Eastern art blends with Catholic tradition in the Basilica of San Vitale, considered one of the most important destinations for early Christian art in the country. This octagonal church in central Ravenna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors come from around the world to see its stunning mosaics, cavernous interior and the maze depicted on the church floor. Join a guided tour of the Basilica of San Vitale to learn about its history or attend a musical event to hear the church’s heavenly acoustics.
Examine the church’s exterior before entering. Like several of the 5th- and 6th-century religious sites in Ravenna, the church was built as an octagon and features a seamless blend of Eastern art and architectural styles from the West. Explore the church on your own to admire the many mosaics within. Join a guided tour to learn the stories behind each piece. Walk through the presbytery vault to see a medallion depicting the Lamb of God and stop at the apse to see an image of Christ the Redeemer alongside the founder of the church, Bishop Ecclesius.
Spend time admiring your surroundings in the main choir. The high mosaics feature many central Byzantine figures. See panels depicting Abraham and his wife Sarah, Moses climbing Mt. Sinai with the Twelve Tribes of Israel and John and Luke with their animal symbols, the eagle and ox, respectively.
Throughout the year, the Basilica of San Vitale hosts orchestral and operatic performances. Book a seat early to avoid disappointment as the church has a very limited capacity compared to many concert halls. Listen as the celestial tones reverberate between the centuries-old walls.
The Basilica of San Vitale is located in central Ravenna and is best reached on foot. Find some street parking in the area. Buses pass by the church regularly. The church is closed on Christmas and New Year’s. The admission fee can be coupled with other UNESCO World Heritage listed sites in Ravenna.