Dating back to the 6th century, the construction of the small basilica of San Michele in Africisco was financed by banker Julius Argentarius (who had also contributed to the erection of San Vitale and Sant'Apollinare in Classe) and his relative Bacauda, as a votive offering to Archangel Michael. The church was dedicated by bishop Vittore on 7 May 545 AD and consecrated by archbishop Maximianus in 547. The term “Africisco” is probably connected to the antique region of Phrygia, in Asia Minor. At a local level, instead, the name identified the block where the church rose.
The building underwent a long series of restorations over time; for instance, the façade and the square bell tower were added at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries.
The church, already in poor condition, was deconsecrated in 1805 after Napoleon’s requisitions and it was sold in 1812 for 80 scudi to Andrea Cicognani, who turned the left aisle into fish shops for the opposite market.
The building, consisting of a nave and two side aisles, was originally decorated with wall and floor mosaics. The outstanding mosaics of the apse - that show a beardless Christ holding a long cross and an open codex, and archangels Michael and Gabriel standing next to him - were purchased in 1843 by the king of Prussia and are now preserved at the Bode Museum in Berlin. The iconographical scheme of the apse mirrors in the decoration of the triumphal arch, where Christ is sitting on a throne surrounded by archangels Michael and Gabriel and by the seven Apocalypse angels. Saints Cosmas and Damian stand at the sides of the apse, while the arch intrados is adorned with plants and doves and has a lamb at its centre.
The remains of the basilica are now part of an elegant fashion store.
How to get there
The church is situated in the city centre, inside the controlled traffic zone. Nearest bus stop: Piazza Baracca, route 1. Pay and display car park in Piazza Baracca (200m away) and in Largo Giustiniano.
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Last modified date: 28/05/2014