What comes to mind when you hear the Italian city-name Ravenna? My first thought before today was that I must have read it in some Shakespeare drama, but that’s not so. Instead, I learned that it has been a city since long before Christ’s birth, that it was the capital of the Western Roman Empire as well as capital of the Ostrogoth kingdom that followed, that, although it is landlocked now, it was once a seaport, AND that eight early Christian monuments of Ravenna are inscribed on the World Heritage List. Wow!
We arrived in Ravenna around noon today, having left Florence by 9 a.m. this morning, and soon met up with Marina, our local guide. She led us through five of the eight World Heritage monuments, several of which house stunning mosaics — beginning with the Basilica of San Vitale.
Local red clay bricks were used to build the basilica in the middle of the Sixth Century resulting in an unassuming exterior. The interior, however, is anything but ….
Marina mentioned that watching our faces as we entered the basilica brought her such joy — it is an awesome sight.
Our tour included several other points of interest including Dante’s tomb and the mausoleum of Galla Placidia (a Roman princess kidnapped by the Visigoths). We closed with a visit to Ravenna’s round tower
and the Baptistery of Neon whose walls are once again covered with spectacular mosaics.
Reboarding our trusty bus (driven throughout Italy by our careful driver Mateo), we clocked another two hours to reach our hotel in Mestre on the outskirts of Venice. Tomorrow we catch a train to Venice’s city center, cruise the canals in a boat taxi AND a gondola, and walk the lanes at dusk for a view of Venice at night. Sounds like a lovely way to end our tour.
Jeff Weima, our tour leader, has been using the book of Romans (given that we visited Rome, spending four entire days there discovering what life may have been like for the First Century believers to whom Paul wrote his letter) in our evening study sessions. By design and with artful passion, he preached on the beginning verses of Romans 8 this morning, proclaiming and leading us in celebrating our freedom from sin. It was moving and powerful — and a great way to start the day. Thanks, Jeff!