As early as the first century B.C. Ravenna has always been considered as a city of great importance; in 402 A.D. it became the capital of the Western Roman Empire. Even in later centuries (V and VI A.D.) it played a major role, during both the domination of the Ostrogoths and under the Byzantine Empire.
As evidence of this past, a complex of early Christian religious monuments of extraordinary artistic value is still preserved, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The precious mosaic decorations constitute a common element all over the city, for which Ravenna is worth the tile of "city of mosaics".
The early Christian masterpieces are the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, which contains amazing mosaics; the Mausoleum of Theodoric; the Baptistry of Neon or Orthodox Baptistry, with an enchanting dome decorated with polychrome mosaics; the Arian Baptistry, with its dome covered with a mosaic; the Basilica of Sant' Apollinare Nuovo, with the walls of the nave completely covered with mosaics and the Basilica of San Vitale, with the magnificent mosaics of the apse and the Archbishop's Chapel.
Right outside the city is the Basilica of Sant' Apollinare in Classe, known for its mosaics depicting the Patron Saint of Ravenna, nestled in a rustic setting.