The Basilica of San Severo stood about halfway between Ponte Nuovo in Ravenna and the Basilica of San Apollinare in Classe, of which it was the twin church during Late Antiquity.
In the course of excavations carried out in the 1960s and more recent ones restarted between 2006 and 2016, it has been possible to reconstruct at least part of the history of this wonderful site named after San Severo (Saint Severus).
It is believed that originally, in this area, in the first century B.C there was a rich villa, an elegant residence of a wealthy man from Ravenna who, thanks to its strategic position, had a commanding view of the sea and the surrounding countryside. This residential complex was enriched over the years with mosaic floors, sculptures, frescoes, columns and capitals, and even domestic baths.
In the fourth century the building became the burial place of Severo, the first known bishop of Ravenna, and underwent several transformations, including the construction of an apse and it is thought, based on the excavated remains, a veritable mausoleum in addition to the original building.
From the sixth century onwards, however, the ancient villa was demolished and, in its place, a monastery and a three-nave basilica were dedicated to Saint Severus at the behest first of Archbishop Peter III (570-578) and then of his successor, Archbishop John II (578-595).
Excavations have brought to light the entire floor plan, the semicircular apse and the tenth to eleventh century pastophorium, a quadrangular structure near the apse where consecrated bread was kept.
The remains of the perimeter, which have made it possible to reconstruct the layout of the complex, also suggest the existence of a series of buildings divided into three wings overlooking the cloister, as well as the chapter house, refectory, kitchens and cellars.
On the upper floor there were presumably dormitories and scriptoria for the monks’ studies. As evidence of this, mugs, glass and ceramic vessels, writing nibs and fragments of ancient decorations of caskets considered very precious were found during the excavations.
A model of the San Severo complex, the floor fragments, together with material from the latest excavations are now on display in the Classis Ravenna museum.