Traditionally on January 6th, the Three Wise men or Magi visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna an early 6th century Byzantine style mosaic pictures their arrival from the East in stunning, exotic colors and intricate costumes.
One of the main reasons for going to Ravenna is to see some of the finest and most beautiful Byzantine mosaics in the world. In 330 AD the Christian Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire from the west to Byzantium in the east. From 500 to 700AD, the Adriatic Sea town of Ravenna flourished as an early Christian center influenced by the culture and art of Byzantium, decorating its church ceilings and walls with mosaics.
Visiting Ravenna is like looking into a jewel box and discovering a hidden treasure. Behind the somber basilica exteriors are shimmering mosaics of such quality that Ravenna has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the “outstanding universal value and remarkable significance” of the mosaics.
The Three Wise Men from the East can also be found on the mosaic image of Byzantine Empress Theodora in Ravenna’s Basilica of San Vitale. The hem of her imperial cloak of is embroidered with the figure of the three Magi. While visiting the sites of Ravenna you’ll want to stop for a piadina, an Italian flatbread filled with Parma ham, sausage, cheese or vegetables. Cooked on a low-rimmed terracotta or cast iron pan called a “testo“, it is typical of Ravenna and the Romgana region of the eastern Adriatic. A hand-held street food paired with a glass of Trebbiano or Sangiovese di Romagna perfect for discovering the mosaic beauty of Ravenna.