Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
Overview
 
The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
Galla Placidia
Aelia Galla Placidia , daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, was the Regent for Emperor Valentinian III from 423 until his majority in 437, and a major force in Roman politics for most of her life...

is a Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 building in Ravenna
Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. It was listed with seven other structures in Ravenna in the World Heritage List in 1996. The UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 experts describe it as "the earliest and best preserved of all mosaic monuments, and at the same time one of the most artistically perfect".

The mausoleum is laid out in a Greek cross plan with a central dome on pendentives and barrel vaults over the four transepts.
Encyclopedia
The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
Galla Placidia
Aelia Galla Placidia , daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, was the Regent for Emperor Valentinian III from 423 until his majority in 437, and a major force in Roman politics for most of her life...

is a Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 building in Ravenna
Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. It was listed with seven other structures in Ravenna in the World Heritage List in 1996. The UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 experts describe it as "the earliest and best preserved of all mosaic monuments, and at the same time one of the most artistically perfect".

The mausoleum is laid out in a Greek cross plan with a central dome on pendentives and barrel vaults over the four transepts. The exterior of the dome is enclosed in a square tower that rises above the gabled lateral wings. The brick surface is set with narrow mortar joints and decorated with blind arcades.

The building was formerly the oratory of the Church of the Holy Cross and now contains three sarcophagi. The largest was thought to contain the remains of Galla Placidia
Galla Placidia
Aelia Galla Placidia , daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, was the Regent for Emperor Valentinian III from 423 until his majority in 437, and a major force in Roman politics for most of her life...

 (died 450), daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

. Her embalmed body was reportedly deposited there in a sitting position, clothed with the imperial mantle. In 1577, however, the contents of the sarcophagus were accidentally burned. The sarcophagus to the right is attributed to Galla's son, Emperor Valentinian III
Valentinian III
-Family:Valentinian was born in the western capital of Ravenna, the only son of Galla Placidia and Flavius Constantius. The former was the younger half-sister of the western emperor Honorius, and the latter was at the time Patrician and the power behind the throne....

, or to her brother, Emperor Honorius
Honorius (emperor)
Honorius , was Western Roman Emperor from 395 to 423. He was the younger son of emperor Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the eastern emperor Arcadius....

. The one on the left is attributed to her husband, Emperor Constantius III
Constantius III
Flavius Constantius , commonly known as Constantius III, was Western Roman Emperor for seven months in 421. A prominent general and politician, he was the power behind the throne for much of the 410s, and in 421 briefly became co-emperor of the Western Empire with Honorius.- Early life and rise to...

.

The building is not currently used as a mausoleum. It is unknown what the building was intended for when it was built. The most common story is that the structure was built by Galla Placidia, who was a well-known patron of the arts, to be used as a mausoleum for her and her family. There seems to be no evidence to prove or disprove Galla’s connection to the building. The mausoleum was once connected to the narthex
Narthex
The narthex of a church is the entrance or lobby area, located at the end of the nave, at the far end from the church's main altar. Traditionally the narthex was a part of the church building, but was not considered part of the church proper...

 of Santa Croce, the church for the imperial palace, built in 417 but now in ruins. Santa Croce was one of the first buildings commissioned by Galla. The floor has been raised by five feet since the fifth century in order to remain above the rising water along the upper Adriatic coast.

The interior of the mausoleum is covered with rich Byzantine mosaics, and light enters through alabaster window panels. The inside contains two famous mosaic lunettes, and the rest of the interior is filled with mosaics of Christian and Apocalyptic symbols. The central bay's upper walls are decorated with four pairs of apostles, including St. Peter and St. Paul, acclaiming a giant gold cross in the center of the dome against a blue sky of stars. Symbols of the four evangelists float among the clouds. The other four apostles appear in the barrel vaults of the transepts.

The lunette over the north entrance shows a mosaic of Christ as the Good Shepherd tending his flocks. He holds an imperial staff joined to the Christian cross, symbolizing the combined earthly and heavenly domains. The lunette over the south wall is thought to depict St. Lawrence standing next to a flaming gridiron. On the opposite side of the gridiron a bookcase is shown with four books, each inscribed with the name of an evangelist.

The art historian Gillian Mackie argues that this panel represents the Spanish St. Vincent of Saragossa rather than the Italian St. Lawrence. Mackie cites Galla's connection to Spain; in addition, St. Vincent was martyred by drowning at sea, and Galla and her children had been delivered from shipwreck. The panel seems to be an illustration of the poem about St. Vincent in Prudentius's fifth century Passio Sancti Vincent Martyris. In the poem St. Vincent is ordered to disclose his sacred books to be burned. This explains the cupboard containing the Gospels, which has no satisfactory explanation in the story of St. Lawrence.

Musical associations

The mausoleum is reputed to have inspired American songwriter Cole Porter
Cole Porter
Cole Albert Porter was an American composer and songwriter. Born to a wealthy family in Indiana, he defied the wishes of his domineering grandfather and took up music as a profession. Classically trained, he was drawn towards musical theatre...

 to compose "Night and Day
Night and Day (song)
"Night and Day" is a popular song by Cole Porter. It was written for the 1932 musical play Gay Divorce. It is perhaps Porter's most popular contribution to the Great American Songbook and has been recorded by dozens of artists....

" while on a 1920s visit.

External links

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