladder to get closer.

Empress Theodora - thousands of multicoloured tiny glass cubes interspersed with mother of pearl

incredible mosiacs

a bit closer

the beautiful floor

lovely arches

detail at the top of the column

detail of Christ on an arch

Empress Theodora and friends

Emperor Justinian

Theodora- ex circus performer


detail of mosiacs


  1. Wow! Definitely on my next visit list!

    • Isn’t it amazing! I had heard that the mosiacs in Ravenna were spectacular, but i really had no idea what to expect. I will be returning again and again.

  2. Stunning Deb. I wish…..

  3. Beautiful pictures!!!!

  4. I’m amazed by the mosaics, Deb, so, can imagine how much better would be to see the real thing. Hard to believe that San Vitale was constructed in the 6th century! It’ll be interesting to find out how this place was built, and how long it took to construct it. Even though you say your photos don’t do justice, you’ve certainly captured the aesthetics of the place, the light, space and colour. Do you think Ravebba presents the best display of mosaics in Italy? On our next Italian visit, Ravenna will definitely be on our “wish list”!

  5. These mosiacs are definitely the best I have seen. It is unbelievable that they are in such good condition after all this time.

  6. […] visited Ravenna in April. You can read their account and see their photos here, here, here, here, here and here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Picture Rocks Fire Department […]

  7. […] went to Ravenna for the first time to see the incredible mosiacs.  the incredible mosiacs in San Vitale, […]

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