Theoderic’s Mausoleum: a hero’s tomb
Theoderic the Great’s Mausoleum is a tomb fit for a hero. The structure of this magnificent monument made in blocks of Istria stone – the only building in Ravenna to have not been made in bricks in its time – was inspired by Roman “heroons”, which were sanctuaries built to commemorate or worship kings and princes after their death.
The wonderful decagonal mausoleum – with a grand roof made out of a single stone, 11 meters in diameter and weighing almost 5 tons – was built when Theoderic was still alive. Indeed, the Ostrogoth king (454-526) ordered it built himself, in 520.
Historians have different views on Theoderic’s reign over Rome, from 493 to 526. The Barbarian king ruled over Goths and Romans, and tolerated Christians although he was of Arian faith. He was in power during a complex period, a time of deep and radical changes. The Roman Empire had crumbled only a few decades earlier.
Whether Theoderic was a true hero or not does not really matter at this point: all we need to know is that his tomb is a beautiful example of ancient art in Ravenna.