Ravenna, Italy, a city in Emilia-Romagna region. It lies near the Adriatic Sea, about 45 miles (72 km) east of Bologna. Ravenna is a historic city, famous as a center of Early Christian and Byzantine art. The city has a number of buildings, dating from the fifth and sixth centuries, that are excellent examples of classical Roman and Byzantine architecture. The structures are especially noted for the mosaics that adorn their interiors. An outstanding example of Byzantine architecture is the church of San Vitale, built 530-550 and decorated with superb mosaics depicting Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora. Other notable structures in Ravenna include the tomb of the poet Dante Alighieri.
Ravenna dates from at least the first century B.C. However, little is known of its history before 402 A.D., when Honorius made the city the seat of the Western Roman Empire, initiating 300 years of growth and prosperity. After the empire fell in 476, Ravenna remained Italy's capital, first under the Germanic ruler Odoacer (476-493), then under the Ostrogoths (493-540). Conquered by the Byzantine emperor in 540, it was the empire's western capital after 553.
In the eighth century, when the papacy gained control of Romagna, the city began to decline, and it never again matched its early prominence. Except for a period of independence between 1177 and 1441, followed by Venetian domination (1441-1509), Ravenna remained under papal rule until it was absorbed by Italy when that country became unified in 1860.