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Ravèna (Romagnol)
Collage of Ravenna
Collage of Ravenna
Flag of Ravenna
Coat of arms of Ravenna
Location of Ravenna
Ravenna is located in Italy
Location of Ravenna in Emilia-Romagna
Ravenna is located in Emilia-Romagna
Ravenna (Emilia-Romagna)
Coordinates: 44°24′58″N 12°12′06″E / 44.41611°N 12.20167°E / 44.41611; 12.20167
ProvinceRavenna (RA)
  • Casalborsetti, Lido di Savio, Lido di Classe, Lido di Dante, Lido Adriano, Marina di Ravenna, Punta Marina Terme, Porto Corsini, Porto Fuori, Marina Romea, Ammonite, Camerlona, Mandriole, Savarna, Grattacoppa, Conventello, Torri, Mezzano, Sant'Antonio, San Romualdo, Sant'Alberto, Borgo Montone, Fornace Zarattini, Piangipane, San Marco, San Michele, Santerno, Villanova di Ravenna, Borgo Sisa, Bastia, Borgo Faina, Carraie, Campiano, Casemurate, Caserma, Castiglione di Ravenna, Classe, Coccolia, Ducenta, Durazzano, Filetto, Fosso Ghiaia, Gambellara, Ghibullo, Longana, Madonna dell'Albero, Massa Castello, Mensa Matellica, Osteria, Pilastro, Roncalceci, Ragone, Santo Stefano, San Bartolo, San Zaccaria, Savio, S. Pietro in Trento, San Pietro in Vincoli, San Pietro in Campiano
 • MayorMichele De Pascale (PD)
 • Total652.89 km2 (252.08 sq mi)
4 m (13 ft)
 (1 January 2014)[2]
 • Total158,784
 • Density240/km2 (630/sq mi)
Demonym(s)Ravennate, Ravennese[3]
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
Dialing code0544
Patron saintSaint Apollinaris
Saint dayJuly 23
WebsiteOfficial website
Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Mosaic of Justinianus I - Basilica San Vitale (Ravenna).jpg
Mosaic of the Emperor Justinian I from the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna
CriteriaCultural: i, ii, iii, iv
Inscription1996 (20th Session)
Area1.32 ha

Ravenna (/rəˈvɛnə/ rə-VEN, Italian: [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 408 for most of the 5th century until its collapse in 476.[4] 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 Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna until the last exarch was executed by the Lombards in 751.

Although it is 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, with eight buildings comprising the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna".[5] Because of the high concentration of mosaics, the city has been associated with workshops and schools teaching mosaics, and is often given titles like the "capital of mosaics".[6][7][8]


For a chronological guide, see Timeline of Ravenna.

The origin of the name Ravenna is unclear. Some have speculated that "Ravenna" is related to "Rasenna" (or "Rasna"), the term that the Etruscans used for themselves, but there is no agreement on this point.[9][10]

Ancient era

The origins of Ravenna are uncertain.[11] However, the oldest archaeological evidence found allows to date the Umbri presence in Ravenna at least to the 5th century BC, where they remained undisturbed until the 3rd century BC, when the first contacts with Roman civilization began to take place.[12] 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 Venice several 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 where Julius Caesar gathered his forces before crossing the Rubicon. Later Octavian, after his battle against Mark Antony in 31 BC, founded the military harbor of Classis.[13] 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 Germanic 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
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.[14] In AD 408, Emperor Honorius transferred the capital of the Western Roman Empire from Rome to Ravenna; it subsequently served as the capital of the empire for most of the 5th century and the last de facto western emperor Romulus Augustulus was deposed here in AD 476. At that time it was home to 50,000 people.[15] The transfer was made partly for defensive purposes: 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 Baptistry, the misnamed Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (she was not actually buried there), and San Giovanni Evangelista.

Ostrogothic Kingdom

See also: Ostrogothic Ravenna

The late 5th century saw the dissolution of Roman authority in the west, and Romulus Augustulus 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 King Theodoric 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 Theodoric, until the taking of Rimini deprived Ravenna of supplies. Theodoric took Ravenna in 493, supposedly slew Odoacer with his own hands, and Ravenna became the capital of the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy. Theodoric, 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 Theodoric

Both Odoacer and Theodoric and their followers were Arian Christians, but co-existed peacefully with the Latins, who were largely Catholic Orthodox. Ravenna's Orthodox bishops carried out notable building projects, of which the sole surviving one is the Cappella Arcivescovile. Theodoric 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, Theodoric ordered the town to rebuild them at its own expense.

Theodoric 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 Theodoric'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 Theodoric had been. Meanwhile, the orthodox Christian Byzantine Emperor Justinian I opposed both Ostrogoth rule and the Arian variety of Christianity. In 535 his general Belisarius invaded Italy and in 540 conquered Ravenna. After the conquest of Italy was completed in 554, 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 and the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe, as well as the partially surviving San Michele in Africisco.

Exarchate of Ravenna

Transfiguration of Jesus. Allegorical image with Crux gemmata and lambs represent apostles, 533–549, apse of Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe.
Transfiguration of Jesus. Allegorical image with Crux gemmata and lambs represent apostles, 533–549, apse of Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe.

Main article: Exarchate of Ravenna

Following the conquests of Belisarius for Eastern Roman 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 Ravenna was 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.[16] 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 Stephen II. Ravenna then gradually came under the direct authority of the Popes, although this was contested by the archbishops at various times. 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.

In 1198 Ravenna led a league of Romagna cities against the Emperor, and the 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 Florentine poet Dante. The last of the Da Polenta, Ostasio III, was ousted by the Republic of Venice in February 1441, and the city was annexed to the Venetian territories in the Treaty of Cremona.

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 the 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.

An 18th-century quattrino from Ravenna depicting Saint Apollinaris
An 18th-century quattrino from Ravenna depicting Saint Apollinaris

Modern age

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, Ravenna and the surrounding Romagna area became part of the new unified Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

During World War II, the town suffered severe damage. Fifty-two Allied bombing raids during the course of the Second World War had taken their toll, destroying some of Ravenna's noteworthy, unequalled early Christian art. Bombs intended for the railway station and its sidings had pulverised the Basilica of San Giovanni Evangelista in August 1944.[17] On 5 December 1944 troops of 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards, 5th Canadian Armoured Division and the British 27th Lancers entered and liberated Ravenna. A total of 937 Commonwealth soldiers who died in the winter of 1944–45 are buried in Ravenna War Cemetery, including 438 Canadians.[18]


See also: List of mayors of Ravenna

Main sights

Triumphal arch mosaics of the Basilica of San Vitale
Triumphal arch mosaics of the Basilica of San Vitale
Garden of Eden mosaic in mausoleum of Galla Placidia (5th century CE)
Garden of Eden mosaic in mausoleum of Galla Placidia (5th century CE)
Arian Baptistry ceiling mosaic
Arian Baptistry ceiling mosaic
6th-century mosaic in Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, portrays Jesus long-haired and bearded, dressed in Byzantine style.
6th-century mosaic in Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, portrays Jesus long-haired and bearded, dressed in Byzantine style.
The Arian Baptistry
The Arian Baptistry
Dante's tomb exterior and interior, built in 1780
The so-called "Mausoleum of Galla Placidia" in Ravenna
The so-called "Mausoleum of Galla Placidia" in Ravenna
Mosaic of the Palace of Theodoric in Sant'Apollinare Nuovo
Mosaic of the Palace of Theodoric in Sant'Apollinare Nuovo

Eight early Christian buildings of Ravenna are inscribed on the World Heritage List. These are

Other attractions include:


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 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.

In literature

Dante Alighieri presenting Giotto to Guido da Polenta, painting by Giovanni Mochi (19th century), Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Florence
Dante Alighieri presenting Giotto to Guido da Polenta, painting by Giovanni Mochi (19th century), Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Florence

In film

Michelangelo Antonioni filmed his 1964 movie Red Desert (Deserto Rosso) within the industrialised areas of the Pialassa valley.


Ravenna has an important commercial and tourist port.

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.

Freeways crossing 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").

Amusement parks

Twin towns – sister cities

See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Italy

Ravenna is twinned with:[24]


The traditional football club of the city is Ravenna F.C. Currently it plays in the third tier of Italian football, Serie C.

A.P.D. Ribelle 1927 is the football club of Castiglione di Ravenna, a town to the south of Ravenna, and was founded in 1927. Currently it plays in Italy's Serie D after promotion from Eccellenza Emilia-Romagna Girone B in the 2013–14 season. The president is Marcello Missiroli and the manager is Enrico Zaccaroni. Its home ground is Stadio Massimo Sbrighi, 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 September 2011.

Notable people


  1. ^ "Superficie di Comuni Province e Regioni italiane al 9 ottobre 2011". Italian National Institute of Statistics. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  2. ^ GeoDemo -
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Gillett, Andrew (2001). "Rome, Ravenna and the Last Western Emperors". Papers of the British School at Rome. 69: 131–167. doi:10.1017/S0068246200001781. ISSN 0068-2462. JSTOR 40311008. S2CID 129373675.
  5. ^ "Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna".
  6. ^ "Day Trip to Ravenna: What to See in Italy's Mosaic Capital". ITALY Magazine. Retrieved 2023-05-18.
  7. ^ Franceschini |, Giulia (2023-04-24). "Ravenna, the capital of Italian mosaic". L'Italo-Americano – Italian American bilingual news source. Retrieved 2023-05-18.
  8. ^ Fiorentino, Sara; Chinni, Tania; Vandini, Mariangela (2020-11-01). "Ravenna, its mosaics and the contribution of archaeometry. A systematic reassessment on literature data related to glass tesserae and new considerations". Journal of Cultural Heritage. 46: 335–349. doi:10.1016/j.culher.2020.06.003. ISSN 1296-2074.
  9. ^ Names, All Things Baby (2019-05-31). "Ravenna Name Meaning, Origin, Popularity, and More". All Things Baby Names. Retrieved 2023-01-11.
  10. ^ Tourism in Ravenna – Official site – History. (2010-06-20). Retrieved on 2011-06-20.
  11. ^ Deborah M. Deliyannis, Ravenna in Late Antiquity (Cambridge University Press, 2010), for this and much of the information that follows
  12. ^ Mascanzoni, Leardo (1990). Ravenna: Una storia millenaria (in Italian). Giunti Barbera Editore. pp. 3–50.
  13. ^ From the Latin for "fleet".
  14. ^ Dio 72.11.4-5; Birley, Marcus Aurelius
  15. ^ Fischer, Svante; Victor, Helena. ""The Fall and Decline of the Roman Urban Mind"". ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ "The riches of Ravenna". 10 December 2020.
  18. ^ "Canada - Italy 1943-1945 - the Second World War - History - Remembrance - Veterans Affairs Canada". 23 June 2021.
  19. ^ Jones, Tom (2012). Nostradamus. Pittsburgh, PA: Dorrance Publishing. ISBN 9781434918239.
  20. ^ Reading, Mario (2009). The Complete Prophesies of Nostradamus. London: Watkins Publishing. ISBN 9781906787394.
  21. ^ "Sito Ufficiale – Ufficio Turismo del Comune di Ravenna – I grandi scrittori". Retrieved 2009-05-06.
  22. ^ Ravenna
  23. ^ "Tolkien's annotated map of Middle-earth discovered inside copy of Lord of the Rings". 23 October 2015.
  24. ^ "Città gemellate". (in Italian). Ravenna. Retrieved 2021-03-28.