AD 1050 – Modern Era
Development of the site
The delicate, shifting balance in the relations among archbishops, local nobility, pope and emperor that had characterized Ravenna’s history up to the time of the Ottonians saw a decided turning point when Frederick II of Swabia conquered Ravenna in 1240. Then followed the rise of the da Polenta family, which was tied to the power of the archbishops and wielded governing power over the city from 1275. It was a phase of decline for Ravenna, by now completely supplanted by Venice in Adriatic trade. Dante Alighieri Fig. 11 died there in exile in 1321 while he was a guest of Guido Novello da Polenta.
During the Avignonese captivity, through the papal legate Egidio D’Albornoz, the popes nonetheless attempted to regain power over the city, by that time only nominally in their possession. In 1441 Venice conquered Ravenna and the city benefited from the intervention of the Serenissima, which restored life to the port, introduced new crops and reclaimed malaria-ridden land. In 1509 pope Julius II managed to return Ravenna to the papal state. In 1512 a terrible battle took place among French, Spanish and papal troops at the gates of Ravenna, leading to the city’s devastation. Until 1859 Ravenna remained a possession of the Church and was governed by papal legates.
From the 10th to the 20th centuries Ravenna and the surrounding area suffered from a situation of depression and isolation due also to territorial transformations. The course of the Po River had changed. In the 6th century it flowed into the sea 17 kilometres from Ravenna, but a series of hydrogeological disturbances shifted the main course of the river further north, thus determining major changes in the local environment and economy. Following the discovery of natural gas fields in 1952, large industrial and port complexes developed, the suburbs expanded and Ravenna’s population grew considerably. Unfortunately, the economic rebirth had the consequence of upsetting the environmental equilibrium.36
36 Storia di Ravenna, Vol. I-V, Venezia, 1990-1996