Ravenna, Italy Tourist Attractions
SituationRavenna, a provincial capital and the see of an archbishop, lies in the southeast corner of the North Italian plain, here traversed by numerous drainage canals.
Originally a seaport, it is now connected with the sea by a canal 10km/6mi long linking it with Porto Corsini. With its important early medieval buildings, Ravenna is one of the most interesting towns in Italy, and visitors get a vivid impression of early medieval art.HistoryIn the time of the Etruscans and Romans Ravenna was a lagoon town like Venice. Augustus made the port of Portus Classis, 5km/3mi from the town, the base of the Roman Adriatic fleet. Ravenna's heyday began, however, when the Western Roman Emperor Honorius moved his court from Milan to the natural fortress of Ravenna, protected by the surrounding marches, in 402. While the rest of Italy was being devastated during the Great Migrations, an active program of building was carried out here under Honorius and his sister Galla Placidia (Regent 425-450), and the art of mosaic-working flourished. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire the Herulian Odoacer was proclaimed king by the Germanic mercenary troops and ruled the whole of Italy from Ravenna (476-493). After his murder the Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great, who had been brought up in Constantinople (493-526), brought further splendor to the town, building several churches for the Arian Church, to which the Ostrogoths belonged, as well as a royal palace. In 539, under Justinian (527-565), the Byzantine general Belisarius drove out the Ostrogoths. Thereafter Ravenna became the seat of a Byzantine governor (Exarch), and, favored by the emperor, enjoyed a third period of prosperity, which introduced Byzantine art to the West. In 751, however, the Lombards put an end to the Exarchate. From 1297 to 1441 Ravenna was ruled by the Ghibelline Polenta family, for a period thereafter belonged to the Venetians and from 1509 to 1859 was incorporated in the States of the Church.
Piazza del Popolo
In the center of Ravenna is the Piazza del Popolo, with the Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall, 1681). In front of the Town Hall are two granite columns erected by the Venetians in 1483. In the square stands the Palazzo Veneziano, a portico of eight granite columns, with Theodoric's monogram on four of the capitals.
Cathedral of Sant'Orso
A short distance southwest of the Piazza del Popolo in Ravenna is the Cathedral of Sant'Orso, built 1734-43 on the site of the oldest church in Ravenna, founded by St Ursus (d. 396); the campanile (10th century) dates from this earlier church. In the nave, on the right, the sixth century pulpit was reconstructed from the separate marble slabs, decorated with animal figures, of which it was originally composed. In the second chapel on the right and in the south transept are Early Christian marble sarcophagi.
Baptistery of the Orthodox
Immediately north of the cathedral in Ravenna is the Baptistery of the Orthodox or Neoniana, an octagonal fifth century brick structure. The mosaics in the dome (some of which have been restored) are among the oldest in Ravenna. The font is 16th century but the parapet is ancient.
Archbishop's Palace Museum
Behind the cathedral in Ravenna, to the southeast, stands the Archbishop's Palace (Arcivescovado), on the first floor of which, on the left, is the Museo Arcivescovile (Archbishop's Museum), with the so-called throne of Archbishop Maximilian, actually sixth century Egyptian work, with ivory reliefs.
Farther east of the Palazzo in Ravenna is the modern Piazza dei Caduti per la Libertà, from which several streets lead off. To the east of the square is the Franciscan church of San Francesco, founded in the fifth century, with a Romanesque tower (10th century).
To the north of San Francesco in Ravenna can be seen Dante's Tomb (Tomba di Dante). The exterior is Neo-Classical (1780); in the interior is a sarcophagus containing the remains of the poet, who died in exile in Ravenna in 1321 at the age of 56. The Museo Dantesco contains exhibits relating to Dante's life and work.
San Vitale is a rather plane looking octagonal church with an octagonal dome. It was built in the first half of the 6th C and stand to the northwest of the Piazza del Popolo.
Sant'Apollinare in Classe is a 6th C church which was restored in the 1770s. The interior features marble Byzantine columns, portrait and sarcophagi of archbishops, and other beautiful details.
Marina di Ravenna
Northeast of Ravenna, on the Adriatic coast, is the seaside resort of Marina di Ravenna.Beyond the Canale Candiano (ferry) is Porto Corsini, the port of Ravenna.
Map of Ravenna Attractions
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