Coming from the Ravenna railway station and heading towards the Mausoleum of Theodoric, along the route you will see one of the most tangible proofs of the Venetian rule over this city: it’s the BRANCALEONE FORTRESS.
With an imposing architecture, harsh lines and marked by time, this complex openly shows its military and defensive purposes. Today, it’s quite the opposite: the fortress has become a place to meet and to have a good time, hosting events and cultural appointments.
THE HISTORY OF THE BRANCALEONE FORTRESS
In 1441, after Ostasio III Da Polenta’s defeat, Venice took control over Ravenna. Among the many works to enhance the city, the new rulers made a great effort to reinforce the defensive system.
In 1457, the “Serenissima” designed a fortress to protect the north-east part of the city walls. This area, set on the heels of the Montone river was namely much exposed. The new fortress was built close to a wide road that led to Venice. Moreover, nearby raised a church dedicated to St. Andrew of the Goths, which Theodoric made build not to far from his Mausoleum.
The doge Francesco Foscari commissioned the construction of the fortress in 1456. The project by Giacomo Corner and Vitale Lando was carried out under the supervision of Giovanni Francesco da Massa.
On 25 May 1457, the construction of the fortress started. Chief magistrate Pietro Zorzi buried three coins, and on that spot archbishop Bartolomeo Roverella laid the first stone.
Two great battles starred the Brancaleone Fortress. The first was in 1509, after a one month-long resistance, the Pope’s army succeeded in breaching the walls and entering the city. Lastly, the Battle of Ravenna (1512) saw the troops of the anti-papal coalition (France and Ferrara) reconquer the city.
The architecture of the Brancaleone Fortress
The focal point of the fortress was the Ridotto, a wide quadrilateral surface measuring about 2,200 square metres with four imposing circular towers set at the corners. From the towers, one could see the coastline, which in the past was nearer to the city than it is today. All around, the fosse surrounded the castle, as the traces still suggest these days.
On the other hand, to the south raised the so-called Citadel: a 14,000 square metres area where the soldiers used to live. Here was also room for warehouses, storage of weapons and ammunitions, and facilities for the everyday activities.