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Built in 520 AD as his own tomb, the Mausoleum of Theoderic is a monument exhibiting Roman art in its purest form

David Goran

The Mausoleum of Theoderic, built by the Arian Ostrogothic emperor Theoderic in 520 AD as his future tomb, is an ancient monument just outside Ravenna, Italy, a town famous for its early Christian monuments and Byzantine mosaics.

It is built using enormous blocks of stone from Istria and is divided into two decagonal sections, one above the other.

It was built in 520 AD by Theoderic the Great as his future tomb. Photo Credit

It was built in 520 AD by Theoderic the Great as his future tomb. Photo Credit

 

Entrance to the Mausoleum of Theoderic. Photo Credit

Entrance to the Mausoleum of Theoderic. Photo Credit

 

It is inspired by funerary architecture with round plan, both from the Roman and from the East. Photo Credit

It is inspired by funerary architecture with round plan, both from the Roman and from the East. Photo Credit

Roofed by a large monolithic dome (commissioned by Theodoric himself as a symbol of power) with twelve square arches bearing the names of the eight Apostles and four Evangelists, this giant structure, measuring 10 meters in diameter and weighing around 230 tons, is probably one of the greatest monoliths in the world to be used as a cupola.

It still remains unclear how this 230 ton stone was transported from Istria or lifted onto the top of the building.

It is entirely made of Istrian stone and it measures 10,76m in diameter and 3,09m in height. Photo Credit

 

 

Theodoric the Great was an Ostrogothic king that ruled Italy from AD 493 to 526. Photo Credit

Theodoric the Great was an Ostrogothic king that ruled Italy from AD 493 to 526. Photo Credit

 

Inside lower level. Photo Credit

Inside lower level. Photo Credit

 

Inside top level with cracked roof stone. Photo Credit

Inside top level with cracked roof stone. Photo Credit

 

Inside top level. Photo Credit

Inside top level. Photo Credit

A niche leads down to a room, probably a former cruciform-plan chapel used for religious services and an external staircase leads to the upper floor. Located in the center of the floor is a circular porphyry stone grave in which Theoderic was eventually buried.

However, his remains were removed from the Mausoleum in AD 561 during the Byzantine domination. Over time, the mausoleum was left to decline and incorporated in other buildings. It subsequently became an oratory and also served as a lighthouse.

The circular porphyry stone grave where Theoderic was buried. Photo Credit

The circular porphyry stone grave where Theoderic was buried. Photo Credit

 

Porphyry sarcophagus of Theodoric. Photo Credit

Porphyry sarcophagus of Theodoric. Photo Credit

 

 

The facade and portico were rebuilt in the 16th century. Photo Credit

The facade and portico were rebuilt in the 16th century. Photo Credit

The legend says that the great Gothic king Theodoric predicted that he would die from a lightning strike. To avoid this fate, the king ordered the construction of a place where he could seek refuge on rainy days: a place protected and indestructible, covered by a dome so powerful that it would never be destroyed.

Read another story from us: The Pietroasele Treasure: late 4th-century hoard of Gothic gold artifacts discovered in an ancient grave in Romania

But the prophecy came true and one stormy night a lightning bolt struck the dome while Theodoric was still inside.It is one of eight sites in Ravenna inscribed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list.