Ravenna (Italian pronunciation: [raˈvenna], also locally
[raˈvɛnna] ( listen); Romagnol: Ravèna) is the capital
city of the Province of Ravenna, in the
Emilia-Romagna region of
Northern Italy. It was the capital city of the Western Roman Empire
from 402 until that empire collapsed in 476. It then served as the
capital of the
Ostrogothic Kingdom until it was re-conquered in 540 by
the Byzantine Empire. Afterwards, the city formed the centre of the
Exarchate of Ravenna
Exarchate of Ravenna until the invasion of the
751, after which it became the seat of the Kingdom of the Lombards.
Although an inland city,
Ravenna is connected to the
Adriatic Sea by
the Candiano Canal. It is known for its well-preserved late Roman and
Byzantine architecture, and has eight
UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
1.1 Ancient era
1.2 Exarchate of Ravenna
Middle Ages and Renaissance
1.4 Modern age
Ravenna in literature
Ravenna in film
7 Amusement parks
8 Twin towns
12 External links
See also: Timeline of Ravenna
The origin of the name
Ravenna is unclear, although it is believed the
name is Etruscan. Some have speculated that "ravenna" is related to
"Rasenna" (later "Rasna"), the term that the Etruscans used for
themselves, but there is no agreement on this point.
See also: Ostrogothic Ravenna
The origins of
Ravenna are uncertain. The first settlement is
variously attributed to (and then has seen the copresence of) the
Thessalians, the Etruscans and the Umbrians. Afterwards its territory
was settled also by the Senones, especially the southern countryside
of the city (that wasn't part of the lagoon), the Ager Decimanus.
Ravenna consisted of houses built on piles on a series of small
islands in a marshy lagoon – a situation similar to
centuries later. The Romans ignored it during their conquest of the Po
River Delta, but later accepted it into the
Roman Republic as a
federated town in 89 BC. In 49 BC, it was the location where Julius
Caesar gathered his forces before crossing the Rubicon. Later, after
his battle against
Mark Antony in 31 BC, Emperor
Augustus founded the
military harbor of Classe. This harbor, protected at first by its
own walls, was an important station of the Roman Imperial Fleet.
Nowadays the city is landlocked, but
Ravenna remained an important
seaport on the
Adriatic until the early Middle Ages. During the German
campaigns, Thusnelda, widow of Arminius, and Marbod, King of the
Marcomanni, were confined at Ravenna.
The city of
Ravenna in the 4th century as shown on the Peutinger Map
Ravenna greatly prospered under Roman rule. Emperor
Trajan built a
70 km (43.50 mi) long aqueduct at the beginning of the 2nd
century. During the Marcomannic Wars, Germanic settlers in Ravenna
revolted and managed to seize possession of the city. For this reason,
Marcus Aurelius decided not only against bringing more barbarians into
Italy, but even banished those who had previously been brought
there. In AD 402,
Emperor Honorius transferred the capital of the
Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire from
Milan to Ravenna. At that time it was home
to 50,000 people. The transfer was made partly for defensive
Ravenna was surrounded by swamps and marshes, and was
perceived to be easily defensible (although in fact the city fell to
opposing forces numerous times in its history); it is also likely that
the move to
Ravenna was due to the city's port and good sea-borne
connections to the Eastern Roman Empire. However, in 409, King Alaric
I of the Visigoths simply bypassed Ravenna, and went on to sack Rome
in 410 and to take Galla Placidia, daughter of Emperor Theodosius I,
hostage. After many vicissitudes,
Galla Placidia returned to Ravenna
with her son, Emperor Valentinian III, due to the support of her
nephew Theodosius II.
Ravenna enjoyed a period of peace, during which
time the Christian religion was favoured by the imperial court, and
the city gained some of its most famous monuments, including the
Orthodox Baptistery, the misnamed Mausoleum of
Galla Placidia (she was
not actually buried there), and San Giovanni Evangelista.
The late 5th century saw the dissolution of Roman authority in the
west, and the last person to hold the title of emperor in the West was
deposed in 476 by the general Odoacer.
Odoacer ruled as King of Italy
for 13 years, but in 489 the Eastern Emperor Zeno sent the Ostrogoth
Theoderic the Great
Theoderic the Great to re-take the Italian peninsula. After
losing the Battle of Verona,
Odoacer retreated to Ravenna, where he
withstood a siege of three years by Theoderic, until the taking of
Ravenna of supplies. Theoderic took
Ravenna in 493,
Odoacer with his own hands, and
Ravenna became the
capital of the
Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy. Theoderic, following his
imperial predecessors, also built many splendid buildings in and
around Ravenna, including his palace church Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, an
Arian cathedral (now Santo Spirito) and Baptistery, and his own
Mausoleum just outside the walls.
The Mausoleum of Theoderic.
Odoacer and Theoderic and their followers were Arian Christians,
but co-existed peacefully with the Latins, who were largely Orthodox.
Ravenna's Orthodox bishops carried out notable building projects, of
which the sole surviving one is the Capella Arcivescovile. Theoderic
allowed Roman citizens within his kingdom to be subject to Roman law
and the Roman judicial system. The Goths, meanwhile, lived under their
own laws and customs. In 519, when a mob had burned down the
synagogues of Ravenna, Theoderic ordered the town to rebuild them at
its own expense.
Theoderic died in 526 and was succeeded by his young grandson
Athalaric under the authority of his daughter Amalasunta, but by 535
both were dead and Theoderic's line was represented only by
Amalasuntha's daughter Matasuntha. Various Ostrogothic military
leaders took the Kingdom of Italy, but none were as successful as
Theoderic had been. Meanwhile, the orthodox Christian Byzantine
Emperor Justinian I, opposed both
Ostrogoth rule and the Arian variety
of Christianity. In 535 his general
Italy and in
540 conquered Ravenna. After the conquest of
Italy was completed in
Ravenna became the seat of Byzantine government in Italy.
From 540 to 600, Ravenna's bishops embarked upon a notable building
program of churches in
Ravenna and in and around the port city of
Classe. Surviving monuments include the
Basilica of San Vitale
Basilica of San Vitale and the
Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe, as well as the partially
surviving San Michele in Africisco.
Exarchate of Ravenna
Main article: Exarchate of Ravenna
Following the conquests of
Belisarius for the Emperor
Justinian I in
the 6th century,
Ravenna became the seat of the Byzantine governor of
Italy, the Exarch, and was known as the Exarchate of Ravenna. It was
at this time that the
Ravenna Cosmography was written.
Under Byzantine rule, the archbishop of the Archdiocese of
temporarily granted autocephaly from the Roman Church by the emperor,
in 666, but this was soon revoked. Nevertheless, the archbishop of
Ravenna held the second place in
Italy after the pope, and played an
important role in many theological controversies during this period.
Middle Ages and Renaissance
The Lombards, under King Liutprand, occupied
Ravenna in 712, but were
forced to return it to the Byzantines. However, in 751 the Lombard
king, Aistulf, succeeded in conquering Ravenna, thus ending Byzantine
rule in northern Italy.
King Pepin of the Franks attacked the
Lombards under orders of Pope
Ravenna then gradually came under the direct authority of
the Popes, although this was contested by the archbishops at various
Pope Adrian I authorized
Charlemagne to take away anything from
Ravenna that he liked, and an unknown quantity of Roman columns,
mosaics, statues, and other portable items were taken north to enrich
his capital of Aachen.
Ravenna led a league of
Romagna cities against the Emperor,
Pope was able to subdue it. After the war of 1218 the
Traversari family was able to impose its rule in the city, which
lasted until 1240. After a short period under an Imperial vicar,
Ravenna was returned to the
Papal States in 1248 and again to the
Traversari until, in 1275, the
Da Polenta established their
long-lasting seigniory. One of the most illustrious residents of
Ravenna at this time was the exiled poet Dante. The last of the Da
Polenta, Ostasio III, was ousted by the Republic of
Venice in 1440,
and the city was annexed to the Venetian territories.
Ravenna was ruled by
Venice until 1509, when the area was invaded in
the course of the Italian Wars. In 1512, during the Holy League wars,
Ravenna was sacked by the French following the Battle of Ravenna.
Ravenna was also known during the Renaissance as the birthplace of the
Monster of Ravenna.
After the Venetian withdrawal,
Ravenna was again ruled by legates of
Pope as part of the Papal States. The city was damaged in a
tremendous flood in May 1636. Over the next 300 years, a network of
canals diverted nearby rivers and drained nearby swamps, thus reducing
the possibility of flooding and creating a large belt of agricultural
land around the city.
Apart from another short occupation by
Venice (1527–1529), Ravenna
was part of the
Papal States until 1796, when it was annexed to the
French puppet state of the Cisalpine Republic, (Italian Republic from
1802, and Kingdom of
Italy from 1805). It was returned to the Papal
States in 1814. Occupied by Piedmontese troops in 1859,
Romagna area became part of the new unified Kingdom of
Italy in 1861. During World War II, troops of the British 27th Lancers
entered and occupied
Ravenna on 5 December 1944. The town suffered
very little damage.
Basilica of San Vitale
Basilica of San Vitale - triumphal arch mosaics.
Garden of Eden
Garden of Eden mosaic in mausoleum of Galla Placidia. 5th century CE.
Arian Baptistry ceiling mosaic.
6th-century mosaic in Sant'Apollinare Nuovo,
Ravenna portrays Jesus
long-haired and bearded, dressed in Byzantinian style.
The Arian Baptistry.
Dante's tomb exterior and interior, built in 1780
The so-called "Mausoleum of Galla Placidia" in Ravenna.
Mosaic of the
Palace of Theoderic
Palace of Theoderic in Sant'Apollinare Nuovo.
Eight early Christian monuments of
Ravenna are inscribed on the World
Heritage List. These are
Orthodox Baptistry also called
Baptistry of Neon
Baptistry of Neon (c. 430)
Galla Placidia (c. 430)
Arian Baptistry (c. 500)
Archiepiscopal Chapel (c. 500)
Sant'Apollinare Nuovo (c. 500)
Mausoleum of Theoderic
Mausoleum of Theoderic (520)
Basilica of San Vitale
Basilica of San Vitale (548)
Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe
Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe (549)
Other attractions include:
The church of St. John the Evangelist is from the 5th century, erected
Galla Placidia after she survived a storm at sea. It was restored
World War II
World War II bombings. The belltower contains four bells,
the two majors dating back to 1208.
The 6th-century church of the Spirito Santo, which has been quite
drastically altered since the 6th century. It was originally the Arian
cathedral. The façade has a 16th-century portico with five arcades.
The St. Francis basilica, rebuilt in the 10th–11th centuries over a
precedent edifice dedicated to the Apostles and later to St. Peter.
Behind the humble brick façade, it has a nave and two aisles.
Fragments of mosaics from the first church are visible on the floor,
which is usually covered by water after heavy rains (together with the
crypt). Here the funeral ceremony of
Dante Alighieri was held in 1321.
The poet is buried in a tomb annexed to the church, the local
authorities having resisted for centuries all demands by
return of the remains of its most famous exile.
Baroque church of Santa Maria Maggiore (525–532, rebuilt in
1671). It houses a picture by Luca Longhi.
The church of San Giovanni Battista (1683), also in
Middle Ages campanile.
The basilica of Santa Maria in Porto (16th century), with a rich
façade from the 18th century. It has a nave and two aisles, with a
high cupola. It houses the image of famous Greek Madonna, which was
allegedly brought to
Ravenna from Constantinople.
The nearby Communal Gallery has various works from Romagnoli painters.
The Rocca Brancaleone ("Brancaleone Castle"), built by the Venetians
in 1457. Once part of the city walls, it is now a public park. It is
divided into two parts: the true Castle and the Citadel, the latter
having an extent of 14,000 m2 (150,694.75 sq ft).
The "so-called Palace of Theoderic", in fact the entrance to the
former church of San Salvatore. It includes mosaics from the true
palace of the
The church of Sant'Eufemia (18th century), gives access to the
so-called Stone Carpets Domus (6th–7th century): this houses
splendid mosaics from a Byzantine palace.
The National Museum.
The Archiepiscopal Museum
The city annually hosts the
Ravenna Festival, one of Italy's prominent
classical music gatherings. Opera performances are held at the Teatro
Alighieri while concerts take place at the Palazzo Mauro de André as
well as in the ancient
Basilica of San Vitale
Basilica of San Vitale and Basilica of
Sant'Apollinare in Classe. Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director
Riccardo Muti, a longtime resident of the city, regularly participates
in the festival, which invites orchestras and other performers from
around the world.
Ravenna in literature
The city is mentioned in Canto V in Dante's Inferno.
Also in the 16th century,
Nostradamus provides four prophecies:
"The Magnavacca (canal) at
Ravenna in great trouble,
Canals by fifteen
shut up at Fornase", in reference to fifteen French sabateurs.
As the place of a battle extending to
Perugia and a sacred escape in
its aftermath, leaving rotting horses left to eat
In relation to the snatching of a lady "near Ravenna" and then the
legate of Lisbon seizing 70 souls at sea
Ravenna is one of three-similarly named contenders for the birth of
the third and final
Antichrist who enslaves
Slovenia (see Ravne na
Ravenna is the setting for The Witch, a play by Thomas Middleton
Lord Byron lived in
Ravenna between 1819 and 1821, led by the love for
a local aristocratic and married young woman, Teresa Guiccioli. Here
he continued Don Juan and wrote:
Ravenna Diary, My Dictionary and Recollections.
Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) wrote a poem
Ravenna in 1878.
Symbolist, lyrical poet
Alexander Blok (1880–1921) wrote a poem
Ravenna (May–June 1909) inspired by his Italian journey
During his travels, German poet and philosopher Hermann Hesse
(1877–1962) came across
Ravenna and was inspired to write two poems
of the city. They are entitled
Ravenna (1) and
T. S. Eliot's (1888–1965) poem "Lune de Miel" (written in French)
describes a honeymooning couple from Indiana sleeping not far from the
Basilica of Sant' Apollinare in Classe
Basilica of Sant' Apollinare in Classe (just outside Ravenna),
famous for the carved capitals of its columns, which depict acanthus
leaves buffeted by the wind, unlike the leaves in repose on similar
J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) may have based his city of
Minas Tirith at
least in part on Ravenna.
Ravenna in film
Michelangelo Antonioni filmed his 1964 movie Red Desert (Deserto
Rosso) within the industrialised areas of the Pialassa valley within
the city limits.
Ravenna has an important commercial and tourist port.
Ravenna railway station
Ravenna railway station has direct
Trenitalia service to Bologna,
Ferrara, Lecce, Milan, Parma, Rimini, and Verona.
Ravenna Airport is located in Ravenna. The nearest commercial airports
are those of Forlì,
Rimini and Bologna.
Ravenna include: A14-bis from the hub of Bologna; on
the north-south axis of EU routes E45 (from Rome) and E55 (SS-309
"Romea" from Venice); and on the regional Ferrara-
Rimini axis of SS-16
(partially called "Adriatica").
See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Italy
Ravenna is twinned with:
Chichester, United Kingdom
Dubrovnik, Croatia, since 1969
Speyer, Germany, since 1989
Chartres, France, since 1957
The historical Italian football of the city is
Ravenna F.C. Currently
it plays in Eccellenza
Emilia-Romagna Girone B.
A.P.D. Ribelle 1927
A.P.D. Ribelle 1927 is the Italian football of Castiglione di Ravenna,
a fraction of
Ravenna and was founded in 1927. Currently it plays in
Serie D after promotion from Eccellenza
B in the 2013-14 season.
The president is Marcello Missiroli and the manager is Enrico
Its home ground is Stadio Massimo Sbrighi of the fraction with 1,000
seats. The team's colors are white and blue.
The beaches of
Ravenna hosted the 2011 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, in
^ GeoDemo - Istat.it
^ Generally speaking, adjectival "Ravenna" and "Ravennate" are more
common for most adjectival uses—the
Ravenna Cosmography, Ravenna
grass, the Ravennate fleet—while "Ravennese" is more common in
reference to people. The neologism "Ravennan" is also encountered. The
Italian form is ravennate; in Latin, Ravennatus, Ravennatis, and
Ravennatensis are all encountered.
^ Tourism in
Ravenna – Official site – History. Turismo.ravenna.it
(2010-06-20). Retrieved on 2011-06-20.
^ Deborah M. Deliyannis,
Ravenna in Late Antiquity (Cambridge
University Press, 2010), for this and much of the information that
^ From classis, Latin "fleet".
^ Dio 72.11.4-5; Birley, Marcus Aurelius
^ Noble, Thomas F. X. (1984). The Republic of St. Peter: The Birth of
the Papal State, 680–825. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of
Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-1239-8.
^ Jones, Tom (2012). Nostradamus. Pittsburgh, PA: Dorrance Publishing.
^ Reading, Mario (2009). The Complete Prophesies of Nostradamus.
London: Watkins Publishing. ISBN 9781906787394.
^ "Sito Ufficiale – Ufficio Turismo del
Ravenna – I
grandi scrittori". Turismo.ra.it. Retrieved 2009-05-06.
See also: Bibliography of the history of Ravenna
Janet Nelson, Judith Herrin, Ravenna: its role in earlier medieval
change and exchange, London, Institute of Historical Research, 2016,
Ravenna - Catholic encyclopedia
Tourism and culture Official website (in Italian) (in English)
Ravenna, A Study (1913) by Edward Hutton, from Project Gutenberg
Ravenna's early history and its monuments - Catholic Encyclopedia
Adrian Fletcher's Paradoxplace
Ravenna Pages (photos)
Deborah M. Deliyannis,
Ravenna in Late Antiquity (Cambridge University
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Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps3
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