Arian Baptistery (Battistero degli Ariani)
Baptistery in Ravenna
The Arian Baptistery, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Monument since 1996, is located not far from the Ravenna railway station, situated in a small piazza paved with sampietrini (cobblestones).
This baptistery is believed to have been constructed by King Theodoric at the end of the 5th century AD, during a time when Arianism was the official religion of the court. Originally, it was designed as a complementary structure to the nearby Arian Cathedral. Around the middle of the 6th century AD, it was consecrated to Orthodox worship under the orders of Justinian and became an oratory dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In the 13th century, Benedictine monks took responsibility for it, and later, it was handed over to the clergy. In the late 19th century, it faced the risk of becoming a warehouse before finally becoming a State heritage site in 1914. Subsequent restoration work focused on the structure and the mosaics of the dome.
The original grandeur of the Arian Baptistery is challenging to imagine today, as much of its structure is now underground, and a system of waterways has been implemented to prevent flooding. Originally, it stood almost three meters taller. Only a few rebuilt sections of the original ambulatory (annular corridor) remain, which provide a connection to the ancient Arian Cathedral, now known as the Chiesa di Santo Spirito (Church of the Holy Spirit). Most of the original stuccoes and decorations have disappeared over time. However, one remarkable exception is the mosaic decoration of the dome, which depicts the baptism of Christ and is similar in design to the Neonian Baptistery.
The mosaic on the dome of the Arian Baptistery portrays the baptism of Christ, a theme also present in the Neonian (Orthodox) Baptistery. While the iconographic design is similar, the Arian Baptistery mosaic reflects the religious beliefs of Theodoric’s court. In the central clypeus (round panel), a young and nude Christ stands in water up to his hips. The external concentric band features the twelve apostles walking toward a magnificent gem-studded throne topped by a cross. A purple coat hangs from the cross’s arms, symbolizing Christ’s earthly nature and human suffering. The mosaic of the baptism itself dates back to Theodoric’s era, while the apostles were largely restored during the mid-6th century.
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Visiting Arian Baptistery (Battistero degli Ariani)
From Monday to Friday: 9 am – 12 pm
Saturdays and Sundays: 9 am – 12 pm / 2 pm – 5 pm