(As Per Sign)
Mausoleo Di Galla Placidia
The small cruciform building, known as the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, was erected in the second quarter of the 5th century. In origin the chapel was probably dedicated to St. Lawrence, a saint much venerated by the Valentinian and Theodosian Imperial family, who is depicted in the lunette on the wall facing the door. Built to the shape of a Latin cross it has a plain bare exterior fabric of short and large bricks, a traditional feature in the architecture of the whole of North Italy. Over the crossing of the two arms of the cruciform building is a dome, concealed on the exterior by a small quadrangular tower. The interior of the Mausoleum displays a lavish amount of decoration: in its lower part it is covered by panels of marble, whereas in its upper part it is completely covered with mosaics. In the center of the dome vault which is in itself the symbol of heaven, is depicted a glittering golden Latin cross surrounded by 570 golden stars arranged in concentric circles, their intense glitter lighting up the deep blue ground like a nocturnal sky. In connection with the cross are the four living creatures of the Apocalypse: the lion, the calf, the man and the eagle, depicted in the pendentives of the cupola as if they were continuously praising God. Four pairs of Apostles with their right hands raised, the eschatological cross shining above are depicted on the four sides of the drum. The pair above the left transept are St. Paul and St. Peter, easily recognizable for their typical iconographic traits: Paul holds a scroll and Peter is carrying the keys. Between each pair of Apostles are peculiar decorative motifs: symbolizing the souls of upright men, two doves are either drinking from a water vessel or are standing by a fountain alluding to the solace of eternal life. Similarly, in the lunettes of the transept, a pair of thirsty harts approaches a pool of water through a trellis of acanthus leaves (the scene illustrates Psalm 42: As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God). In the transept barrel vaults are undoubtedly four Apostles, thus bringing the total number of Apostles up to twelve, including those in the drum lunettes. Worthy of particular note is the scene of the martyrdom of St. Lawrence: unlike the immobile and statuary Apostles, he moves with decision and his robes flowing out behind. In the Good Shepherd lunette over the entrance, is the youthful haloed Christ, and around Him, a group of sheep. The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is one of the most extraordinary monuments of Late Antiquity which have come down to us, both for its architecture and decoration. One of its most striking peculiarities is that it is both an Imperial mausoleum and an oratory dedicated to St. Lawrence. Although, as aforementioned, there is no concrete evidence as to the destination of the shrine, many elements seem to prove the hypothesis that the building was originally conceived as mausoleum for the Imperial family: the pine cone at the top of the roof is a typical funerary symbol, the atmosphere of shadowy half light inside evoked by the mosaics, its narrowness and the diminutive size of the windows, as well as the iconographic program of the decoration, all go to suggest it was a sepulcher.