Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe
Basilica in Ravenna
Located just on the outskirts of the small town of Classe, approximately 8 kilometers south of Ravenna, one of the eight monuments that constitute the city’s UNESCO site stands as a grand and solemn testament – it’s the majestic Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, complete with its distinctive cylindrical bell tower. This remarkable site has held UNESCO World Heritage Monument status since 1996.
The basilica was constructed to house the remains of the patron saint, St. Apollinaris, and was built atop a cemetery area that was in use between the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 3rd century. It is believed that the protobishop Apollinaris himself was buried here.
The Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe was funded by Giuliano Argentario, acting on behalf of Bishop Ursicino (533 – 536 AD). However, it wasn’t consecrated until a few years later (549 AD), under the archbishopric of Massimiano. This imposing and majestic basilica features a 30-meter-high façade and is nearly twice as long, earning it the distinction of being the most significant basilica of the Early Christian period known today.
Despite enduring plundering and loss of its original four-arched portico over the centuries, the basilica still maintains the beauty of its original structure. However, it is primarily renowned for its magnificent polychrome mosaics adorning the apse and the ancient marble sarcophagi lining the naves.
Of particular significance is the depiction of Apollinaris, the founder and first bishop of the Church of Ravenna, shown with raised arms in the age-old gesture of prayer. Within this profoundly symbolic setting, every element carries deep meaning, including twelve white lambs nestled in a verdant landscape, symbolizing the twelve apostles.
The mosaics portray an array of plants, rocks, and birds, some indigenous to the area. Additionally, the mosaic pays tribute to key figures of the Church of Ravenna. Above the paradisiacal landscape featuring Apollinaris, a golden hand of God emerges from the billowing white clouds. Beneath it, a gem-studded cross stands out against a sapphire sky adorned with 99 golden and silver stars.
Within the cross, Christ’s visage and the apocalyptic letters of the Greek alphabet – the Alpha and the Omega, symbolizing the Beginning and the End of all things – can be discerned. Adjacent to this, Moses and Elijah emerge from the clouds, while just below, three sheep represent the apostles who bore witness to the Transfiguration.
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Visiting Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe
From Monday to Saturday: 8.30 am – 7.30 pm
Sundays and holidays: 1.30 pm – 7.30 pm
Last admission: 30 minutes before closing time.