Official Tourist Information Site
of Ravenna

Classense Library

Via Baccarini, 3 - Ravenna

In the heart of Ravenna, lies in all its beauty the CLASSENSE LIBRARY, one of the twenty greatest librarian institutions in Italy.

Housed inside a Camaldolese monastery built from 1512 onwards, it is a real architectural and artistic jewel. Every year it attracts hundreds of visitors, who come here to admire its rooms and the treasures it preserves.

The original complex had made the abbey one of the greatest and most imposing buildings of the Camaldolese Order. Besides that, the library — as it appears today — is the result of continuous changes and improvements.

Among the many happenings, the Napoleonic suppression of the monastic goods in 1803 seriously marked the building’s history, since it was elected Ravenna City Library, receiving in this way all the book holdings from the most important religious complexes of the city.

Today, the library is a dynamic place open to the public, a reference point for students and scholars, connoisseurs of art and culture in general.

Its vast heritage of ancient, modern and contemporary books is one of the most important in Italy.

Over the years the library has been organizing many meetings, conferences as well as art and book exhibitions with in-depth didactic and research meetings. It is a space the people of Ravenna cannot do without.

The rooms of the Classense Library

Inside the rooms and along the hallways of the library, it is possible to admire works of art by artists dating back between the 16th and the 18th century.

Among the most fascinating rooms is the Aula Magna, built between the 17th and the 18th century by abbot Pietro Canneti. It is embellished with statues, stuccoes and wooden shelves finely engraved and decorated with frescoes by Francesco Mancini.

Not to be missed are also the monumental cloisters, the old sacristy of the Church of San Romualdo (today Sala Muratori) and the great 16th-century refectory, created by abbot Pietro Bagnoli, known since 1921 as “Sala Dantesca” (Dantesque Room).

You can access this room through a vestibule, by crossing a wooden structure supported on both sides by a statue. It was realised by Peruzzi, who also created the wooden choir stalls of the large refectory in 1581.

The painting “Le nozze di Cana” (Marriage at Cana) by Luca Longhi decorating the front wall is of outstanding beauty. The room also features a fine ceiling, painted by Longhi’s pupils, which recalls San Romualdo, the forefather of the Camaldolese Order.

In this room, the most important conferences dedicated to the Supreme Poet take place every year. Also, the so-called Letture dantesche (Dantesque readings) take place in this splendid venue, welcoming the most illustrious lecturers at international level.

The book treasures of the library

A vast collection of volumes of various documentary categories are preserved inside the library. The collection consists of about 800,000 printed books, ancient and modern alike, including manuscripts, engravings, maps, photographies, storage documents and multimedia materials.

The section dedicated to the Ancient Collections preserves volumes dating back from the 15th to the 18th century and about 750 manuscripts, half of which dating back between the 10th and the 16th century.

Part of the book heritage was originally preserved in the ancient Abbey of Classe, to which the Classense Library owes its name.

After the battle of Ravenna occurred in 1512, the area was deemed to be no more safe; for this reason, the Camaldolese Order decided to move within the city walls with all the treasures.

The treasures include the valuable collection of texts by Petrarca’s Canzoniere and Trionfi, an original painting by Sandro Botticelli, and the only extant manuscript with the eleven comedies by Aristophanes.

It is called Ravenna Code 429, dating back to the half of the 10th century and arrived in the West in 1423 thanks to Giovanni Aurispa, who saved this and many other manuscripts from the imminent fall of Constantinople, taking them to Florence, in the hands of Niccolò de’ Niccoli.

Lastly, a special mention goes to the Dantesque Collection, the most complete collection of first and rare editions dedicated to the works of Dante Alighieri, bought by the great Florentine bibliophile and editor Leo S. Olschki.



1921 celebrations

On September 14th 1920, the then Minister of Education, Benedetto Croce, officially launched the rich programme of celebrations to be held the following year for the 6th centenary of Dante’s death.

With the so-called “Croce law” of 1921, the philosopher allocated one million two hundred and fifty thousand lire, equivalent to about one million one hundred thousand euros today, for the commissioning of important works and initiatives.

At the time, Ravenna had already carried out restoration and renovation work on some of its monuments, or historiographic studies such as the work “L’ultimo rifugio di Dante Alighieri” (Dante Alighieri’s last refuge), written by Corrado Ricci.

The Minister had also thought of specific contributions to improve the decoration of Dante’s Tomb, to help the Catholic Committee of Ravenna which was carrying out restoration work in the Basilica of San Francesco and to renovate the Classense library.

In the Ricci, Ulderico David and Mazzotti collections there are some photos capturing Croce’s arrival and an assortment of famous moments of his visit, which also include the Franciscan cloisters, the enclosure of San Vitale and the chapel of San Francesco.

The philosopher obviously stopped before Dante’s Tomb, where he left his signature in the visitor’s log, and above all, he consecrated the room that had been the refectory of the Camaldolese monks in in the Classense library in Dante’s name.

To mark the occasion, the State decreed September 14th 1921, Dante’s 6th centenary, as a national holiday. And even in Geneva, the League of Nations (forerunner of the UN), solemnly commemorated Dante’s centenary.

But there have been many other celebrations throughout Italy, such as the “Feste dantesche” in September 1908, organised by the Società Dantesca Italiana, which brought together in Ravenna representatives from Florence, Trieste, Trento and the cities of Venezia Giulia, Istria and Dalmatia, then under the sovereignty of the Habsburg Empire.

On that occasion the Oil Ceremony was born, in which every year Florence offers the oil to burn in the lamp inside the tomb, a symbolic act of expiation for the exile inflicted on the poet.

Further information

Opening times

Monday: 2 pm – 7 pm
From Tuesday to Saturday: 9 am – 7 pm

Guided visit to monumental spaces (upon request)
From Tuesday to Friday: 10 am – 12pm / 3 pm – 6 pm
The visit to the upper rooms is temporarily suspended due to restoration works.

For further information visit

Closing time

The library is closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Entrance fee

Free admission


The library’s reading rooms are accessible to people with physical disabilities

How to get there

The library is located in the city centre, in a Limited Traffic Zone.

By car: near the library you will find several parking areas.

On foot or by bike: the library is easily reachable from the railway station (approx. 10 minutes).

By bus: nearest bus stop situated in the nearby Piazza Caduti per la Libertà (approx. 1 min.).

A cura della Redazione Locale

Last edit:26 February 2024

You may also like: