Mausoleum of Theodoric
mausoleum in Ravenna
Once you venture beyond the historical centre and the railway road in Ravenna, you’ll discover a prominent monument set within a sprawling public park—the MAUSOLEUM OF THEODORIC. This mausoleum, constructed in 520 AD as the final resting place for Theodoric, stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Monument since 1996.
The mausoleum is a testament to the skilled blend of Eastern influences and Roman traditional building techniques, which was characteristic of some other mausoleums. This fusion of methods created a monument that served as a bridge between the Roman populace and the Gothic “invaders.” The entire structure was meticulously crafted using blocks of Aurisina marble stone through a dry laying process. Its design centers on a central plan and comprises two decagonal superimposed levels.
Perched atop the mausoleum is a massive monolithic dome of extraordinary dimensions, unparalleled in both antique and modern architectural heritage. Measuring 10.76 meters in diameter and 3.09 meters in height, this dome is adorned with twelve curved handles bearing the names of eight Apostles and four Evangelists. Scholars continue to debate the means by which this colossal monolith, weighing approximately 290 tons, was transported and positioned. Some conjecture that the handles were specially crafted for the monolith’s transport and placement, which would have been an arduous undertaking, as indicated by the prominent crack on the dome.
Legend has it that a divine lightning bolt split the dome open, striking Theodoric, who was seated inside and thereby delivering divine retribution for his sins.
The lower floor consists of a series of niches integrated into nine walls, with the tenth wall containing the entrance door. The lower chamber, characterized by a cross plan and cross vault, likely served as a chapel—a place of worship and burial for Theodoric and his family.
In contrast, the upper floor features a central plan with a porphyry basin at its heart, traditionally believed to have held the remains of Theodoric. There is no evidence of an internal staircase leading to the upper floor, supporting the theory that the mausoleum had always been intended for burials.
Theodoric’s remains were initially interred here but were subsequently relocated and lost following Justinian’s decree in 561 AD. At that time, the mausoleum was converted into an oratory and consecrated to Orthodox worship.
This website uses affiliate links which may earn a commission at no additional cost to you!
Visiting Mausoleum of Theodoric
From Monday to Thursday 8.30am – 1.30pm (last entry at 1pm).
From Friday to Sunday 8.30am – 7pm (last entry 6.30pm)