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Ravenna The Capital

Palazzo di TeodoricoTheodoric Palace

Once again due to its unusual strategic position there was a period of great importance for the artistic and political history of Ravenna at the beginning of the 5th century. Honorius, who had been forced to abandon Milan by the Visigoth invasion chose Ravenna as the new capital of the Western Roman Empire (412 - 413).
The city took on the splendid sumptuous appearance of an imperial residence. Magnificent civil and religious buildings covered with mosaics arose, such as the great Basilica of Ursus with its five naves and the adjoining Baptistery, the Church of Santa Croce and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the Church of St. John the Evangelist and the church dedicated to the Apostles, now known as S. Francesco.
Meanwhile the city walls became more extensive first under Honorius and then Valentian III and finally Odoacre and Theodoric.
The events of the Western Roman Empire concluded with the entry into Ravenna of Odoacre and the death of Paulus, the uncle of Romolo Augustolo in 476. Odoacre was the first barbarian to enjoy the title of 'king' in Italy.
Towards the last decade of the 5th century Theodoric, leader of the Ostrogoths, arrived in the area of the city.
After a siege of three years the city fell in 493 and Theodoric forced Odoacre to negotiate. He was promised his life but after ten days was killed in the Laureto Palace having been accused of plotting.
Theodoric, first assuming the title of Dominus and later Rex, was a wise enlightened sovereign. He gave great impetus to the building programme, undertook great land reclamation projects in the surrounding marshes and restored the Trajan aqueduct. Indeed, some of the fistulae plumbee (pipes for transporting water) found in 1938 bear the following inscription in relief: D (omi) n (us) Rex Theodoricus civitati reddidit.
 

 

 

Mausoleo di TeodoricoTheodoric Mausoleum

 

The buildings constructed in this period include Theodoric's residence, the Palatium, the external appearance of which we are given some idea by the mosaics which depict it at the beginning of the right side wall in S. Apollinare Nuovo. Its plan is known thanks to the excavations at the beginning of the last century by Ghirardini.
Theodoric was Arian just like his people and for this reason had places for Arian worship built such as the Anastasis Gothorum, now the Church of the Holy Spirit which was used as a Cathedral and the nearby Arian Baptistery. Next to his royal palace Theodoric built the stupendous basilica dedicated initially to the Saviour and now known as S. Apollinare Nuovo.
The Arians followed the teachings of Ario who believed the heretical doctrine that only God was not generated and that Christ, the 'logos', who would have been different and dissimilar to God, is God only by adoption and not by nature.
In Ravenna there were never any serious differences between Catholics and Arians. It was only at the end of Theodoric's reign that heated conflict arose when the sovereign, dissatisfied with the results of the mission from Pope John in the east to the emperor Justinian, to whom he had turned to obtain favour for the Arians, had the pope imprisoned. The pope died in the May of 526 and was considered a victima Christi. Three months later Theodoric too died.

Imperatore GiustinianoThe Emperor Justinian

In 540 Belisarius, Justinian's general, entered Ravenna and so the city passed into Byzantine control and in 554 it was made the prefecture of Italy.
Shortly after, Justinian made a decree which transferred all Arian property to the Catholics. The Baptistery was transformed into the Church of S. Maria and the church dedicated by Theodoric to the Saviour was adapted to the Catholic rite and dedicated to Bishop S. Martino who had fought valiantly against heresy.
The basic principles of the Catholic faith were thus vigorously reaffirmed.
The Churches of S. Vitale (begun under the Goths but finished under the Byzantines) and S. Apollinare in Classeare from this period.

Edited by the editorial team

Contact us at: turismo@comune.ravenna.it

Last modified date: 09/04/2014

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