The one and only building in town featuring a “war machine” architecture, the mighty Rocca Brancaleone was built by the Venetians between 1457 and 1470, as a striking sign of their domination over Ravenna. The Rocca hides in its foundations the ruins of the church of St. Andrew of the Goths, built by Theodoric not far from where his mausoleum would be erected. However, the “castle” was not meant to defend the city: it was designed as a control tool for Ravenna. It is no coincidence that its walls counted 36 bombers facing the city itself and only 14 pointing the outside. But the fortress would not withstand a more advanced warfare: in 1509, after a month-long siege, it was conquered by the troops of Pope Julius II, who expelled the Venetians from the town. Additionally, during the battle of Ravenna in 1512, the Rocca Brancaleone resisted for barely four days.
The entire complex was owned by the Papal Government from the early sixteenth century for the following three hundred years. Only in 1965, after several changes of ownership, it was bought by the city of Ravenna for 90 million lire (about 46000 Euro). The project envisaged the creation of a large park in the citadel and an open air theatre in the Rocca. Therefore, between controversial restorations and more interesting recoveries, the music entered the walls of the Rocca for the first time on July 30th 1971, with a festival organized by the “Angelo Mariani” association. The first to walk on the stage was the Philarmonic of the Bulgarian city of Ruse, conducted by Kamen Goleminov. Thus, the fortress became the most qualified and impressive arena of the whole territory of Romagna. On July 26th, 1974, Ravenna Jazz was born in the Rocca Brancaleone. The festival is the longest-running Italian event featuring Afro-American music, and those first “Days of Jazz” were home to the quintet of Charles Mingus and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. In the Eighties, the baton was passed to the Opera, with productions signed by maestri such as Aldo Rossi and Gae Aulenti. Finally, on July 1st, 1990, Riccardo Muti raised his conductor’s baton on the podium of La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra and of the Swedish Radio Choir. Within the ancient Venetian walls the first movement echoed: Adagio – Allegro spiritoso of the Symphony No. 36 in C major, K. 425 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, better known as Linzer Symphony. It was the baptism of Ravenna Festival.