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Ravenna

Ravenna (rävĕnˈnä) [key], city (1991 pop. 135,844), capital of Ravenna prov., in Emilia-Romagna, N central Italy, near the Adriatic Sea (with which it is connected by a canal). It is an agricultural market, canal port, and an important industrial center. Manufactures include refined petroleum, petrochemicals, furniture, cement, and processed food. Ravenna rose to importance under the Romans, who made Classis, its port, the station for their fleet in the N Adriatic. In A.D. 402, Honorius made Ravenna the capital of the Western Empire, and it was also the capital (5th–6th cent.) of the Ostrogoth kings Odoacer and Theodoric, who are responsible for some of the city's best buildings. Ravenna was the seat of the exarchs (governors of Byzantine Italy) from the late 6th cent. to 751, when its capture by the Lombards broke Byzantine power in Italy. Pope Stephen II claimed the exarchate and secured the help of Pepin the Short in wresting it from the Lombards. Pepin donated the lands of the exarchate to the pope in 756; this donation, confirmed by Charlemagne in 774, marked the beginning of the temporal power of the popes. The Da Polenta family—known as Dante's hosts—were lords in Ravenna from the 13th to the 15th cent. After a period of Venetian domination, the city returned to papal control in 1509. During the Italian Wars the French defeated (1512) Spanish and papal forces at Ravenna; the French commander, Gaston de Foix, died in the battle. Ravenna is famous for its colorful mosaics (see mosaic) of the 5th and 6th cent., which show a strong Middle Eastern influence, and for its Roman and Byzantine buildings. Ornamented with mosaics are the mausoleum of Galla Placidia (5th cent.), the octagonal baptistery (formerly a Roman bath), the 6th-century churches of Sant' Apollinare Nuovo and Sant' Apollinare in Classe, and, richest of all, the Byzantine Church of San Vitale (consecrated 547). Also of note in Ravenna are the tombs of Theodoric and Dante, the Archbishop's Palace (with a museum), and the Academy of Fine Arts. Near the city, along the sea, are pinewoods celebrated since Roman times.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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