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The Story of Galla Placidia and Her Mausoleum

The FlagLab

A positive subversion of the aura of the ancient to depict monuments as alive.

When visiting an ancient monument, many of the events that shaped its features are not so evident to visitors. The short film "The Story of Galla Placidia and Her Mausoleum" retraces the history of the building constructed in Ravenna, Italy, when the city was the capital of the Western Roman Empire, and describes the transformations that have taken place over the centuries. The image perceived by today's travellers is the result of many superimposed changes, and the current architectural features are now very different from the original ones. At the same time, over the centuries, the perceived cultural significance of this heritage building also changed.

In the eighteenth century, the arrival in Italy of travellers on the Gran Tour had significant consequences. Travelling around the peninsula, they drew and wrote about what they saw. The first travel diaries appeared and quickly became guides for subsequent voyagers, resulting in some ancient buildings being viewed in a new light. Scientific studies and the birth of the restoration culture also played a role. In a short time, a new awareness of the historical monuments arose: they were studied, maintained, preserved and restored. As for Galla Placidia’s mausoleum, the most relevant person was Corrado Ricci, who first studied and then restored it.

The video was conceived by Valentina Cafarotti as the result of research related to her degree thesis entitled "The Reading of the Monument by the Contemporary Tourist; The Perception of the Galla Placidia Mausuleum from the Grand Tour to the Present-Day." Cafarotti’s references stretch from the restoration culture to contemporary photography, thus her passion for Ruskin stands alongside her interest in Martin Parr’s or Michael Wolf’s research.

She found video to be the most suitable tool to positively undermine the aura of ancient monuments of architectural heritage and make them become alive. All the characters are based on the image of Pegman, the modern-day tourist who guides us everywhere through Google Street View. Being direct, immediate and even entertaining, the video reaches a non-specialized audience and tells a compelling story. Fostering the collective knowledge of cultural heritage is the first step in recognizing its value for all citizens.

(Story by Paola Ricco, The Architecture Player)


Mentioned project: The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
Project location: Ravenna, Italy
Historical research, storyboard and graphic: Valentina Cafarotti
Text: Valentina Cafarotti, Federico Landi
Animation: Federico Landi
Voice: Sarah Downie
Music: Debbie Miller, "It's been a day"
Mix: RE/NA Inc

Italy 2015
Duration: 5'50''