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Ravenna (San Marino), Italy

Ravenna, Italy

Ravenna is a peaceful, provincial-looking town whose somber building facades belie a wealth of riches accumulated when Ravenna was the imperial city, the Byzantium of the West. After the division of the Roman Empire in 395, Rome was already in decline. In 404, Honorius made Ravenna the capital of the Roman Empire. Honorius' sister, Galla Placidia, lavishly governed the Western Empire before the Goths invasions. In 540, under the rule of Justinian, Ravenna, long involved in trade with the Greek world, came under Byzantine rule. The most remarkable legacy of the Byzantium era are the many wonderful mosaics, regarded as the finest in Europe, which adorn the city's ecclesiastical buildings. Their bright colors, richness of decoration and symbolism are evocative of a great spirituality. Ancient and modern mosaics and figures remain an import art form in the city.