Via Romea Sud, 224 Classe RV
The basilica is open from Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (closed occasionally for functions held at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.) and Sundays and holidays from 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Last admission at 7 p.m.
Admission is allowed until 30 minutes before closing.
The Basilica is closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Regular €5 Discounted €2.5
The Basilica can be toured for free on the first Sunday of each month.
Hotel Classensis guests can book their visit to the Basilica through our concierge during their stay.
The Basilica di Sant’Apolinnare, a jewel of paleochristian art, rises up majestically in the quaint Classe quarter in the outskirts of Ravenna. Consecrated 9 May 549 by the archbishop Maximilian, it was dedicated to St. Apollinaire the martyr. In October of 1960, Pope John XXIII elevated it to the status of a basilica minor, and since 1996 it has been included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, as part of the “Ravenna Paleochristian Monument” series.
The outside is sober, with clean, reassuring lines, with a stone façade and a cylindrical bell tower dating back to the 9th century, and bedecked with windows with a vertical progression of single- double- and triple-arched windows. Just in front of the entrance you can see – as is typical with paleochristian basilicas – a narthex, a four-sided portico from which unbaptized catechumens could attend the Mass.
Entering the basilica, the intricate mosaic in the apse will immediately capture your eye, but don’t miss the walls along the right and left naves where you will see two rows of sepulchres dating from the 4th to the 9th centuries. The lateral naves are separated by striated marble columns with decorated capitals and connected by arches. Depicted on the walls lining the central nave are all the archbishops of Ravenna, who lead visitors to the foot of the main altar, at the very centre of the basilica. As tradition dictates, the altar is located precisely where St. Apollinaire is buried – his remains are held in the crypt underneath.
Along the sides of the apse two minor panels depict Abraham, Abel and Melchizedek in the act of offering a sacrifice to the Lord (on the right), and on the left, Emperor Constantine IV bestowing the privilege of self-governance on the Ravenna church.
But the single most valuable element of the basilica is, without a doubt, the mosaic-covered apse, ablaze with gold and figures.
The theme for the mosaic is the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. At the centre is St. Apollinaire, sumptuously garbed in an episcopal cloak and stole. He stands with arms held aloft towards a cross, which features Christ’s face in the centre. Representing the faithful are twelve sheep in a green luxuriant valley dotted with rocks, bushes, plants, and birds, while appearing in clouds above are Moses and ElijahRising tall and powerfully in the centre is the hand of God. On the sides you will notice symbols of the evangelists: an eagle (John), an angel (Matthew), a lion (Mark), and a calf (Luke). The three sheep positioned towards the bottom, right at the start of the green landscape, with their faces turned towards the jewel-encrusted cross, symbolise the apostles Peter, Jacob, and John. On the sides, below the two palm trees – symbol of justice – are the archangels Gabriel and Michael. Further down, in the four spaces between the five windows are depicted the four bishops who founded the basilicas of Ravenna: Ursicino, Orso, Severo, and Ecclesio.
The Cathedral faces west.
Plan your visit for an afternoon: as the light from the sunset strikes the gold on the façade, you’ll be treated to an absolutely magical display.