Centre for Continuing Education

History Course: Ravenna Mosaics and Historical Memories

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

Join us for a day visiting the remarkable town of Ravenna, filled with mosaic treasures and historical memories.

A small town on the Adriatic sea, Ravenna is famous today for the shimmering Byzantine-style mosaics in its World Heritage-listed buildings. This unassuming town has a long and fascinating history.

In this course, you will examine the unique mosaics of Ravenna while delving into the town’s equally unique history – from Roman times up until the end of 8th century Byzantine rule.


This course aims to provide you with a detailed presentation of Ravenna’s World Heritage-listed mosaics in their art-historical context.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • demonstrate a knowledge of the historical chronology of Ravenna and its territory in the 5th-8th century AD
  • show an awareness of the new archaeological research that has been undertaken at Ravenna during the past 40 years
  • show an awareness of the variety of ancient written sources interpret the reliability of the evidence provided by written sources
  • assess the importance of new archaeological finds for a reconstruction of everyday life in Ravenna
  • evaluate the significance of key historical figures of the period
  • list the materials used in the making of mosaics in the Late Antiquity
  • outline the techniques and processes involved in the creation of large-scale mural mosaic decorations
  • demonstrate a knowledge of key features of Late Roman Christian iconography in the Ravenna mosaics
  • evaluate the significance of the Ravenna mosaics in Western art history.


Surrounded by marshes Ravenna was important in Roman times for its naval base. However, in the fifth century AD, when faced with barbarian incursions in northern Italy, the Roman emperor Honorius selected Ravenna as his imperial residence. It was at Ravenna in AD 476 that the last Roman emperor in the West was deposed by a Gothic war leader. The town then revived and flourished under Gothic kings, especially Theoderic, before being reconquered in the 6th century by the army of the Byzantine emperor Justinian. Ravenna remained in Byzantine hands until the 8th century.

This course covers the following topics:

  • the history of Ravenna in Late Antiquity with an emphasis on the reigns of the Gothic king Theoderic and the Byzantine emperor Justinian
  • the development of the port of Ravenna – commerce and defence
  • the lost secular buildings of Late Antiquity Ravenna including the palace and the lost churches of Ravenna.
  • the surviving Late Antiquity churches and religious buildings of Ravenna: St Vitale, St Giovanni Evangelista, Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Sant’Apollinare in Classe, the Baptistery of the Arians, the Baptistery of the Orthodox, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
  • the techniques used in the creation of polychrome mosaic mural decorations
  • decoding of the meanings embedded in the Christian iconography of the mosaics.

Intended audience

This course may be of interest to anyone wanting to:

  • explore Roman or Byzantine history
  • learn about Roman mosaic art and mosaic techniques
  • explore the meanings of the mosaic compositions through Christian iconography
  • visit Ravenna and therefore gain practical information about the town, its sites, churches and museums.



Delivery style

The course combines two formats: lecture style delivery, and class discussion of text excerpts and imagery of mosaics.

Recommended reading

The following are the most accessible modern studies of Ravenna in its historical context:

Deliyannis, D. 2010, Ravenna in Late Antiquity, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Massimiliano, D. 2013, Eternal Ravenna, Turnhout: Brepols.

Wickham, C. 1981, Early Medieval Italy, London: Macmillan.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Free, expert advice
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

History Course: Ravenna Mosaics and Historical Memories

<p>{block name:“Course Tagline - History”}</p><p>Join us for a day visiting the remarkable town of Ravenna, filled with mosaic treasures and historical memories.</p><p>A small town on the Adriatic sea