ARCHITECT, Byzantine
(active 520s in Ravenna)

Exterior view

c. 526
Mausoleum of Theodoric, Ravenna

Theodoric's most impressive monument was his two-storey mausoleum in Ravenna which is built entirely of large blocks of ashlar surmounted by a domed single block, a feat of engineering skill that may have been carried out by Isaurian builders who are recorded in 6th-century Thrace, Constantinople, Syria, and the Holy Land.

Built before or around the time of Theodoric's death in 526, this unique building demonstrates the remarkable degree of artistic originality that persisted in Ravenna while it was still an Ostrogothic town. It is a two-storey structure built of huge blocks of ashlar without mortar and crowned by a flat-domed monolithic roof (diameter 11 m) weighing c. 300 tonnes.

Externally each of the ten sides of the lower storey has a deep arch resting on half piers. The upper storey is decorated with an unfinished ring of colonnettes and alternating semicircular and trapezoidal arches; 12 pierced spurs are set around the edge of the dome's drum.

The interior comprises a cross-shaped vaulted chamber on the ground floor; a porphyry bath was reused as the royal sarcophagus. Since the tradition of stone building and the use of double-storey tombs had survived in the 6th century only in Syria and Asia Minor, Theodoric probably employed a group of Eastern masons to construct his mausoleum.

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