It was time for a road trip so we went to the train station for a overnight to Ravenna.  According to Rick Steves “Ravenna is on the tourist map for one reason: its 1,500-year-old  churches, decorated with best-in-the-West Byzantine mosaics. Known in Roman  times as Classe, the city was an imperial port for the large naval fleet.  Briefly a capital of eastern Rome during its fall, Ravenna was taken by the  barbarians. Then, in A.D. 540, the  Byzantine emperor Justinian turned Ravenna into the westernmost pillar of the  Byzantine Empire. A pinnacle of civilization in that age, Ravenna was a light  in Europe’s Dark Ages. Two hundred years later, the Lombards booted the  Byzantines out, and Ravenna melted into the backwaters of medieval Italy,  staying out of historical sight for a thousand years.”  The main attraction is the city is full of 5th century Byzantine mosaics.  Once off the train we walked toward our B & B and stopped at the first site on the way called the Arian Baptistery.  The word “arian” comes from the name Arius who was a devout Christian priest around 320 A. D. who preached a seemingly simple idea:  Jesus, being the Son of God, was therefore created by God the Father.  This idea touched a firestorm of debate and division unmatched in Christianity until the Protestant Reformation.  This Baptistery was built during the reign of the Goths in 526 and is a small octagonal building.  The mosaic in this dome is quite a treasure since the Emperor Justinian and the Nicenes destroyed most of the Arian art.  From here we checked into our B & B then went across town (not very far) to Dante’s tomb.  After he was exiled from Florence for his political beliefs, Dante lived out the rest of his life in Ravenna.  The Florentines forgave Dante posthumously and wanted to bring his remains back to Florence.  To protect his relics from the Florentines, in 1519 Ravenna hid his bones in the Monastery of San Francesco, where they were forgotten until 1865.  Right next to Dante’s Tomb is the Basilica of San Francesco which brings people to see it  for it’s flooded mosaic-covered crypt below the altar.  Today’s water table is one yard above the Roman crypt’s floor level – so there is a pond with goldfish over the 5th century mosaics.  Next stop was the Basilica di Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo which is a 6th century church started as an Arian church – the palace of King Theodoric of the Goths.  There are a few surviving Arian mosaics that Justinian and the Nicenes did not erase when they took over the city.  Those are the ones I took pictures of.  My photography just does not do these beautiful mosaics justice.  Next we went back up to another part of the city to see the main Duomo.  It turned out to be a most beautiful cathedral.  They still had their elaborate animated Nativity Scene up. As I was video-ing the scene the organist started practicing, so Bruce and I sat down to listen to the impromptu concert.  By this time everything else had closed for the day so we found a cute local restaurant to finish our day.

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