“Thus we from bridge to bridge ...
Pass’d on, and to the summit reaching, stood
To view another gap, within the round
Of Malebolge, other bootless pangs.
Marvellous darkness shadow’d o’er the place.
In the Venetian arsenal as boils
Through wintry months tenacious pitch, to smear
Their unbound vessels ...
So not by force of fire but art divine
Boiled here a glutinous thick mass, that round
Limed all the shore.”
On his way back to Ravenna by land, for the Venetians added to their shame by refusing him the sea passage, he caught a fever in the marshes and returned to Ravenna only to die: the mightiest of all those—emperors and kings—who lie in that “generale sepolcro di santissimi corpi.”
That was in 1321; and with the death of Dante our interest in Ravenna again becomes cold. Guido Novello soon fell, driven out of Ravenna, never to return, by Ostasio who had assassinated Guide’s brother the archbishop-elect Rinaldo. Ostasio ruled with the title of vicar which he received both from Lewis the Bavarian and from pope Benedict XII. This vicious and cruel despot was succeeded by his equally cruel son Bernardino. He ruled for fourteen years, 1345-1359, not, however, without mishap, for his brothers conspired against him and flung him into prison at Cervia. He contrived, however, to turn the tables upon them and to hold them in the same dungeon where he himself had been their prisoner. He was succeeded at last by Guido Lucio, a man of some integrity; but he too was the victim of his family, his own sons rising up against him in his old age and in 1389 flinging him into prison where he died.
He was followed in the lordship of Ravenna by his son Ostasio. This man died in 1431, that is to say, in the midst of all the confusion, here in Romagna and the Marches, of the fifteenth century, when the condottieri were one and all looking for thrones and such ambitions as those of the Visconti, of Francesco Sforza, of Sigismondo Malatesta, of Federigo of Urbino and of a host of parvenus were struggling for dominion and mastery. Thus it was that Ostasio’s successor, Ostasio, in 1438 was compelled to make alliance with duke Filippo Maria of Milan. Venice, ever watchful, saw Visconti’s game, remembered Cervia, and insisted upon Ostasio coming to Venice. While there he learned that Venice had annexed his dominion. Nor are we surprised to learn that he ended his days in a Franciscan convent, where he was mysteriously assassinated, probably by order of Venice. But with the entry of Venice into Ravenna the Middle Age, even in that far place, comes to an end. The Polentani were done with. A new and vigorous government ushered the old imperial city into the Renaissance.
DANTE IN RAVENNA
Before following the fortunes of Ravenna under that new and alien government into the Renaissance and the modern world, it will be well if we turn to examine more closely her one great moment in the Middle Age, the moment in which Dante found in her a last refuge, and then linger a little among such of her mediaeval buildings as the modern world has left her.