Italy in southern Europe is one of our homeschool countries-of-the-week, so why not spend a few minutes today learning about one of Italy’s World Heritage Sites: the Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna.
As the Roman Empire declined and split into Western and Eastern halves during the third and fourth centuries, Ravenna came to supplant Rome as the Western Empire’s chief city:
The serial property Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna in north-east Italy consists of eight monuments, namely the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the Neonian Baptistery, the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, the Arian Baptistery, the Archiepiscopal Chapel, the Mausoleum of Theodoric, the Church of San Vitale and the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, built between the 5th and 6th centuries AD. These religious monuments, decorated with precious marble, stuccos and mosaics, reflect the major historical, political and religious events that took place in Ravenna, which became the capital of the Western Roman Empire in 402 AD, and remained prominent as the first Ostrogothic and then Byzantine capital in Italy through the fifth and sixth centuries.
The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, small but lavishly decorated in the inside with inspiring mosaics against a dark blue background, reflects the Western Roman architectural tradition. The Neonian Baptistery, ornate with its inlaid marble, stuccos and multi-coloured mosaics in the cupola, is the finest and most complete surviving example of an Early Christian baptistery. From the peak of the Goths’ reign, the Arian Baptistery preserves mosaics showing the baptism of Christ and iconographic details that reflect principles of the Arian faith. The Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo was also built during the reign of Theodoric as a Palatine chapel, with mosaics in traditional Roman style that also show a strong Byzantine influence. The Mausoleum of Theodoric is a unique and singular architectural work, constructed out of large blocks of Istrian stone around a central space, and is the only surviving example of a tomb of a barbarian king of this period. The Archbishop’s Chapel, on the other hand, is the only orthodox monument built during Theodoric’s reign. The Basilica of San Vitale, from the time of Justinian, is one of the highest creations of Byzantine architecture in Italy, and combines elements from both the Western and Eastern traditions. Lastly, five kilometres from Ravenna we find the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, an imposing building with its impressive forms, cylindrical bell tower, spacious interiors and rich marbles and mosaics.
The Early Christian buildings of Ravenna are unique testimonies of the artistic contacts and developments in a highly significant period of the cultural development in Europe. They constitute an epitome of religious and funerary art and architecture during the 5th and 6th centuries AD. The mosaics are among the best surviving examples of this form of art in Europe and have added significance due to the blending of western and eastern motifs and techniques. (World Heritage Centre #788)
You can find a gallery of additional photos of the Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna on the World Heritage Centre’s website.
World Heritage Sites are cultural or natural landmarks of international significance, selected for recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. More than 1000 such sites have been recognized in over 160 countries, and we feature one every Wednesday, drawn from one of our homeschool countries-of-the-week. You can find a complete list of World Heritage Sites online at the World Heritage Centre and in Wikipedia.
The World Heritage Centre also has a free and comprehensive World Heritage education kit for teachers, as well as a wonderful full-color wall map of World Heritage Sites, available for the cost of shipping. Why not add them both to your own homeschool library. 🗺
What world treasures are you exploring in your homeschool this Orion Term? 😊
❡ Books in the running brooks: You can always turn to your River Houses almanac, atlas, and history encyclopedia for more information about any of our countries-of-the-week. The almanac has profiles of all the nations of the world on pages 752–859; the endpapers of the atlas are indexes that will show you where all of the individual national and regional maps may be found; the history encyclopedia includes national histories on pages 489–599; and you can find additional illustrations, flags, and other mentions through the indexes in each of these volumes. For an ideal little lesson, just write the name of the Weekly World Heritage Site on your homeschool bulletin board, find its location in your atlas, read the WHC’s brief description aloud, look at a picture or two, and you’re done. Over the course of the year, without even realizing it, your students will absorb a wealth of new historical, geographical, and cultural information. 🇮🇹
❡ The great globe itself: This is one of our regular Homeschool States & Countries posts featuring historical and natural sites of international importance. Download a copy of our River Houses World Heritage Calendar and follow along with us as we tour the planet, and add your name to our weekly mailing list to get great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox all through the year. 🌍