After the end of my January 2016 internship in Imola, I had a couple of days left to explore what I could of Italy, and a secretary at the company enthusiastically recommended me Ravenna, a one-hour train ride away. I present below a summary of the city's rich history so the viewers can learn about the context of the various monuments and fully appreciate this thread.
Ravenna has served three times as a capital: first of the declining Western Roman Empire (during the 5th century AD), then of the reign of Theodoric the Great, King of the Ostrogoths (AD 493-526) and finally of the Byzantine Empire in Italy (AD 553-751). Due to this, it is recognized worldwide for its historical and artistic treasures, and preserves in particular the richest mosaic heritage in the world, dating from the 5th and 6th centuries AD, within its early Christian and Byzantine monuments, of which no less than eight have been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The art of mosaics itself did not originate in Ravenna, but its greatest expression is to be found there. It can also be said that Christian iconology originated in the city, under a mixture of Roman and Byzantine influences.
The subsequent periods of the city's history also left a legacy of buildings and monuments. In the 8th Century it was conquered by the Lombards, then by the Franks, who donated it to the Church of Rome. During their domination Ravenna was visited by Charlemagne on two occasions: in 787, and in 800 when he was on his way to Rome to be crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. After his death, duke dynasties were entrusted by the archbishops of feudal titles and powers, until the creation of the Commune in the early 12th century, when several factions formed within the local aristocracy. Some of the most celebrated monuments of this period are the Tomb of poet Dante Alighieri, the Municipal Tower, the monumental gates of the city, and a number of palaces and mansions.
In 1441 Ravenna passed under the dominion of the Venetian Republic. During this period, the walls were rebuilt and the central parts of the city were reshaped. It then passed permanently under the Church’s control in the 16th century. It was in this context that the famous Battle of Ravenna took place between the French and the Spanish (allied of the Italians) on Easter Day 1512, which ended with the papal defeat and the sack of the city by the French. It remained nonetheless under the control of the Church until the arrival of Napoleon in 1859.