Modern Era – Today
Researches in Ravenna have started quite early in Modern Times. Take as an example the book ‘Ravenna ricercata’, one of the first ‘tourist guide’ of the city, written by Girolamo Fabri in 1678. Although mainly devoted to the description of the ancient monuments of Ravenna, it contains some interesting references to medieval historical elements (Reprint in 2012, ed. by Saturno Carnoli and Adriano Gatta) or the Museo Arcivescovile inaugurated in 1748.
The medieval times, including Ottonian period, are far the less known in this ancient city, as archaeology has mainly been focused at the Antique, Late Antique and early byzantine town and its monuments. Fig. 12 Some progress occurred however in the 2nd half of the 20th century – especially the various digs of Mons. Mario Mazzotti (1907-1983). In 1956, took place the first of the ‘Corsi di cultura sull’arte ravennate e bizantina’, then ‘Seminari internazionali di studio’, held at the Istituto di Antichità ravennati e bizantine (University of Bologna), especially under the direction of prof. Raffaella Farioli Campanati.
This annual International Seminar still takes place and there is also now at the Ravenna Department of archaeology (University of Bologna), a research group specialised in Late Antique and medieval archaeology, working under the lead of prof. Andrea Augenti : they have excavated the church of San Severo in Classe Fig. 13, they elaborated a GIS on the whole of ravennate territory and the archaeological atlas of the city, etc. 37 38 39
Many artists and literati were fascinated by the city’s monuments and their evocative power: Dante and Boccaccio, and, getting closer to modern times, Lord Byron, Gustav Klimt, Herman Hesse… Still today Ravenna is one of the most visited cities in Italy, thanks also to tourism on the Adriatic coast, from which it can be easily reached.
In 1996 eight of Ravenna’s monuments were recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites and the city is presently one of the Italian candidates for European Capital of Culture 2019. The local cultural offerings are naturally concentrated on the UNESCO sites, but do not end there. There are also important monuments belonging to other epochs: medieval bell towers and monastery cloisters, the frescoes of the Church of Santa Chiara Fig. 14, painted by Giottesque masters Fig. 15, Dante’s tomb with a marble relief depicting the poet, sculpted by the Venetian sculptor Pietro Lombardo (1483), the Baroque apse of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, an important Museum of Contemporary Art (MAR), etc. All the places mentioned in the itinerary of the Heritage Route – Mausoleum of Theodoric, the so-called Theodoric’s Palace, the Basilica of San Vitale, the National Museum of Ravenna – are open to the public with the exception of the archaeological site of the basilica and monastery of San Severo in Classe, where digs are still ongoing.40
The Archaeological Park of Classe
The Foundation ‘Archaeological Park of Classe’, also called RavennAntica, was established for the enhancement of the archaeological, architectural, historical and artistic heritage in the town of Classe and Ravenna.
The aim of the archaeological site project of Classe is to carry out archaeological excavations in cooperation with European organizations in Classe, Ravenna. The project also aims at different activities in the field of cultural heritage. The excavation will contribute to the diffusion of advanced research technologies and methods by the exchange of skills and techniques between different groups of experts and students. Furthermore, the archaeological heritage of the late antique and early medieval period will be presented for the wider public with the help of multilingual websites and programs designed for the dissemination of new research data. The Park will have two archaeological stations: the Port District, who starts in the archaeological site area, leads to the Museum of Classe, passing through the area of San Severo and the Basilica of St Apollinaris in Classe. The second station is the Basilica of San Severo. The project involves at least, a partial reconstruction of the elevations of the two mausoleums attached to the Basilica, located along the south side of the latter. Along at the opposite side (north), where some structures and graves relating to late antique and early medieval period of the complex have been discovered (basilica and monastery), some selected structures of the monastic system and some graves will be consolidated and partially rebuilt to provide a comprehensive and diachronic overview on the evolution of the area. Likewise, the structures of the Roman Villa, part of the Basilica, will be consolidated and enhanced. The Archaeological Park of Classe should open in the Spring 2015.
The Museum of the Classe will be launched in the Spring 2015 with an exhibition area of 2,800 square meters, surrounded by a park with one hectare and a half. The upper area of the Museum will host permanent exhibitions, and the ground floor will be occupied by the restoration laboratories for the findings gradually recovered in the summer campaigns of the ongoing digs.
37 Storia di Ravenna, Vol. I-V, Venezia, 1990-1996
38 Cirelli, E. et al., ‘Archeologia medievale a Ravenna: un progetto per la città e per il territorio’, in Atti del III Congresso Nazionale di Archeologia Medievale, Salerno 2-5/10/2003, Vol. 1, Firenze, 2003, pp. 271-278
39 Cirelli, E., Ravenna: archeologia di una città, Firenze, 2008