Basilica of San Vitale

Church of San Vitale
Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy.jpg
The Church of San Vitale
AffiliationRoman Catholic
ProvinceArchdiocese of Ravenna-Cervia
Year consecrated547
LocationRavenna, Italy
Geographic coordinates44°25′12″N 12°11′46″E / 44°25′12″N 12°11′46″E / 44.42; 12.196
Architectural style
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Official nameChurch of St. Vitale
Part ofEarly Christian Monuments of Ravenna
Inscription1996 (20th Session)
Area0.14 ha (0.35 acres)
San Vitale Ravenna.jpg

The Basilica of San Vitale is a church in Ravenna, Italy, and one of the most important surviving examples of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture in Europe. The Roman Catholic Church has designated the building a "basilica", the honorific title bestowed on church buildings of exceptional historic and ecclesial importance, although it is not of architectural basilica form. It is one of eight Ravenna structures inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


The interior of the dome, with Baroque frescoes from the late 18th century.

The church was begun by Bishop Ecclesius in 526, when Ravenna was under the rule of the Ostrogoths and completed by the 27th Bishop of Ravenna, Maximian, in 547 preceding the Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna.

The construction of the church was sponsored by Julius Argentarius, a banker and architect, of whom very little is known, except that he also sponsored the construction of the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe at around the same time.[1] (A donor portrait of Julius Argentarius may appear among the courtiers on the Justinian mosaic.) The final cost amounted to 26,000 solidi (gold pieces).[2] It has been suggested that Julian originated in the eastern part of the Byzantine Empire, where there was a long-standing tradition of public benefactions.

The central vault used a western technique of hollow tubes inserted into each other, rather than bricks. This method was the first recorded structural use of terra-cotta forms, which later evolved into modern structural clay tile. The ambulatory and gallery were vaulted only later in the Middle Ages.[3]

The Baroque frescoes on the dome were made between 1778 and 1782 by S. Barozzi, U. Gandolfi and E. Guarana.[4]

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