The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia – a wonderful treasure trove of mosaics, created in Ravenna around 425 AD – is named after a woman who had no equal as to accumulation of imperial titles, given the dense network of illustrious parentage in her life.
The “most noble girl” – as she was nicknamed in childhood – was born in Constantinople between 388 and 392, and died in Rome in 450. She was the daughter and wife of emperors: her father was Theodosius I the Great, and her second husband was the illustrious general Constantius III, emperor for seven months in 421.
She was also an emperor’s granddaughter and niece on her mother’s side: her grandfather was Valentinian I, and her uncles were Gratian and Valentinian II. Even her half-brothers, Arcadius and Honorius, reigned over the Empire: the former over the “pars Orientis”, the latter over the west.
She was “Augusta” Empress herself, and even her niece Pulcheria and her nephew Theodosius II held the imperial title.
In a nutshell: such a majestic mausoleum, full of 5th-century mosaics in Roman and Byzantine style, was certainly destined to someone in the highest aristocracy, although it remains unclear whether it was for Galla Placidia herself or not. Some say the building was an oratory for the adjacent church of Santa Croce.
Whatever its origins, today this beautiful mausoleum in Ravenna is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage.