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Medieval Ravenna

In the second half of the VI Century, during the constitution of the exarchate of Italy, Ravenna lived a period of renewed splendour. Its position as an outpost of the Eastern Roman Empire confered to its Church and to the Archbishop a role of paramount importance, that affected the social, political and cultural fabric. The influence of the exarchate was so strong on the city and on the entire Byzantine Italy that in the early VII Century Ravenna gained independence from the Church of Rome.

In the VIII Century the city was conquered first by the Lombards, then by the Franks, who decided to donate it to the Church of Rome. During their domination Ravenna was visited by Charlemagne on two occasions: in 787 (the event is testified by an inscription on a plate kept at the Archiepiscopal Museum), and in 800 when Charlemagne was on his way to Rome, where he was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
After his death and the fragmentation of the Carolingian Empire, the town and rural aristocracy, that had increasingly got richer since the establishment of the exarchate, finally emerged: Dukes dynasties were entrusted by the archbishops through feudal titles and powers with the government of Romagna until the origin of the Commune.


The first attestation of the communal power dates back to 1109, after the Gregorian reform and the investiture struggle, when a consular panel formed by household members of the most renowned families in town was active.

Several factions formed within the local aristocracy. The Traversari prevailed first, followed by Polentani, a family which is especially known thanks to the figure of Guido Novello, who hosted Dante Alighieri in the last years of his life. Among the material evidence of this family are: Palazzo Lovatelli; the so-called Casa dei Polentani (also known as "casa di Francesca") and Casa Traversari.

The constitution of the Commune however didn't manage to improve the demographic and economic condition of the city, improvement that had characterized instead other urban centers. The outer walls remained unchanged throughout the medieval period and the city was organized according to a division into zones, with overlapping vertical structures within a closed space.

Edited by the editorial team

Contact us at: turismo@comune.ravenna.it

Last modified date: 25/01/2017

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