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Ravenna is the best place to see early Christian and Byzantine church architecture and decoration of the fifth and sixth centuries. In 402AD, the city became the capital of the western Roman empire and mosaic-clad churches were constructed. Ravenna continued to flourish during the early sixth century under the Ostrogoths, who were responsible for commissioning further splendid monuments. In 540AD, it became the main outpost of the Byzantine empire in western Europe, experiencing yet another lavish period of patronage. The Lombards assumed control in 751AD and decline seemed inevitable, but this apparent reversal of fortune was vital in ensuring the survival of the marble and mosaic-encrusted monuments of Ravenna’s illustrious past.

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