March 09, 2014
The Basilica of Sant' Apollinare in Classe is an important monument of Byzantine art near Ravenna, Italy. When the UNESCO inscribed eight Ravenna sites on the World Heritage List, it cited this basilica as "an outstanding example of the early Christian basilica in its purity and simplicity of its design and use of space and in the sumptuous nature of its decoration".
The imposing brick structure was erected at the beginning of 6th century by order of Bishop Ursicinus, using money from the Greek banker Iulianus Argentarius. It was certainly located next to a Christian cemetery, and quite possibly on top of a pre-existing pagan one, as some of the ancient tombstones were re-used in its construction.
Sant'Apollinare in Classe was consecrated on May 9, 549 by Bishop Maximian and dedicated to Saint Apollinaris, first bishop of Ravenna and Classe. The Basilica is thus contemporary with the Basilica of San Vitale of Ravenna. In 856, the relics of Saint Apollinaris were transferred from the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe to the Basilica of Sant' Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna.
The exterior has a large façade with two simple uprights and one mullioned window with three openings. The narthex and building to the right of the entry are later additions, as is the fine 9th century round bell tower with mullioned windows.