Magazine February 22, 2021, Issue

Ravenna: Jewel Amid the Ruins of Empire

Interior of the fifth-century Mausoleo di Galla Placidia, Ravenna, Italy (Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe, by Judith Herrin (Princeton University Press, 576 pp., $29.95)

I  liked Judith Herrin’s Ravenna for three big reasons. I am an art historian by trade and worship Ravenna’s churches, tombs, and baptistries decorated with mosaics for which the city is famous. Dating from around 420 to around 550, the mosaics certainly glitter. Made of lustrous little squares of glass in endless shades of pure color, they’ve hypnotized visitors from Dante to today.

The tomb of Galla Placidia, or, simply, Placidia (around 390–450), was built around 425. It’s one of the most moving little monuments in Europe. She was the mother of Valentinian III, one of the last Roman emperors, and …

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This article appears as “Jewel Amid the Ruins” in the February 22, 2021, print edition of National Review.

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In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners


The Week

The Week

A San Francisco school board has voted to rename 44 schools the names of which are associated with ‘dishonorable legacies.’


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