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  • Arian Baptistry ceiling mosaic

  • The Good Shepherd mosaic, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

  • Mausoleum of Empress Galla Placidia

    Image by Richard Mortel on Flickr via CC BY 2.0

  • Interior of the Basilica of San Vitale

  • The Basilica of San Vitale

  • The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

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  • The ‘city of mosaics’ welcomes us for a five-day tour brimming with some of the most impressive early Christian monuments in the world

  • Stand opposite Ravenna’s earliest mosaics in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, including an intense portrayal of the martyrdom of St Lawrence

  • The ancient port of Classe, founded by Augustus, awes us with its immense Basilica of Sant’Apollinare, shimmering with gold and turquoise

“It was a pleasure to benefit from Andrew Wilson's range and depth of knowledge – from the art to the architecture and construction and the history”

– ACE customer on a 2024 Roman & Byzantine Ravenna tour led by Andrew Wilson

Today a small, tranquil town of cobbled streets, Ravenna was once one of the Mediterranean’s most illustrious cities. The final capital of the Western Roman Empire, Ravenna served as the seat of Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, before the Byzantines transformed the city into one of Europe’s foremost centres of art and culture.

Ravenna’s surviving collection of early Christian monuments and mosaics is without parallel in Christendom, a beguiling blend of Greco-Roman tradition and Christian iconography. At the heart of this opulent legacy lies the Basilica of San Vitale, begun during the Ostrogoths’ rule and finished under Justinian, where the glittering mosaic portraiture of Justinian and his wife Theodora captures the essence of Byzantium: the emperor, set against a flat, gold background, is resplendent in imperial purple, a gold paten in his outstretched hand, a halo encircling his scintillating crown.

The seemingly humble Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, erected a century before San Vitale, boasts Ravenna’s earliest mosaics, including a vivid portrayal of the martyrdom of St Lawrence as he approaches the red-hot grid-iron. Breathtaking, too, is the interior of the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, erected by Theodoric and later re-consecrated under Byzantine rule: the twin nave mosaics depict a sparkling ceremonial procession of martyrs and virgins, saints and angels.

Just outside the ‘city of mosaics’ we will visit the ancient port of Classe, founded by Augustus, to view the huge Basilica of Sant’Apollinare with its exceptional mosaics rich in gold and turquoise. While here, we will have an opportunity to stop at the site’s excellent new museum, which takes visitors on a journey back in time to explore the origins of Ravenna and Classe.

Accommodation is in Ravenna’s three-star standard Hotel Bisanzio, situated in a quiet area of the city just a few steps from San Vitale and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. While the facilities are of a more basic standard, the hotel is clean, comfortable and welcoming, and has been selected particularly for its excellent location.


This tour will be led by Andrew Wilson, BA, BD, FSAScot. Andrew studied archaeology then theology before working overseas as an archaeologist, specialising in Roman frontier systems and Byzantine mosaics.


Tour Director Andrew Wilson writes: “Standing in the apse at San Vitale with its shimmering mosaics, there is always something more to admire, and out of so many familiar favourites, my eye is always drawn to the glorious representation of Theodora, with her sumptuous robes, Magi-decorated hem, jewelled crown and emerald, pearl and sapphire earrings. She has gazed down on us for nearly 1500 years, and the least we can do is acknowledge her majesty, power and dignity in this masterpiece of the mosaicist’s art. Come and see for yourself!”


Back-to-back tour opportunity

Customers travelling on this tour may also wish to consider booking on our Aquileia: City of Antiquity tour, which will run in close proximity to this tour, from March 10-15, 2025. Contact the ACE office or click the link below for more information:


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Included: return airfare, accommodation based on sharing a twin or double bedded room, four breakfasts, one lunch, four dinners with wine, water & coffee, excursions & admissions, gratuities & all taxes.

Not Included: travel insurance, single room supplement £105, double room for single use supplement £165.

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