Updated: Jun 5, 2022
A BLUE SKY WITH GOLDEN STARS
Ravenna was the last capital of the Western Roman Empire, therefore it has many monumental buildings dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries A.C.: eight masterpieces included the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is the oldest one, and you really can’t miss it! With its ceiling fully decorated with bright colored glass tiles, it is the perfect start to visit the World Mosaic Capital.
WHO IS GALLA PLACIDIA? A LIFE THAT LOOKS LIKE A CRIME NOVEL, WITH A TOUCH OF PINK!
Galla was the daughter of the Roman emperor Theodosius. Theodosius decided to split the Roman Empire into two parts by giving the governance to his two sons: Honorius became emperor of the western part and Arcadius of the eastern part.
Honorius moved the western capital to Milan and then to Ravenna, for strategic purposes: Ravenna was a town overlooking the Adriatic Sea and surrounded by marshes and lagoons. The city was therefore protected by the waters from the attacks of the barbarians.
Galla married the king of the Visigoths, to persuade him to leave Italy and move to Spain, but after a year both her husband and their son died. Galla was sent home, and her brother Honorius chose a new husband for her: his most faithful general Constance.
Within a few years her brother and her second husband died, leaving her alone with now two children: Honoria and Valentian. The boy was to become emperor, but he was too young at the time and Galla became Empress, gathering all powers in her hands, waiting for Valentian to become Emperor with the name of Valentian III in 437 AC.
Galla died in 450 AD in Rome where she was buried close to her relatives.
Even if the capital of the Empire was Ravenna, Rome was always the cradle of imperial power.
WHY IS THE MAUSOLEUM OF GALLA PLACIDIA IN RAVENNA?
The so-called Mausoleum has never been the monumental tomb of Galla Placidia and her family.
The little latin-cross shaped building was part of a bigger one. It was a private chapel on the left side of the arcades facing the Holy Spirit church. It was the chapel where Galla used to go and pray for a good Christian death.
BLUE IS THE KEY COLOR OF THE AMAZING MOSAICS IN GALLA’S CHAPEL
When entering the small building, I recommend that you move all the way to the back in order to admire all the ceiling mosaics from the best spot.
In the lunette in front of you there is a Saint carrying a gold cross on one shoulder and an open book in the other hand. It is St. Lawrence, who is about to be martyred for his Christian faith. Saint Laurence was grilled like a piece of beef and the grill is completely surrounded by vivid flames.
In the lunette in the opposite direction, you can see a man sitting on a rock, carrying the same golden cross. He is surrounded by six sheeps. He looks like the Good Shepherd but he is not. He is Jesus Christ after the Resurrection, young and handsome, like everyone will be after resuscitating!
Above you, the golden cross shines amidst a vivid blue sky, with dozens of stars scattered all around.
All the represented episodes show to the visitor what the faith meant to a good Christian, as was Galla Placidia. Faith must not fear death, because death is the starting point for the Resurrection. Saint Lawrence is not afraid to suffer and die, because he knows that he will overcome human death, as Jesus Christ did.
There is a great message of hope and faith in all the mosaics of Galla Placidia. The gold and blue tiles bring us back in a past time of deep beliefs and great mysteries.
THE BEST WAY TO VISIT THE MAUSOLEUM OF GALLA PLACIDIA
Of course, the best way to visit this monument is to join our Art & Food Tour in Ravenna! You will visit the Mausoleum, the nearby Basilica of San Vitale and the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo. They are all UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE MONUMENTS and you will discover the amazing mosaics and stories while tasting delicious local food!
We will take care of purchasing tickets and booking admission. You just have to get to Ravenna!