Travel Diary 54: RAVENNA, Neonian Baptistery and Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

by Agnes Felber November. 22, 2013 3824 views

Galla Placidia was a powerful figure, an empress and regent.
Born in 392 AD, Constantinople, Turkey, died in November 27, 450 AD, Rome, Italy, she
was the daughter of Roman Emperor Theodosius I (379-395) and his second wife, Galla, the daughter of Valentinian I. She was the half-sister of the young Roman emperors Honorius (393-423) and Arcadius (383-408), the aunt of Theodosius II and Pulcheria, the wife of Athaulf, King of the Goths, and then of Flavius Constantius (421) (who was promoted to co-emperor with Honorius shortly before his death), and the mother of Valentinian III.

When, under the leadership of Alaric, the Goths sacked Rome in August 410, they took Galla Placidia with them to Gaul.

Galla Placidia Marries

After the death of Alaric, his brother-in-law, Athaulf became the king. Galla Placidia married him in Narbo in January 414 – against the wishes of her half-brother Honorius, and had a son named Theodosius who died soon thereafter. Following the death of Athaulf in 414, the Goths returned Galla Placidia to the Romans who wanted her to marry Flavius Constantius, who had succeeded Stilicho to power. (Flavius Stilicho (ca. 359–408) was a high-ranking general (magister militum) who was, for a time, the most powerful man in the Western Roman Empire. Half Vandal and married to the niece of the Emperor Theodosius, Stilicho’s regency for the underage Honorius marked the high point of German advancement in the service of Rome.)
Reluctantly, Galla Placidia married Flavious Constantinus and produced two children, Justa Grata Honoria and Valentinian. When, on February 8, 421, Constantius was made co-emperor (Constantius III) in the west by Honorius, Galla Placidia was named Augusta. Constantius died on September 2, 421. Galla Placidia and her childless half-brother Honorius became very close for a while, but then they quarreled.

Galla Placidia Flees to Constantinople

Galla Placidia fled with her children to Constantinople in 423 to escape a charge of aiding her brother's enemies. Although earlier Theodosius hadn't recognized the imperial elevation of Constantius and therefore, the status of his aunt as Augusta, he welcomed her, and soon recognized both her status and the legitimacy of her son as heir. Honorius died soon after, on August 27 of the same year. A usurper John assumed the throne in Ravenna. Theodosius set out to win the throne back for his family. When the imperial party reached Thessalonica the young Valentinian was made Caesar.

Galla Placidia - The Power Behind the Throne

Placidia was regent for her young son for the next 12 years. She had legislation passed in her son's name (according to Oost), stating that the emperor was subject to the laws of the land, as opposed to the situation in the east where the emperor was above the law. Galla Placidia was also involved in the power play between Felix, Boniface, and Aetius, who has been called the last of the Romans. Earlier, Placidia is thought to have been involved in the conspiracy against the Vandal Stilicho and the subsequent execution of Serena, Stilicho's wife and Galla Placidia's cousin.
Galla Placidia is also counted a devout Christian who was involved in church building and restoration.

Founded by the bishop Ursus, therefore after the year 396, it was built before the transferral of the capital from Milan to Ravenna. The baptistery is famous for the mosaics in the cupola commissioned by Bishop Neonius.

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is a Roman building in Ravenna, Italy. It was listed with seven other structures in Ravenna in the World Heritage List in 1996.
The UNESCO experts describe it as “the earliest and best preserved of all mosaic monuments, and at the same time one of the most artistically perfect.”

The building was formerly the oratory of the Church of the Holy Cross and now contains three sarcophagi. The largest sarcophagus was thought to contain the remains of Galla Placidia (died 450), daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. Her embalmed body was reportedly deposited there in a sitting position, clothed with the imperial mantle. In 1577, however, the contents of the sarcophagus were accidentally burned. The sarcophagus to the right is attributed to Galla's son, Emperor Valentinian III, or to her brother, Emperor Honorius. The one on the left is attributed to her husband, Emperor Constantius III.

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Mikkal Noptek 6 years, 11 months ago

Wow !! Wow !! Wow !! What a wonderful mosaic !!

6 years, 11 months ago Edited
Mike Meliska 6 years, 11 months ago

Fantastic shots....

6 years, 11 months ago Edited
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