The Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna

The Basilica is set on a flat plain about 8 km outside Ravenna. For some reason a modern hotel has been plonked right next door to it. Funded by the same rich banker that funded San Vitale, the basilica was built in the mid 6th century and dedicated in 549 to Saint Apollinaris, the first bishop of Classe, by Bishop Maximianus. The separate bell tower,a feature of many of the churches in Ravenna, was added in the 10th century.

The entrance is through a portico that has been rebuilt: the archaeology suggests is may have had a pyramidal shape originally:

The main body of the basilica is very impressive with its tall, veined, Greek marble columns and high clerestory windows which add to its light and sense of spaciousness. They also focus the attention on the only part of the basilica that still retains its mosaics, the apse.

The semi-dome of the apse features St Apollinaris tending his sheep in a green landscape while above him a jewelled golden cross in a roundel represents Christ in glory.

Just above the cross the hand of God appears in the clouds signifying Christ’s transfiguration and the revelation of his divine nature on Mt Tabor:

Aove the arch over the apse is a depiction of the Pantokrator, flanked by the Evangelists:

and beneath them on either side of the arch 12 sheep (symbolising the Apostles) are emerging from Jerusalem and Bethlehem, climbing towards Christ.

On the left wall of the apse is a depiction of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV granting privileges to the Ravenna Exarchate:

and on the right hand wall is Melchizedek, a Jewish High Priest (‘the King of Righteousness’) believed to be a prediction from the Old Testament of the reign of Christ.

One of the two Archangels (Michael) on either side of the apse arch:

There are also depictions of bishops of Ravenna at the back wall of the apse:

Finally the side aisles have some magnificent sarcophagi from different periods of the basilica’s history:

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