Parish churches in Ravenna

An itinerary to discover the ancient religious buildings around Ravenna

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Legend has it that the famous Roman empress Galla Placidia, fervent devotee, promoted the realisation of a hundred parish churches in the territory of Ravenna to spread Christianity. 

Other than her tireless work to build important sanctuaries in the city, she apparently began also the transformation of ancient rural pagan buildings into parish churches, to bring the presence of Christ also to the small countryside villages. 

What is left of this legend today? Let’s find out with a bucolic day dedicated to the discovery of the parish churches around Ravenna.

  • Length
    24 hours
  • Interests
    Art & Culture
  • Target
  • First stop - Parish church of Sant'Apollinare in Longana Ravenna

    Just 5 km away from Ravenna, along the road that leads to Forlì, is the small hamlet of Longana. A few metres from the bank of the Ronco river stands the Parish church of Sant’Apollinare in Longana – dating back to the first years of the 11th century – that immediately surprises us with a peculiarity.

    This parish church is not oriented with the apse facing east – towards the rising of the sun, as is usual for Christian buildings – but its axis is rotated by half a turn. To the east is the entrance, providing access to the single-nave structure, at the end of which is an interesting altarpiece.

    Some excavations led to the conclusion that this unusual orientation may be due to changes subsequent to the foundation of the church. These became necessary after some transformations of watercourses, which often occur in the Romagna plain.

    Various sources have led to the belief that this parish church is located on the place of an ancient chapel, where Saint Apollinaris – martyr and first bishop of Ravenna – was initially buried.

  • Second stop - Parish church of Santi Pietro e Paolo in San Pietro in Trento Ravenna

    Part of the diocese of Forlì but located in the territory of Ravenna, the Parish church of San Pietro in Trento, dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, stands where once was the 30th mile of the decumanus that ran through the countryside in the northern part of the territory of Forlì.

    Mentioned in a parchment as early as the end of the 10th century, but most probably already present from the 5th – thus from the time of Galla Placidia – this imposing church features a series of elements that are typical of many parish churches in the surrounding area. 

    It has a three-nave plan, a simple interior, a brickwork façade marked by pilaster strips, a mullioned window making the entrance lighter and is oriented to the east.

    Some characteristic elements are instead the shape of the floor plan – a scalene triangle – and mainly the splendid and fascinating crypt with cross vaults below the raised apse, recalling the one of the Basilica of San Francesco in Ravenna. Inside it, for example in the inner part of the façade, are fragments of frescos dating back to the 15th century.

    The current bell tower was completely re-built after the German bombings in World War II.

  • Third stop - Parish church of San Cassiano in Decimo in Campiano Ravenna

    The town of Campiano, just outside the road leading to Cesena, houses the beautiful Parish church of San Cassiano in Decimo. It owes its name to its non-accidental location right at the 10th (decimo) mile of the Roman centuriation based on the current town of Forlimpopoli.

    Dedicated to the bishop of Imola, it has been mentioned since 896 and features a very interesting Romanesque bell tower, embellished with Byzantine polychrome ceramics and by a fragment of the statue called “Bartolla”, a partial pagan representation of the god Apollo. Inside, the only nave and the semi-circular apse host marble elements dating back to various ages. 

    The cult of Cassian in this area – even if far from his birthplace – is no surprise. It is possible to find representations of this 4th-century martyr also in the mosaics of the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna.

  • Fourth stop - Parish church of San Bartolomeo in San Zaccaria Ravenna

    The last stop of this itinerary leads us to the parish church that is the furthest away from Ravenna, about 18 km away from the city, along via Dismano leading to Cesena. 

    Although today’s building was to a large extent built at the end of the 18th century, the parish church features a Romanesque bell tower of the 11th century and was mentioned for certain in documents dating back to before the year one thousand. Various excavations have confirmed the ancient origin of this church, which was most probably built around the 5th-6th century on the remains of a late-Roman villa. Archaeologists also found some medieval constructions around it, such as a furnace for metal casting and a small cemetery connected to the main building. 

    With the classic structure of the parish churches in the area of “Decimano”, between the Ronco and the Savio river, this one features three naves, internally supported by brick columns, an apse that is semi-circular on the inside and pentagonal on the outside, and a simple aspect both on the inside and on the outside. A series of works, now gone but present until the 17th century, witnessed the richness and importance of this church for the area.

Last update 03/04/2024

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