Michael Prokurat, Alexander Golitzin, Michael D. Peterson
The A to Z of the Orthodox Church


RAVENNA. A city on the north Adriatic coast of Italy, Ravenna was the capital of the Ostrogoth kingdom from 476 to 540, and thereafter the seat of the Byzantine exarch (qq.v.) of Italy and the West. Until the Lombard conquest in 751 and Ravenna’s incorporation into the papal estates, the exarch was the voice of Byzantium (q.v.) in the West and the political overlord of the Roman popes. The exarchate’s disappearance signaled the end of Byzantine influence on the papacy (q.v.) and the new arrangement between the popes and the Empire of Charlemagne (q.v.) and his successors. Byzantium’s long presence in the city, together with the Gothic kingdom, left Ravenna the site of monuments of early Christian art and architecture (qq.v.), including the mosaics of St. Apollinare and St. Vitale (the latter being the model of Charlemagne’s court chapel at Aachen), and the Arian and Orthodox baptistries.