The largest early Christian basilica in the world
At the gates of the hamlet of Classe, 8 kilometres from Ravenna, stands the famous Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe, an early Christian cult building built in the 6th century AD at the behest of the then bishop Ursicino to house the remains of the city's patron saint. Almost 30 metres high and twice as long, it is the largest early Christian basilica known today and in 1996, was named a World Heritage Site byUNESCO.
Despite the plundering suffered over the centuries, the church retains much of its original beauty. The basilica, with three naves and an uncovered truss roof, ends with a polygonal apse, flanked by two side chapels. In the centre of the nave, on the site of the martyrdom of the Saint, there is an ancient altar, while along the walls there are numerous sarcophagi dating back to the 5th and 8th centuries. The walls are bare except for the apsidal basin, covered with mosaics.
At the top, a large disk encloses a starry sky in which stands a gemmed cross, which bears the face of Christ. Above is God's hand coming out of the clouds. On the sides, note the figures of Elijah and Moses. Lower down, the three lambs symbolise the apostles Peter, James and John. At the bottom, you can see the dedicatory Saint standing in a flower-filled valley with 12 lambs depicting the apostles.