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the most important cities of Italy. The principal canal of Augustus poured a copious stream of the waters of the Po through the midst ot the city, to the entrance of the harbour; the same waters were introduced into the profound ditches that encompassed the wall ; they were distributed by a thousand subordinate canals, into every part of the city, which they divided into a variety of small islands; the communication was maintained only by the use of boats and bridges; and the houses of Ravenna, whose appearance may be compared to that of Venice, were raised on the foundation of wooden piles. The adjacent country, to the distance of many miles, was a deep and impassable morass; and the artificial causeway, which connected Ravenna with the continent, might be easily guarded, or destroyed, on the approach of a hostile army. These morasses were interspersed, however, with vineyards; and though the soil was exhausted by four or five crops, the town enjoyed a more plentiful supply of wine than of fresh water. The air, instead of receiving the sickly and almost pestilential exhalations of low and marshy grounds, was distinguished, like the neighbourhood of Alexandria, as uncommonly pure and salubrious; and this singular advantage was attributed to the regular tides of the Adriatic, which swept the canal, interrupted the unwholesome stagnation of the waters, and floated every day the vessels of the adjacent country into the heart of Ravenna. The gradual retreat of the sea has left the modern city at the distance of four miles from the Adriatic; and as early as the fifth or sixth century of the Christian era, the port of Augustus was converted into pleasant orchards; and a lonely grove of pines covered the ground where the Roman fleet once rode at anchor. Even this alteration contributed to increase the natural strength of the place; and the shallowness of the water was a sufficient barrier against the large ships of the enemy. This advantageous situation was fortified by art and labour : and in the twentieth year of his age, Honor'us, emperor of the west, anxious only for his personal safety, retired to the perpetual confinement of the walls and morasses of Ravenna. The example of Honorius was imitated by his feeble successors, the Gothic kings, and afterwards the exarchs, who occupied the throne and palace of the emperors; and, till the middle of the eighth century, Ravenna was considered as the seat of government, and the capital of Italy.'—' Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.'
This Venice-like condition of Ravenna is alluded to by many of the Latin poets,1 especially by Claudian :—
'Antiquae muros egressa Ravennae
'Sil. Ital. viii. 602; Martial, xiii. Ep. 18; Id. iii. 56; Sid. Apol. c. ix.
Nunc redeunte vehit ; nudataque littora fluctu
lDc VI. Cons. Hon.,' 494.
In A.d. 79, Christianity is said to have been first preached in Ravenna by its patron, S. Apollinaris, who suffered martyrdom here. In 404, Honorius, son of the great Theodosius, removed the seat of the government of the Western Empire from Rome to Ravenna, and here his brave sister, Placidia, ruled for 25 years after his death, in the name of her son Valentinian III., in which time Ravenna attained its greatest glory, and the churches of S. Giovanni Evangelista, S. Agata, S. Francesco, and SS. Nazaro and Celso were built. After the fall of Olybrius, who had married Placidia, daughter of Valentinian, the Herulian Odoacer nominally ruled for three years (490-493) in Ravenna as King. He was murdered in his palace, and succeeded by Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, who had already obtained a partnership in his government. Theodoric was an Arian,1 and during his reign six great Arian churches were built, of which S. Apollinare Nuovo and S. Spirito remain. Owing to the tolerance of Theodoric, Ravenna was no less enriched during his lifetime with great Catholic churches, of which (the modernized) S. Maria Maggiore is one; S. Vitale and S. Apollinare in Classe were also both commenced before his death.
Theodoric died in 526, and was succeeded by a series of elective kings. The last who ruled in Ravenna was Vitiges, who was besieged in Ravenna and subdued (539) by Belisarius, the general of Justinian, then Emperor of the East. Under Justinian, Ravenna was ruled and its palace inhabited by the eunuch Narses, who took the title of Exarch, and for fourteen years (554-568) administered the entire kingdom of Italy. During his reign and that of the succeeding Exarchs, Ravenna continued to be the chief town of Italy, Rome a mere provincial city. While it looked to Constantinople as its mother city, Byzantine treasures and the knowledge of Byzantine arts naturally contributed to its adornment, so that, in the words of Gregorovius, 'Ravenna has become the Pompeii of the Gothic and Byzantine times.' The Exarchate lasted 185 years—the later Exarchs ruling feebly, like satraps of an old eastern monarchy. It came to an end under the Exarch Eutychius, who was driven out by Astaulphus, king of the Lombards, in A.d. 752. The attempt of the Lombards to seize Rome also, brought Pepin, king of the Franks, to the rescue, and he made over Ravenna as a temporal possession to the Holy See.
'The Arian heresy was concerning the nature of the Divine Trinity. The Arians maintained that there was only one God, and that the Son and the Holy Ghost were created beings.
From this time Ravenna lost its importance, though its Archbishops often gave it a certain lustre, many of them being raised to eminence either as Popes or Anti-Popes. From 1295 to 1346 it was ruled by the house of Polenta, under whom Dante found a refuge here. It was here also that he published the entire poem of the ' Divina Commedia,' of which two thousand copies were dispersed through Italy, the readers doubting whether any mortal man could really have composed those astonishing cantos. From the government of the Polentani, Ravenna passed to that of Venice, under whose rule it remained till 1509, when it was ceded to Julius II., who made it the capital of the Romagna. In 1512, the battle of Ravenna was fought beneath the walls, in which a victory was gained over the Papal troops by the army of Louis XII., but Gaston de Foix was killed.
The town, apart from its antiquities, is miserably ugly, squalid, and featureless, and even the wonderful interiors are too much spoilt by modernization to be beautiful, except the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and S. Apollinare in Classe.
The early art history and the political history of Ravenna are identical. In later times the so-called 'School of Ravenna ' was a very poor one; Luca Longhi (1507-1580) being its greatest luminary.
An architectural feature of Ravenna will strike all visitors. It is that while almost all other campaniles in Italy are square, here they are almost all round. Still more may they be astonished to find all the 'Gothic' buildings (Tomb of Theodoric, &c.) entirely Roman.
Two days at least should be given to Ravenna. The sights may thus be divided :—
1st Day. Morning. S. Spirito. S. Maria in Cosmedin. S. Giovanni Battista. Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. Tomb of the Exarch Isaac. S. Vitale. S. Giovanni Evangelista.
Afternoon. Tomb of Theodoric (S. Maria Rotonda), and S. Maria in Porto Fuori.
2nd Day. Morning. Piazza da Aquila. Battistero. Dnomo. Chapel of the Arcivescovado. Pinacotfca. S. Agata. S. Francesco. Tomb of Dante. S. Apollinare Nuovo. Palace of Theodoric. S. Maria in Porto.
Afternoon. Drive to S. Apollinare in Classe and the Pineta.
If (which will prove a misery) only one day can be given to Ravenna, the things which must be seen are, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the Baptistery, Chapel of the Arcivescovado, Tomb of Dante, S. Apollinare Nuovo, the Palace of Theodoric, and (by a carriage) the Tomb of Theodoric, S. Apollinare in Classe, and a glimpse of the Pineta.
The Pineta alone is inexhaustible.
The Hotels are in the Strada del Monte. Turning left from hence by the Corso Garibaldi, the first street on the left contains the Church of S. Spirito, or .SI Teodoro, which was a basilica (' ecclesia matrix') built in the 6th century by Theodoric for the Arian bishops. It has three aisles separated by 14 grey marble columns with capitals of white marble. In the 1 st chapel on the left is a curious ambo, with sculptures of the 6th century. In the court in front of this church is S. Maria in Cosmedin, the octagonal Arian Baptistery of S. Spirito, also of the 6th century. The mosaics were added after it was given over to Catholic worship. They represent the Baptism of Christ, whose form is seen through the water, surrounded by the Apostles, their figures divided by palm-trees.
'Of doubtful age are the mosaics in S. Maria in Cosmedin, though the decoration of that building belongs almost indisputably to the time of the veritable Byzantine dominion; probably, therefore, to the middle of the sixth century. We here observe a free imitation of the cupola mosaxs of the orthodox church. Surrounding the centre picture of the Baptism of Christ are arranged here, as well as in them, the figures of the Twelve Apostles, bearing crowns in their hands, except that their line is interrupted on the east side by a golden throne with a cross. The figures are no longer advancing, but stand motionless, yet without stiffness. The heads are somewhat more uniformly drawn, but the draperies already display stiffness of line, with unmeaning breaks and folds, and a certain crudeness of light and shade. The decline of the feeling for decoration shows itself not only in the unpleasant interruption of the figures caused by the throne, but also in the introduction of heavy palm-trees between the single figures, ins ead of the graceful acanthus-plant. In the centre picture the naked form of the Christ is somewhat stiffer, though that of St. John is precisely the same as in the Baptisteries of the orthodox church. On the other hand, the river Jordan is introduced as a third person, with the upper part of the figure bare, a green lower garment, hair and beard long and white, two red crescent-shaped horns on his head, a reed in his hand, and an urn beside him.'—Kugler.
Returning to the Corso Garibaldi, we must take the next turn on the left (Strada S. Elia). Here (left) is the Church of S. Giovanni Battista, also called S. Giovanni delle Catine, which was built in 438 by Galla Placidia for her confessor, S. Barbatian, and consecrated by S. Peter Chrysologus. It was, however, almost entirely rebuilt in 1683, and nothing remains of the old building but the curious round campanile, and 16 ancient columns, arranged in pairs, in the interior. In the piazza before the church stand three great sarcophagi.
From the front of this church the Strada S. Crispino leads hence almost direct to the Church of SS. Nazaro and Celso, the famous Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.1 Outside it would not be recognised as a church, it is rather like a lowly outhouse of brick, the front not rising above the level of the wall in which it is engrafted. It Is a Latin cross, 40 ft. long and 33 ft. broad, vaulted throughout, and
'The Sacristan of S. Vitale has the keys of the Mausoleum.