San Vitale
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Architect unknown
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Location Ravenna, Italy   map
Date 526 to 547   timeline
Building Type church, religious
 Construction System bearing masonry
Climate mediterranean
Context urban
Style Byzantine
Notes Byzantine centralized church. Two concentric octagons.


View from south

Apse, from west

Upper east apse


Perspective Drawing

More drawings available on The GBC CD-ROM.   Contributions appreciated.

Discussion San Vitale Commentary

"...the 'double-shell' plan comprised a domed octagonal core, with wedge-shaped piers framing two-storied, apsidial columnar screens, with a deep chancel running off to the east... The outer shell as well as the inner were octagonal so that the aisles and galleries comprised a series of uniform trapezoidal spaces... and the sides of the octagonal core were uniformly apsidial. The feeling of strictness was reinforced by the taller, more 'erect,' proportions of the interior, and by the regular shape of the cloister-vaulted dome. The exterior, too, embodied precision in design and execution, with a bold buildup of crisply articulated and beautifully proportioned volumes that were surely more than a mere reflection of the interior."

— Marvin Trachtenberg and Isabelle Hyman. Architecture: from Prehistory to Post-Modernism. p175.

Sources on San Vitale

Werner Blaser and Monica Stucky. Drawings of Great Buildings. Boston: Birkhauser Verlag, 1983. ISBN 3-7643-1522-9. LC 83-15831. NA2706.U6D72 1983. plan and section drawings, p53. — Available at

Johnson Architectural Images. Copyrighted slides in the Artifice Collection.

William L. MacDonald. Early Christian & Byzantine Architecture. New York: George Braziller, 1962. aerial photo of exterior, f40.

John Julius Norwich, ed. Great Architecture of the World. London: Mitchell Beazley Publishers, 1975. cutaway drawing, p82. Reprint edition: Da Capo Press, April 1991. ISBN 0-3068-0436-0. — An accessible, inspiring and informative overview of world architecture, with lots of full-color cutaway drawings, and clear explanations. Available at

Doreen Yarwood. The Architecture of Europe. New York: Hastings House, 1974. ISBN 0-8038-0364-8. LC 73-11105. NA950.Y37. aerial perspective drawing, f194, p97. no image credit.

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at  Find books about San Vitale


Web Resources
Links on San Vitale

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