A city in Emilia-Romagna, northeast Italy, seven miles from the Adriatic Sea, with which it is connected
by a canal. The Archdiocese of Ravenna has been a metropolitan since the sixth century, and in 1947 Cervia (known in 501) was perpetually united to it. In 2001 it had 208,270 Catholics in a population of 215,570; there were 89 parishes, six churches, 97 secular and 26 religious priests, five permanent deacons, 35 members of men's religious institutes, 237 members of women's religious institutes, 21 educational institutes, and 12 charitable institutes.
Ravenna is one of the main historical and artistic centers in Emilia. Once surrounded by lagoons and extensive pine forests (praised by Dante and Byron), it was Umbrian in origin and developed under Caesar Augustus, who built the important naval base of Classe nearby. Ravenna was capital of the Italian province of Flaminia and Picenum in the fourth century, before Honorius II made it the capital of the Empire in the West (402). It flourished in the fourth and fifth centuries and was the residence of the empress Galla Placidia (424–450) and Valentinian III (450–455) who saw the clear advantages of its geographical position. The Gothic Odovacer lived there after 476, and the Ostrogoth theodoric i established himself there (493–526). Taken by belisarius in 540, it served as the capital of Italy, and was the seat of a Byzantine exarchate until 751. From the ninth to the eleventh centuries the archbishops, supported by German emperors, became great feudal lords and pursued intensive religious and political activity throughout their domain. Ravenna, which had a flourishing school of law before that in Bologna, began to decline with the rise of its commune. Rudolph I of Hapsburg bestowed it on the popes (1276), and it continued in the States of the Church, undisputedly from 1509 to 1859, except for periods under Venice (1441–1509, 1527–29, and 1797–1815). In 1859 it became part of the Kingdom of Italy.
Church History. From c. 150 to c. 400 the episcopal see, suffragan to Milan, was in Classe, a port with merchants and voyagers from the East. When it moved to Ravenna, the clergy in Classe retained much of their autonomy for some time. Under St. peter chrysologus in 430 Ravenna became metropolitan over Forlì, Faenza, Imola, Bologna, and Modena, all previously under the jurisdiction of Milan. In the thirteenth century all Emilia from Piacenza to Rimini was under the archbishop's jurisdiction. In 1582, however, Bologna and several dioceses in east Emilia were detached, and other jurisdictions have been detached since.
The episcopal list of 137 names is complete and includes 22 saints and one blessed. The oldest list, the Liber pontificalis ecclesiae Ravennatis, compiled by the priest Agnellus under Archbishop George (835–846), was probably derived from older diptychs. The first bishop, Apollonaris (c. 200), is venerated as a martyr. Later accounts made him a disciple of St. Peter, who supposedly sent him to Ravenna. His 11 successors, also buried in Classe, were called Columbine because their election was said to have depended on the intervention of the Holy Spirit; St. Severus attended the Council of (348). Ursus (d.429) moved the see to Ravenna and consecrated the five-nave Basilica of the Anastasis, later called Ursiana. Peter Chrysologus (d. 450), Neon (d. 458), and Ecclesius (d. 534) built splendid Christian monuments. Maximian (546–556), a native of Nola who was consecrated in Patras, Greece, by Pope Vigilius, governed in times difficult for orthodoxy; he was appointed by Justinian to promote the latter's own ecclesiastical policies. An energetic scholar-prelate, he organized his church, reformed the liturgy, and built monuments. The see supported Justinian in the Three Chapters Controversy against Milan and Aquileia, and the archbishop Agnellus (557–578) was rewarded with the property of the Arian Church; the Arian basilica, S. Apollinare Nuovo, was given over to Agnellus and Arianism, which had flourished under Theoderic the Great, came to an end in Ravenna. Agnellus also began the organization of rural parishes, which was completed around 1200.
Belisarius was replaced by Narses, who restored Italy to Byzantium from the Goths (554–567); but the Lombard invasion of 568 caused Justinian I by 584 to replace the civil Praetorian Prefect for Italy with a military exarch, who in the seventh century assumed control also of civil administration. The Exarchates of Carthage and of Ravenna thus straddled the middle Mediterranean. Ravenna, the center of Byzantine power and administration, where army and navy bases and the treasury were located, separated the Lombard duchies of Benevento and Spoleto from the rest of Lombard Italy. Ravenna continued after the sixth century as a center for trade, luxury goods and Latin literary activity, especially liturgy, geography, medicine and hagiography. The Greek monastic presence, however, dwindled, and no Greek works from this period survive.
The Greek Exarchs, with patrician rank, who headed a corps of Greek officials and a Greek colony, confirmed papal elections as representatives of the emperor. However, during the seventh and eighth centuries there were a number of small revolts as Ravenna tried to secure its position between Byzantium, Rome, and the Lombards. In 709 the Emperor Justinian II sent a force to punish the disloyalty of the leading citizens, and in the 720s, with renewed Lombard attacks, increased taxation and the beginning of the iconoclast movement in Byzantium, Ravenna participated in the general Italian revolt of 727. After being captured by the Lombards in 732 and liberated for Byzantium by the Venetians, it fell again to the Lombard king Aistulf in 751 and was subsequently handed over to the popes (754). At the same time its commercial role declined with the silting up of the harbor and the rise of Venice only 75 miles (121 km) to the north. The capture of Ravenna was a key turning point, since it left the way open for complete Lombard domination of Italy.
However, Ravenna remained important as a powerful ecclesiastical center and for centuries Ravenna's archbishops struggled against Rome in defense of their autonomy. Beginning with Maximian (546–556), the claim reached a peak under Maurus (648–671) when Emperor Constans II in 666 recognized his independence of Rome. Reparatus (671–677) reiterated the claim, but the privilege was revoked by the Emperor Constantine IV. The struggle continued intermittently for some time. A schism occurred when Archbishop Guilbert became Antipope clement iii (1080), but from the twelfth century Ravenna was constantly faithful to Rome. Against Milan, its archbishops gained the privilege to sit at the right of the pope in the absence of the emperor (1047). Three
prelates of Ravenna became popes: John XII (Pope John X, 914–928), Gerbert of Aurillac (Sylvester II, 999–1003), and Cosmato Meliorato (Innocent VII, 1404–06). Anselm of Havelberg was Archbishop of Ravenna (1155–58). Ravenna had many councils in the tenth and eleventh centuries, some attended by popes, and in the thirteenth century, especially under Philip Fontana (1253, 1259, 1261, 1270).
From the fourteenth century the prelates turned more to religious activity. Bl. Rainald defended the Templars in synods (1307, 1311). Guilio Feltrio della Rovere (d.1578) founded the seminary (1567). Cristoforo Boncampagni (d. 1603), Pietro Aldobrandini (d. 1621), and Liugi Capponi (d. 1645) applied the Tridentine reform in pastoral visits and diocesan and provincial synods. Antonio Codronchi (1785–1826) and C. Falconieri (1826–59), friend of Pius IX, had difficult times, the one under Napoleonic rule and the other during the Risorgimento. When Ravenna joined the kingdom of Italy in 1859, a dechristianization marked by violent intolerance was loosed; but a Christian renaissance began with Abp. Pasquale Morganti (1904–21), author of ascetic works.
Ravenna's archives are rich: 13,000 parchments in the episcopal archives and 8,000 in the state archives. The public library Classense continues that of the Camaldolese.
Since 1911 the review Ravenna Felix has published historical and archaeological studies. The earliest Christian relic is a funeral stela of c. 200 found at Classe, where excavations are still continuing. Dante died in Ravenna (1321), as did the humanist Cardinal Bessarion (1472). The canal to the sea was begun by Cardinal Alberoni (1736).
Monasteries. Many monasteries near famous basilicas fostered religious and cultural life. Eastern monks settled near S. Andrea (fifth century), S. Lorenzo di Cesana, and S. Apollinare in Classe (founded by Bishop John in the sixth century). Benedictines near S. Giorgio (founded by Bishop John V in 750), S. Giovanni Evangelista (ninth century), and S. Vitale (tenth century). King St. Stephen I of Hungary founded the nearby monastery of S. Pietro in Vincoli (1040) as a hospice for Hungarians travelling to and from Rome. In the eleventh century St. Peter degli Oresti founded outside the city S. Maria in Porto, from which Canons exercised a great influence even beyond the province; the monastery was destroyed in World Way II. Near the monastery of Classe the hermit revival began under St. Romuald (d. 1027), founder of the Camaldolese. Romuald's fame was celebrated by St. Peter Damian (d.1072), also of Ravenna. Fransiscans came to the city in 1261, Dominicans a few years later. Pre-Tridentine reform was fostered by Bl. Margherita da Russi, Bl. Gentile Giusti, and Ven. Gerolamo Malucelli. Most monasteries became inactive after suppression by the French c. 1800.
Bibliography: t. s. brown, Gentlemen and Officers: Imperial Administration and Aristocratic Power in Byzantine Italy a.d. 554–800 (London 1984); "The Aristocracy of Ravenna from Justinian to Charlemange," Corsi di Cultura sull'arte ravennate e bizantina 33 (1986) 135–149. f. w. deichmann, Ravenna, 6 v. (Wiesbaden 1958–1989). a. guillou, "Ravenna e Giustiniano," Corsi di Cultura sull'arte ravennate e bizantina 30 (1983) 333–343. j. herrin, The Rise of Christendom (Oxford 1987). r. a. markus, "Ravenna and Rome, 554–604," Byzantion 51 (1981) 556–578. a. mercati et al., eds., Rationes decimarum Italiae nei secoli XIII e XIV. Aemilia: I, Ravenna (Vatican City 1932). g. mesini, Ravenna (Bologna 1954). j. moorhead, Theodoric in Italy (Oxford 1992). a. randi, Storia di Ravenna (Ravenna 1952). a. randi, Pagine di storia ravennati (Ravenna 1957). o. g. von simson, Sacred Fortress: Byzantine Art and Statecraft in Ravenna (Chicago 1948, repr. 1976). c. wickham, Early Medieval Italy: Central Power and Local Society, 400–1000 (London 1981). a. vasina, "Cento anni di studi sulla Romagna 1861–1961," Bibliografia storica nazionale, ed. g. laterza (Faenza 1963).
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The Exarchate of Ravenna comprised Byzantine Italy after its government was reorganized. This reorganization, like that which occurred simultaneously in North Africa, laid the foundation of the theme system established under the Heraclian Dynasty (610–710).
The Exarchate of Ravenna (or of Italy) was created as a defense against the Lombards who invaded Italy under Alboin. In five years most of north Italy fell, including the greater part of inland Venetai, Liguria, and Tuscany. Anarchy followed the murder of Alboin, and the Lombards broke up into 35 groups led by dukes. Dukes Farwad and Zotto established Lombard duchies beyond the Apennines in Spoleto and Benevento. Fear of a Lombard conquest of all Italy moved Byzantium quickly to reform the government of Italy. Thus, the exarchate emerged. Government offices were rebuilt and a separate palace of the exarch was added to Theodoric's. Emperor maurice (582–602) was probably responsible for the reform, since it is first reported in 585; an Exarch Smaragdus is mentioned in a letter of Pelagius II in that year.
Italy was administered by an exarch residing in Ravenna who served as a governor-general and vice-regent of the emperor in Constantinople. He possessed civil and military powers, the right to make war and peace, to act as a supreme judge, and to nominate military officials and perhaps even civil prefects and vicars. At times he confirmed papal elections. The most important member of his staff was the consiliarius, a judge-advocate. The provinces were governed by magistri militum responsible to the exarch; below them were the tribunes who commanded towns and fortresses. Such decentralization of imperial power was unusual in this period but it must have been seen as a measure to reduce problems in governing the reconquered territories and in coping with continued military threats.
The extent of the exarchate varied: c. 600 it included Istria, Maritime Venetia, Aemilia, the Pentapolis (Ariminum, Pisaurum, Fanum, Senigallia, Ancona), and the three duchies of Rome, Naples, and Perugia, Calabria, Bruttium and Maritime Liguria; by 700, however, the exarchate had lost Maritime Liguria and Calabria. Several exarchs fell victim to the period of instability of the seventh and eighth centuries; John I (616), John Rizokopas (710) and Paul (926) were murdered, and usurpers included Eleutherios (619) and Olympios (c.651/2). The of Leo III (717–741), and general dissatisfaction with Byzantium's fiscal polices led to the revolt of Ravenna in 727. The Lombards exploited the disunity by an offensive that ended in the seizure of Ravenna (751).
The fall of Ravenna ended the exarchate and ended Byzantine control of north Italy. The greater part of the area was handed over by pepin iii to Pope stephen ii (iii) (756) and incorporated into the States of the Church.
Bibliography: o. bertolini, Roma di fronte a Bisanzio e ai Longobardi (Bologna 1941). t. s. brown, "The Interplay between Rome and Byzantine Traditions and Local Sentiment in the Exarchate of Ravenna," Settimane di Studio del Centro Italiano di Studi sull'-alto medioevo (1988) 127–60. c. diehl, Etudes sur l'administration byzantine dans l'exarchat de Ravenne, 568–751 (Paris 1888). a. guillou, Régionalisme et indépendance dans l'Empire byzantin: l'exemple de l'Exarchate et de la Pentapole d'Italie (Rome 1969). l. m. hartmann, Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der byzatinischen verwaltung in Italien, 540–750 (Leipzig 1889).
Ravenna was the center of Byzantine influence in Italy until the eighth century (see byzantine art). Sieges, invasions, and war damage, not to mention the restoration of nineteenth-century enthusiasts, have obliterated much of Ravenna's artistic past; but what remains, particularly of the fifth through eighth centuries, is quite valuable. In no other place in Europe, save perhaps Venice, has the Byzantine style blended with the Western to so great a degree. Although usually classified as Byzantine much of the architecture, colonnades, and mosaics are not so much Byzantine as they are representative of early Christian art with strong Eastern inspiration and resemblances (see art, early christian). The basilicas and other structures at Ravenna are of special architectural interest, because contrary to what one often finds in Italy, the exteriors have been but slightly tampered with. The rugged brick work as well as the typically round campaniles can be studied to advantage in many buildings.
Early Period, 402 to 455. The time from the transferal of the imperial residence to Ravenna under Emperor Honorius in 402 to the death of valentinian iii in 455 was the first great era of postclassical building activity in Ravenna. Numerous palaces and ecclesiastical buildings were erected; the two outstanding monuments that survive are the Orthodox Baptistery and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.
St. Ursus, archbishop of Ravenna under Honorius, constructed the cathedral, which in addition to the main nave had four aisles, but this structure was destroyed (1734–44); only the crypt, the round campanile, and a few inscribed stones remain. The present cathedral museum contains several early Christian sarcophagi, a silver cross of the eleventh century, and the famous wood and ivory throne of Archbishop Maximian (546–556). S. Giovanni Evangelista was erected by Galla Placidia, half sister of Honorius and mother of Valentinian III, in fulfillment of a vow made on her voyage from Constantinople. The present structure has been entirely rebuilt, though the columns are ancient. The Gothic portal is excellent, and the church contains a mosaic pavement (1213) with representations of the ill-famed Fourth Crusade and some frescoes by Giotto painted during a visit to Dante (1317–20).
The so-called Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (440–450) was probably first a chapel dedicated by the Empress to St. Lawrence or SS. Nazarius and Celsus. The plan is that of a Greek cross, its four arms having vaulted ceilings with a dome on pendentives over the central intersection. The exterior conceals the dome with a short square tower. Though the whole chapel appears as a plain brick mass from the outside, the small interior is a gem of color. Covered with mosaics on ceiling and dome and provided with a marble wainscot, the interior is illuminated by small alabaster windows which admit a soft light.
The four windows under the dome are flanked by pairs of Apostles in blue tunics with white mantles. The image of St. Peter is especially notable since it makes use of the key as his symbol perhaps for the first time in iconography. The dome mosaic is of rich blue with golden rosettes and the victorious cross in the middle. The symbols of the four evangelists adorn the spandrels between the four supporting arches. The total effect is one of richness and regality.
Two important mosaics are to be found in the lunettes of the entrance and back walls. In the first, Christ surrounded by sheep and holding the cross of victory in His hand is seated on a boulder in a meadow with a rocky background interspersed with bushes. But here ends any similarity with the usual Good Shepherd of early Christian portrayal. The beardless Christ here is clothed in a royal purple mantle with a golden dalmatic ornamented with blue clavi, and His head is surrounded with the glory of a golden nimbus. The youthful Christ, as a victorious warrior, gathers His faithful sheep into the fold. The lunette on the back wall depicting St. Lawrence the martyr approaching his gridiron is a lively designed and richly colored composition.
The Orthodox Baptistery (S. Giovanni in Fonte) was built by St. Ursus and decorated by Bishop Neon. It is a tall octagonal structure domed on the inside and encrusted with blue ground mosaics, multicolored marble, and stucco reliefs. The focus of attention is the top of the dome in the portrayal of the Baptism of Christ by St. John. The Apostles stride in an impressive circular zone around the central motif, bearing their crowns of martyrdom. Between each Apostle formalized gold foliage sets off the reiterated figures. The outer zone depicts the interiors of contemporary churches with the Book of the Gospels enthroned on the altar or the jeweled vacant Throne of Judgment awaiting the Second Coming of the Savior. The general color scheme is lively; light and delicate tones are offset by the frequent dark backgrounds of the lower mosaic.
Second Period, 493 to 526. The second great period of Ravenna art was that associated with Theodoric the Ostrogoth (493–526). To this era belong the great Basilica of S. Apollinare Nuovo, part of the octagonal church of S. Vitale, the Mausoleum of Theodoric, the Arian Baptistery, the rebuilt Archbishop's Chapel, and Theodoric's Palace. The last survives only in the famous mosaic portrayal of it in the Church of S. Apollinare Nuovo. The small Archbishop's Chapel is the only remaining portion of the archiepiscopal palace. Rebuilt during Theodoric's reign, the chapel is a simple, square-vaulted building with a small apse at one end and a narrow alcove off the other. The bust portraits in mosaic under the chapel's arches are extremely well done in the classical style and were probably copied from painted portraits of the Greco-Roman or coptic school. The Arian Baptistery is a small structure, built by Theodoric on the model of the Orthodox Baptistery. The central theme of the dome mosaic is the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan. Despite the destruction of the lower ring mosaic of the dome, a magnificent series of the 12 Apostles approaching a throne on which is placed a cross remains beneath the Baptism. The Mausoleum of Theodoric is a circular building covered by a low dome of monolithic stone about 33 feet in diameter. It is thought that the dome was intended to suggest a crown and might have been brightly colored and gilded.
S. Apollinare Nuovo, the most important basilica in Ravenna, was built by Theodoric to be the largest Arian church and was originally dedicated to St. Martin. In the ninth century it was rededicated to St. Apollinaris on the occasion of the translation of his relics there. The interior of the hall-like basilica has 24 marble columns with almost uniform capitals. The great mosaics of the life of Christ adorning the walls of the nave represent the best work of the period. In addition to 26 Gospel scenes set high above the windows and large figures of Prophets and Apostles between the windows, are the characteristic processions of virgins and martyrs depicted in mosaic from the church entrance to the apse. Moving from the town of Classe through green meadows and palm trees the cortege of crown-bearing virgins leads to the Virgin Mother enthroned with the Child and being offered gifts by the Magi. Across from the Virgin on the opposite wall the majestic and bearded Lord with four angels awaits on His throne the procession of male saints emanating from the imperial palace of Theodoric and led by St. Martin. It is thought that the original mosaics probably contained portraits of Theodoric, his wife, and retinue, but that after the reconquest by Justinian they were reworked to eliminate any reminder of the Arian king.
Final Period, after 527. The last great artistic period of Ravenna occurred with the reconquest of Italy from the Goths by Justinian, who completed the octagonal church of S. Vitale and was responsible for the building of S. Apollinare in Classe (dedicated in 549), the great basilica which today is all that remains of the ancient port of Classis. S. Apollinare is dominated by its high cylindrical campanile and has a fine narthex. On the interior beneath the great apsidal cross is the heroic mosaic of the martyr St. Apollinaris who was originally buried here.
S. Vitale, begun by Abp. St. Ecclesius (524–534), was completed and dedicated by Archbishop Maximian during the reign of Justinian (547). The centrally planned building is composed of two octagons, one enclosing the other. The dome is over the inner octagon, and between the two a second-story open gallery probably seated the women of the congregation. The sanctuary is situated on one side in a room added to the octagon and terminating the apse. Opposite it the entry hall or narthex is flanked by two cylindrical towers. The brick exterior is bare, with the result that the gorgeous decoration of the interior overawes the viewer.
The Byzantine-inspired plan of this church attracted Charlemagne, who so admired the structure that he built the palace church at aachen in the same style. Mosaic work and marble were taken from S. Vitale and other Ravenna buildings to build the church in Aachen. Despite the eighteenth-century redecoration of the central area, a considerable amount of the original decor remains.
The choir-apse area is the most remarkable feature. Here the walls seem to disappear as the mosaicist creates his colorful vision of space. In the apse the beardless, triumphant Christ in Majesty sits upon the sphere of the universe attended by angels who usher into His presence St. Vitalis, the patron of the church, and St. Ecclesius, who presents a model of the building itself. The vault and ceiling are profusely decorated with brilliant floral and animal forms. Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Abel, and the Apostles are among the many figures represented in the choir. The two rectangular panels facing each other on the side walls are the finest surviving works of the period. On the left side stands Justinian surrounded by soldiers, courtiers, and Archbishop Maximian with attendant deacons. The emperor presents an enormous golden vessel, his dedication gift to the church. On the right Empress Theodora, accompanied by courtiers and ladies in waiting, similarly presents a gift. The embroidered Magi on the hem of Theodora's gown continue the theme of donation. Vested in sumptuous robes of brilliant colors, bedecked with jewels and embroidery, the figures present a magnificent scene of an Oriental court. They are true portraits, but beyond that the realism ends. They are weightless, flattened out, and float in mid-air. The abstract rhythmic pattern of shapes and colors is typical of this period of transition from the early Christian to the new Byzantine spirit. The artist now conceives new canons of proportion; uninterested in distance, he expresses in a solemn and hieratic way a vision of the world outside time and space.
Bibliography: i. andreescu-treadgold and w. treadgold, "Procopius and the Imperial Panels of S. Vitale," Art Bulletin 79/4 (1997) 708–723. f. w. deichmann, Frühchristliche Bauten und Mosaiken von Ravenna (Weisbaden, 1958); Rom, Ravenna, Konstantinopel, Naher Osten: gesammelte Studien zur spätantiken Architektur, Kunst und Geschichte (Wiesbaden 1982). c. ihm, Die Programme der christliche Apsismalerei (2d ed. Wiesbaden 1992). m. johnson, "Towards a History of Theodorics' Building Program," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 42 (1988) 73–96. e. kitzinger, Byzantine Art in the Making: Main Lines of Stylistic Development in the Mediterranean Art, Third–Seventh Centuries (Cambridge, MA 1977). s. kostof, The Orthodox Baptistery of Ravenna (New Haven 1965). h. maguire, Earth and Ocean: The Terrestrial World in Early Byzantine Art (University Park, PA 1987). c. r. morey, Early Christian Art (Princeton 1953). o. von simson, Sacred Fortress: Byzantine Art and Statecraft in Ravenna (Chicago 1948, repr. 1976). w. f. volbach, Early Christian Mosaics from the Fourth to the Seventh Centuries, Rome, Naples, Milan, Ravenna (New York 1946).
"Ravenna." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ravenna
"Ravenna." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ravenna