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The Book of Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna (Medieval Texts in Translation)

Agnellus of Ravenna

Publication Year: 2009

This translation makes this fascinating text accessible for the first time to an English-speaking audience. A substantial introduction to Agnellus and his composition of the text is included along with a full bibliography

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Since the sixteenth century, Agnellus of Ravenna’s Book of Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna (Liber pontificalis ecclesiae Ravennatis, or LPR) has been mined by historians and art historians for facts. Though Agnellus is alternately praised for his openness and criticized for his inaccuracy, what he says has generally been taken at face value...

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pp. ix-x

I was first introduced to Agnellus in Cecil L. Striker’s Ravenna seminar at the University of Pennsylvania. Lee encouraged me to work on the text for my doctoral dissertation, and both he and James O’Donnell have been extremely generous with their time and advice, both while I was writing the dissertation and especially...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xi


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pp. xii-xiii


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pp. 3-19

Ravenna was founded during the reign of Augustus (31 B.C. – A.D. 14), immediately to the north of the port Classe, which took its name from the Roman fleet (classis) that was stationed there. Ravenna and Classe were surrounded by marshes, which provided a defensive barrier that greatly increased their strategic importance, ...

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Structure and Genre

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pp. 20-45

The LPR contains a Life of each bishop of Ravenna from the founding of the episcopate by St. Apollinaris to Agnellus’s time. Agnellus attempts to include, at a minimum, the date and place of burial and the length of the reign of the bishop. In many of the Lives, the following information is provided when known: national...

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Written Sources

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pp. 46-56

In these passages Agnellus names the sources he uses in his work, which fall into three main categories: oral tradition, written texts and documents, and his own personal experience (including inspection of monuments with their inscriptions and pictures). In the case of information derived from the third category, it is usually...

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Oral Sources and Orality

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pp. 57-65

While Agnellus often speaks of “putting pen to parchment,” indicating that he thought of the work as a written composition,1 he includes many phrases and passages that imply that he is reading the LPR aloud to a group of Ravennate clergy and citizens, and that he is writing the work at their request.2 Furthermore, Agnellus...

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Art and Architecture in the LPR

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pp. 66-90

Agnellus is somewhat unusual among medieval authors in that he seems to have had a genuine, perhaps even professional, interest in art and architecture. This personal angle has captured the attention of modern art historians. Agnellus is looked upon as an unusually reliable recorder of such things, and the passages in the...

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Note on Editions and This Translation

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pp. 91-92

The LPR is known to us from two manuscripts. One, in the Bibliotheca Estense in Modena (Cod. Lat. 371 X.P.4.9), dates to shortly after 1413 and contains the entire text that we know. The other, in the Vatican Library (Vat. Lat. 5834), dates to the mid-sixteenth century and breaks off in the middle of the Life of Peter II...

The Book of Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna

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Prefatory Verses

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pp. 95-98

Here begin the verses of one unworthy scholar introducing the work of the following book.1 In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit! Since many masters have been eager to write about the correct interpretation of time and of the birth of Jesus, Redeemer of men, and of kings and bishops, they have written of how long each ruler sat on the...

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pp. 99-101

For you who request it, here is an ordered little book about the series of pontifical succession of bishops who entered the see of St. Apollinaris, just as the honesty and explanation of your Agnellus, also known as Andreas, of the orthodox see of Ravenna, has been able to discover and know it. ...

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pp. 101-104

That kind apostle and true prince of the apostles [Peter], giving the highest seat of bishops to one [Apollinaris] whom as a disciple he taught with holy admonitions, sent him to call Ravenna and her people correctly to God. ...

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pp. 104-105

3. Aderitus, the first bishop, a man holy and fearful of God, was ordained priest by most blessed Apollinaris,1 and like a wise architect built on the foundation of his master and teacher.2 He incessantly prayed to God on behalf of his flocks, that they might turn away from the worship of idols and confess the living God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit. And in his days, after the storm of persecution...

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pp. 105

4. Eleuchadius, the second bishop, whose name means “white” in Latin.1 He was gentle and wise, and holy Apollinaris consecrated him deacon. His love of wisdom was so great that he put together many books about the New and Old Testaments, and wrote volumes on the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ and on His passion. ...

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pp. 106

5. Marcian, the third bishop, a distinguished prelate, was sprung from noble stock. He remained, full of the Holy Spirit, in the holy church. He increased the clergy who were learned in holy doctrine and consecrated many deacons and priests. And he was ordained deacon by blessed Apollinaris together with wise Eleuchadius, as is...

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pp. 106

6. Calocerus, the fourth bishop, is translated “good time”; and if by chance the “c” is turned into an “i,” it says “ieros,” meaning “elder,” or “priest,” or “lord.”1 For he was a very old man in advanced age.2 In his days the Lord performed many graces and great miracles through him for the people. His preaching was so great, ...

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pp. 107

7. Proculus, the fifth bishop. He was faithful, like a father to his sons, and brought many into the bosom of the church, and gave to his people the nourishment of his preaching, like honey in sweetness, and provided it like cups of milk to those who are thirsting. ...

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Probus I

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pp. 107-108

8. Probus, the sixth bishop, gentle and upright, shining in appearance, gleaming in work, wise of speech, judicious of heart, full of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Whosoever might come to him sick would return cured, by Probus’s prayers, no matter to what...

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pp. 108

9. Datus, the seventh bishop. He indeed was a religious man and very dutiful and vigilant about night prayers, and a distinguished gatherer of men’s souls and frequently a preacher to the heathen...

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Liberius I

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pp. 108

10. Liberius the eighth bishop, a great man, full of charity, a refreshing fountain, distinguished in faith, kindly in mind. In his days he increased the church with all honor. By the great humility of his life he preserved his soul and held dominion over every...

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pp. 108-109

11. Agapitus, the ninth bishop, whose name in the Latin tongue is translated “full of charity.”1 He daily performed works of charity to strangers, he eagerly bestowed gifts upon paupers, and daily offered up goodness in the temple of his body, daily offered up his soul, like the host, at the altar of his heart, in the presence of the almighty Lord. ...

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pp. 109

12. Marcellinus, the tenth bishop, just and God-fearing, he destroyed the camps of demons by his prayers and diligently guarded the sheep that had been bestowed upon him by the Lord, so that that monstrous wolf, which daily rants and raves against them...

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pp. 109-114

13. Severus, the eleventh bishop,1 whose name in its formation means “true fierce.” This does not pertain to savagery, but to strength: “fierce,” that is, “strong,” “true” high priest. His priesthood was so predestined by Almighty God, that in his election the holy spirit was sent in the form of a dove, which the whole people saw corporeally with their eyes, and it rested on his head. ...

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Liberius II

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pp. 114-116

19. Liberius, the twelfth bishop, a distinguished man, father to orphans, generous with alms, he ruled the pontificate in peace. He truly guarded the evangelical preaching, as it is written, “In your patience you shall possess your souls.”1 He did not steal or seize...

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Probus II

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pp. 116

20. Probus, the thirteenth bishop, rich in divine grace and beautiful of form, decrepit with age, heavy of body, cheerful of face,1 infused with heavenly grace, he always stoutly sought God. He did not cease to admonish his sheep, but stood out as a great preacher. Such great excellence of divinity was in him, that he excelled those...

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pp. 117

21. Florentius, the fourteenth bishop, a just man, father of paupers and protector of widows, a great preacher, humble and gentle and dutiful, daily exhorting his sheep to come swiftly to the harbor of salvation and the rewards of penitence. ...

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Liberius III

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pp. 117-118

22. Liberius, the fifteenth bishop, a holy man, he was beautiful in form, yet brighter in understanding; his eloquence flowed like milk. For he was a true worshipper of God, a leader of pagans toward the good, a destroyer of idols; in his reign the population of...

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pp. 118-120

23. Ursus, the sixteenth bishop, most chaste in body, most holy in works, had a thin and beautiful face, and was moderately bald. He first began to construct a temple to God here, so that the Christian populace, which was scattered in separate dwellings, ...

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Peter I

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pp. 120-124

24. Peter, the seventeenth bishop, a most saintly man, with a slender body, a tall stature, lean in appearance, with a long beard. From the time of blessed Apollinaris up to this man, all his predecessors were from Syria.1 ...

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pp. 125-133

28. Neon, the eighteenth bishop. He had a beautiful appearance, a most holy and spiritual life. He was the builder of the above-mentioned Petriana church, only part of which his predecessor had constructed from the foundation...

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pp. 134-135

31. Exuperantius, the nineteenth bishop, a man of great age, humble and gentle, wise in good works. What his predecessors built, he held safe. In his reign the church of St. Agnes was built by Gemellus, subdeacon of this holy church of Ravenna and rector of Sicily.1 ...

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John I

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pp. 136-156

34. John, the twentieth bishop, very venerable in virtue, sustainer of paupers, adorned by modesty, a lover of purity, at whose prayer the angelic host descended. Of middle height, thin of face, lean from fasting, a giver of alms to the needy. ...

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Peter II

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pp. 157-165

47. Peter, the twenty-first bishop, beautiful in appearance, attractive of figure. No bishop before him was his equal in wisdom and none arose after him. He was the author of many volumes of books, and divine wisdom emanated from him daily, like a refreshing...

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pp. 165-171

53. Aurelian, the twenty-second bishop, a notable man, young in age, older in sense and more elegant in every grace, raised above every evil deed, humble among the people, kindly to his flock. He built on to the foundation of the house which most blessed...

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pp. 171-177

57. Ecclesius, the twenty-third bishop, a holy vessel, of middle stature, he was neither stretched tall nor cut short, having a head full of hair and bushy eyebrows, slightly grey-haired and pleasing in form. In his reign the church of the blessed martyr Vitalis was founded...

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pp. 178-181

62. Ursicinus, the twenty-fourth bishop, a humble man, with a ruddy face and big eyes, tall of stature, thin of body, holy in holy deeds. He was a builder of Tricollis, but did not finish it.1 In the reign of this bishop, King Athalaric died at Ravenna on October 2, and on the next day Deodatus was elevated to the kingship...

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pp. 181-184

66. Victor, the twenty-fifth bishop. Why is he a “victor”? By divine inspiration, from the wish of his parents it was his surname, from his own acts indeed it became his nickname, in that he frequently, through his many virtues, conquered the camps of the...

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pp. 184-197

69. Maximian, the twenty-sixth bishop. Of venerable stature, with a thin body, lean of face, bald of head, he had few hairs, grey eyes, and was adorned with all grace. He was not from this flock, but an alien sheep from the church of Pula, ordained as a deacon by its bishop.1 ...

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pp. 198-204

84. Agnellus, the twenty-seventh bishop, had a ruddy face, a full form, few hairs on his eyebrows, red skin on his head, uplifted eyes; he had a double chin under his beard. He was well-proportioned in stature, beautiful in body, perfect in deeds; but after the death of his wife, putting his military belt aside, he devoted and...

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Peter III the Elder

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pp. 204-213

93. Peter the elder, the twenty-eighth bishop. He was advanced in age, an elder in feeling and body, decorated with grey hair on his head; he led a holy and humble life. He was truly a Petrus, since on a solid rock [petra] he built the temple of his body.1 ...

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John II the Roman

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pp. 213-214

98. John the Roman, the twenty-ninth bishop. John means “grace of God.”1 He was not of this flock, but from the Roman people.2 He was middling in stature, neither tall nor short; optimal in body, not thin, nor very fat; curly, with the hairs of his head mixed with grey. ...

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pp. 215-218

99. Marinian, the thirtieth bishop. He was of the Roman people, his appearance was red, with a long thin face, his grey eyes shone, and in all things he was very comely; he was the nephew of the said John his predecessor. ...

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John III

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pp. 218-221

104. John III, the thirty-first bishop. He was full in body, beautiful of figure, fat of face, having great eyes, with an eager countenance, comely in appearance. He was not like a master, but like a kindly father of his sheep, he lived meekly with them, beloved by...

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John IV

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pp. 221-225

105. John IV, the thirty-second bishop, a kindly and humble man, wise of heart, prudent in his words, had beautiful eloquence, he led an honest life and good habits with his honeyed speech. He kept the teachings of his predecessors uninjured and safe. ...

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pp. 225-227

108. Bonus, the thirty-third bishop, he was good in name and in deeds, with a thin and red face, a head full of hair adorned with grey, and full of all grace. And if perchance someone might wonder, might say or ask others, “how or from where could he know...

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pp. 227-233

110. Maurus, the thirty-fourth bishop. He was energetic; he was deacon and steward of this church and was abbot for the monasterium of St. Bartholemew, where now, as you see, I am abbot, God willing, from the bequest of deacon Sergius, my paternal cousin. ...

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pp. 233-236

115. Reparatus, the thirty-fifth bishop. He was older in age, and his thin image was in the church of St. Peter.1 He was ordained bishop at Ravenna by three of his suffragan bishops, as is the custom of consecrating the bishop of Rome. He was called from the...

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pp. 236-246

117. Theodore, the thirty-sixth bishop. He was young in age, terrible in form, horrible in appearance, and full of all deceit. He was consecrated by his bishops in the church of the Apostles here in Ravenna. Our elders recount many evils of him. I marvel at how he...

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pp. 247-258

125. Damian, the thirty-seventh bishop, short of body, not very fat, from this flock, he was consecrated at Rome,1 a humble man, meek and dutiful. When he was ruling the bishopric, there was great peace among the priests and people. Listen to what our elders have reported to us. ...

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pp. 258-275

136. 1Felix, the thirty-eighth bishop. He had a short body, a narrow face, small eyes, a thin figure, his spirit was full of wisdom and he was a refreshing fountain, an excellent father, a noble preacher, the author of many volumes, fruitful in his holy church. ...

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John V

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pp. 275-278

151. John V, the thirty-ninth bishop. He was very patient, humble and meek. In his reign the Petriana church fell in an earthquake, after the celebration of the Sunday mass was completed.1 And when King Liutprand was ruling the Lombard kingdom, ...

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pp. 278-285

154. Sergius, the fortieth bishop. Young in age, short of body, smiling of face, pleasing of form, with grey eyes, sprung from most noble family. He was a layman and had a wife.1 After he took up the rule of the church, he consecrated his wife Euphemia as a deaconess, and she remained in that condition. ...

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pp. 285

160. Leo, the forty-first bishop. He was from this flock, not very outstanding in stature, very thin, but strong in energy. He first showed to the Franks the route into Italy, through his deacon Martin, who ruled the church fourth after him;1 and King...

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John VI

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pp. 286-289

161. John, the forty-second bishop, young . . .1 Having heard these bitter words, the bishop changed his expression, and his heart became like the raging of a lion, and he said to his archdeacon, “O what insanity you excite in your body! Help him, if you can.”Then with anger piling upon anger, like a cloud...

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pp. 290-295

164. Gratiosus, the forty-third bishop. He was humble and meek, beautiful of appearance, somewhat balding, with a neck extended in size, big eyes, a pleasing form, and sweet eloquence. He was the abbot of the monasterium of St Apollinaris, which is found not far from the church of the holy redeeming Cross at the old...

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pp. 295-298

167. Martin, the forty-sixth bishop. He had a tall stature, a large head, and was bald, exceedingly fat, from the monasterium of St. Andrew which is located not far from the church of the Goths; he was archdeacon of this see, and obtained his see almost eighty years ago,1 he was consecrated in Rome at the hands of Pope Leo III. ...

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pp. 298-305

171. George, the forty-eighth bishop. He was young in age, with curly hair on his head, big eyes. He was consecrated by the Roman Pope Gregory IV.1 But after he had received the sacrament from the body of blessed Peter, having left Rome, at once he stood in...

Table of the Bishops of Ravenna

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pp. 307-308

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Glossary of Artistic and Architectural Terminology

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pp. 309-347

As discussed above, Agnellus uses language, particularly terms for art and architecture, in different contexts for different purposes. In descriptions of patronage and decoration, for example, he uses terms found in the Roman LP and the Vulgate. In narrative passages, such as those found in cc. 26, 39, 111, 127–29, and 161, he chooses unusual terms, found...


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pp. 349-359

General Index

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pp. 361-366

Topographical Index of Ravenna and Classe

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pp. 367-369

E-ISBN-13: 9780813215822
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813213583

Page Count: 369
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: 1st ed.

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Subject Headings

  • Bishops -- Italy -- Ravenna -- Biography.
  • Catholic Church -- Italy -- Ravenna -- Bishops -- Biography.
  • Catholic Church. Archdiocese of Ravenna (Italy) -- Biography.
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