We shall not find in Ravenna anything at all, any building, that is, or work of art, of classical antiquity; all she was, all she did, all she possessed in the great years of the empire has perished. Nor shall we find much that may have been hers in the smaller life that came to her in the beginning of the Middle Age, or that was hers in the time of the Renaissance; the memory and the dust of Dante, a few churches, a few frescoes, a few pictures, a few palaces; nothing beside. For all these we must go to Pompeii and to Rome, or to Florence, Siena, Assisi, and Venice; in Ravenna we shall find something more rare, but not these. She remains a city of the Dark Age, of the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries, and she is full of the churches, the tombs, and the art of that time, early Christian and Byzantine things that we shall not find elsewhere, or, at any rate, not in the same abundance, perfection, and beauty.
And yet though so much remains, her story since the time of Charlemagne might seem to be little else but a long catalogue of pillage and destruction. Charlemagne himself began this cruel work when he carried off the mosaics and the marbles, the ornaments of the imperial palace, to adorn Aix-la-Chapelle, and since his day not a century has passed without adding to this vandalism; the worst offenders being the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, which by rebuilding, by frank pillage, by mere destruction, by earthquakes, by contempt, and worst of all by restoration have utterly destroyed much that should have remained for ever, and have altogether spoilt and transformed most of that which, almost by chance it might seem, remains.
And so it comes to pass that the oldest buildings remaining to us to-day in Ravenna are to be found in the baptistery, the cathedral, the arcivescovado, and the mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the oldest complete building being the last. Let us then first consider these.
The first bishop, the “Apostle” of Ravenna, according to Agnellus, was S. Apollinaris, a Syrian of Antioch, the friend and disciple of S. Peter, who, as we know, had been bishop of Antioch for seven years before he went to Rome. Apollinaris followed S. Peter to the Eternal City and was appointed by him bishop of Ravenna, whither he came to establish the church. There might seem to be some doubt as to his martyrdom; but, according to Agnellus, he was succeeded by his disciple S. Aderitus, and he in his turn by S. Eleucadius, a theologian, who is said to have written commentaries upon the books of the Old and New Testaments, and to have been followed as bishop by S. Martianus, a noble whom S. Apollinaris had ordained deacon. There follows in the Liber Pontificalis of Agnellus a list of twelve bishops, S. Calocerus, S. Proculus, S. Probus, S. Datus, S. Liberius, S. Agapetus, S. Marcellinus, S. Severus (c. 344), S. Liberius II., S. Probus II., S. Florentius, and S. Liberius