Ravenna Roman empire capital Byzantine mosaics, San Apollinare Nuovo church
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The last Western Roman Empire capital

The mosaics art city in Emilia Romagna 

Ravenna is one of the most important art cities in Italy located in Emilia Romagna region, in the Northeastern area of our peninsula. Today it is also an important cruise terminal and a commercial port center in the north of the Adriatic sea.


The town was a site of stilt houses on the edge of the Po Delta lagoon that borders the Veneto region. Afterward, it became a Roman municipium with Augustus that chose it as a port for the eastern areas control of the Empire. Because a large lagoon separates from the mainland the coastal strip on which stays the city, a condition that made it impregnable, but in free communication with the sea. At the beginning of the fifth century, Ravenna was the capital of the Western Roman Empire of the Goth Theodoric. At that time, the construction of imperial churches and palaces started. The Unesco recognizes them as a World Heritage Sites for the decoration of the interiors with mosaics that are unique masterpieces.

From the Western Roman Empire to the king Theodoric the Great

In 402 the city is chosen as the new capital of the Western Roman Empire by Honorius that leaves the helpless Milan to escape the Goths. However, in that period the interment was reducing the importance of the port of Ravenna. On the other hand, Ravenna Roman empire begins to get rich in monuments. As follow, in 476, Odoacer deposed the last Roman emperor. Afterwards, king Theodoric the Great conquers the town after a three-year siege. As a result, in this period they built the mausoleum and the Basilica of St Apollinare Nuovo, the church of St Spirito and the Arian Baptistery.

Under the Byzantine domination

In 540 the Byzantines take possession of the area. And with Justinian, the town lived another period of splendor. In fact, they built the churches of San Vitale and Sant’Apollinare in Classe. The Empire dynasty moved to Constantinople, but the town became the seat of the Byzantine governor of Italy known as the Exarchate of Ravenna. As a result, this moment limits the importance of the city reducing it to Exarchate capital.

The Lombards and the Venetians

In 751 the site falls into the Lombard hands. The great season of Ravenna Roman Empire and Bizantine capital is over. For the following centuries, the archbishops, the aristocratic municipality and the power of noble families governed the town. From 1441 to 1509 Ravenna falls into the hands of Venice before the domination of the pope.

The decline of the town

The area suffered centuries of decline and various domination. Till the end of the Second World War, when the city recovered its economic viability. And also, it rediscovered those monuments that are its crown jewels. Today Ravenna is 9 km from the sea.

Ravenna Roman Empire, Byzantine city guided day excursion

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