The Inadvertant Cremation of Galla Placidia

Galla Placidia (d. 450 AD) was a noble Roman matron, daughter of Emperor Theodosius the Great, wife of Emperor Constantius III and Mother of Emperor Valentinian III. She was also the sister of Emperor Honorius.

She was interred in a mausoleum that still stands in Ravenna, Italy. Inside are the sarcophagi of her son (or her brother), and her husband, flanking hers in the center. Her body was seated on a throne in court dress and a peep hole was installed to view her corpse.

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Interior of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

In 1577, two boys inserted alighted  taper (a candle) into the peep hole in Placidia’s tomb. “There was a sudden flash, and within seconds everything-throne, robes and Empress-was a heap ashes.”

John Julius Norwich, Byzantium the Early Centuries, p. 141

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 Showing Size of Placidia’s sarcophagus.

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