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Ravenna, a city with eight UNESCO heritage sites, gives remarkable insight into major changes which occurred in the Mediterranean world around 1500 years ago. When Rome was sacked, it had already ceased to be the capital of the Roman Empire for a long time. Several cities were the capitals, until Constantinople became the chief capital in 330. Ravenna, though, would serve as the last capital of the Western Roman Empire, governing it as it fell prey to the ‘barbarians’. After the death of Theodosius, his sons divided the empire, with Honorius first moving the capital there after the Gothic king Alaric invaded Italy. It would also serve as the first capital of the Germanic Kingdom of Italy, first under Odoacer and then under Theoderic. Meanwhile the Eastern Empire - centered on Constantinople – continued to exist, even flourishing at times. Even though Justinian recaptured much of the West, the collapse of the Western Roman Empire would change Europe and the Mediterranean world permanently.

What we now call the Byzantine Empire can be considered distinct from the Roman Empire of the Classical Age largely due to its lack of the Western half. While eventually, the Byzantine Empire becomes clearly different from Rome of the Classical Era, this change was gradual. Ravenna, as the last capital of the Western Roman Empire, shows signs of both the continuity and shared changes of Late Antiquity, as European and Mediterranean cultures shifts from the Classical Era to the Medieval Era. In fact, it is one of the best places to see this dynamic, which was empire wide. Full of churches and art from Late Antiquity, it is an excellent place to see art of Late Antiquity, when the Roman world was in the process of being dominated by Christianity. It has the only example of in situ art of Arian Christianity. Ravenna also gives us a window into the world of the Emperor Justinian, the last emperor to dream of restoring the Empire to its former position, as seen in churches like the Basilica of San Vitale. In addition to the spectacular mosaics, there are notework pieces in Ravenna's museums, such as the Throne of Maximian or Murano Diptych

Basilica of San Vitale
Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo.jpg
Mausoleum of Theodoric.jpg
"Palace of Theodoric".jpg
“Mausoleum of Galla Placidia”.jpg
Sant'Apollinare in Classe.jpg
Walls of Ravenna.jpg

Walls of Ravenna

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo.jpg

Depiction of the Palace of Theodoric at Sant'Apollinare Nuovo

Church of Santa Croce
Reconstruction Santa Croce with Mausoleu

Reconstruction of Santa Croce and Mausoleum by Ricci

Church of San Giovanni Evangelista
Church of San Giovanni Evangelista (Rave

13th century floor mosaic of Crusaders at Constantinople

Church of Santo Spirito
Church of Santo Spirito in Ravenna.jpg

Originally Arian Church of St. Anastasia

Plan of Arian Baptistery and Church of Santo Spirito from Deichmann

Church of Sant'Agata Maggiore
Church of Santa Maria Maggiore (Ravenna)
Reconstructed plan by Deichmann.jpg

Reconstructed plan by Deichmann

Church of San Michele in Africisco

Reproduction of apse mosaic at Bode Museum in Berlin

Plant from Brenk.jpg

Plan from Brenk

Proconnesian marble ambo of Agnellus (6th century)

At the Cathedral of Ravenna

Altar at Church of San Francesco

Built on the site of Church of the Apostles

Sarcophagus at San Francesco

At Santa Maria Maggiore

Sarcophagi at Ravenna.jpg

Sarcophagi near Dante's Tomb

Church of San Severo in Classe
Reconstruction of San Severo.jpg

Reconstruction of San Severo in Classe

Ravenna da Augusto a Giustiniano

Port of Classe

Ruins at the Port of Classe (Siti Archeologici d'Italia)


Solidus of Honorius minted in Ravenna

At the British Museum


Solidus of Galla Placidia minted in Ravenna

At the British Museum


Solidus of Theodoric

At Palazzo Massimo alle Terme in Rome


Reconstructions of Ravenna (3rd-4th century / 5th century)

Ravenna da Augusto a Giustiniano


Ichnografia Urbis Antiquae Ravennae (1722)

Ravenna da Augusto a Giustiniano


Prospectus urbis Ravennae (1778-1780)

Ravenna da Augusto a Giustiniano

Archiepiscopal Museum
 National Museum of Ravenna
Murano Diptych.jpg

Heracles and the Stag of Ceryneia

Early 6th century

Bronze Cross from the roof of San Vitale

6th century

Marble Transenna from San Vitale.jpg
Marble Transenna from San Vitale.jpg
Marble Transenna from San Vitale.jpg

Marble Transennae (Presbytery Partition) from San Vitale 
6th century

National Museum of Ravenna.jpg

Preparatory drawing in red clay on stuccoed bricks from apse of Sant'Apollinare in Classe

National Museum of Ravenna.jpg
National Museum of Ravenna.jpg