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Municipality of Ravenna

Classense Library

Via Baccarini, 3 - Ravenna
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In the heart of Ravenna city centre, in all its beauty, stands out 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, works of art by artists dating back between the 16th and the 18th century can still be admired.

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, since 1921 known as “Sala Dantesca” (Dantescan Room).

A wooden structure supported on both sides by a statue and a vestibule lead to the Dantean Room, designed by artist Peruzzi. In 1581, the artist also created the wooden backbenches that are still preserved there.

The painting “Le Nozze di 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 recall San Romualdo, the forefather of the Camaldolese Order.

In this room, every year, the most important conferences dedicated to the Supreme Poet take place. Also, the so-called Dantean readings (Letture Dantesche) 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 media material.

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, taking also all the treasures with them.

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

The 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 has to go to the Dantean Collection, the completest collection of first and rare editions dedicated to the works of Dante Alighieri, bought by the great Florentine bibliophile and editor Leo S. Olschki.

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The 1921 celebrations

On 14 September 1920, in the spaces of the Classense Library, the then Minister of Public Education Benedetto Croce officially inaugurated the rich schedule of celebrations of the following year, on the occasion of Dante’s sixth death centenary.

With the so-called “Croce law” of 1921, the philosopher allocated one million two hundred fifty thousands Lira, equivalent to about one million one hundred Euros today. The money were used for important works and initiatives.

Ravenna had already carried out restoration works on the library’s spaces and monuments. Moreover, some historiographic studies were carried out, such as the book L’ultimo rifugio di Dante Alighieri (The last refuge of Dante Aligheiri), written by Corrado Ricci.

Minister Croce wanted to do something more, though. He thought of specific contributions to improve the decorations of Dante’s Tomb and the surrounding area. He also supported the city Catholic Committee, which had started the works on the Basilica of San Francesco and restored some inner spaces of the Classense Library.

The collections Ricci, Ulderico David and Mazzotti preserve some photos depicting Croce’s arrival and some glorious moments of his visit, including his stop at the Old Franciscan Cloisters, at the fenced area of San Vitale and at the Da Polenta chapel inside the Basilica of San Francesco.

The philosopher stopped also by Dante’s Tomb, leaving in the visiting book his signature, and, most of all, he appointed the former Refectory of the Camaldolese monks, inside the Classense library, in the name of Dante.

On that occasion, the Italian State proclaimed the sixth Dante Centenary, occurred on 14 September 1921, National Feast. The event in honour of the Supreme Poet was solemnly celebrated even in Geneva, at the League of Nations (the UNO’s progenitor).

Many other celebrating events had been taking place all over Italy. One, for instance, was the “the Dantesque Feasts” in September 1908, organized by the Italian Dante Society, which had invited the representatives of Florence, Trieste, Trent, along with the cities of Julian March, Istria, Dalmatia, which were under the rule of the Augsburg Empire then.

On that occasion, the Oil Ceremony took place for the first time. Since then, Florence offers every year the oil burning the votive lamp inside Dante’s Tomb. This is an important and solemn symbolic act of atonement for having sentenced the poet’s exile.

Further information

Opening times

General schedule
From Tuesday to Saturday: 9am – 7pm

Visit to the monumental spaces (only on request)
From Tuesday to Saturday: 10am – 12pm and 3pm – 6pm

N.B. The visit to the upper rooms is temporarily  closed for repairs 

Due to the health emergency, the access to library’s rooms and services is limited. We recommend you check the library’s official website: www.classense.ra.it

Closing time

The library is closed on Sundays, Mondays and holidays.

Entrance fee

Free admission

How to get there

The library is in the heart of the city centre and within a Limited Traffic Zone.

By car: near the library are several parking areas. See the map.

On foot and by bicycle: the library is not far from the railway station (about 15 min)

By bus: bus stop is 50 m. from the library, in Piazza Caduti della Libertà.

Accessibility

The library’s consultation rooms are all accessible in complete autonomy.

A cura della Redazione Locale
E-mail: turismo@comune.ravenna.it

Last edit:22 September 2021

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