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Municipality of Ravenna

Old Franciscan Cloisters

Via Dante Alighieri, 4 - Ravenna
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Next to Dante’s tomb, the monumental complex of the OLD FRANCISCAN CLOISTERS is a corner of paradise and refined beauty in the heart of the city centre of Ravenna.

The building, even though it has undergone changes more than once over the centuries, has a high symbolic and moral value. As a matter of fact, it is a reminder of Dante Alighieri‘s presence in the city.

Even the newly reopened Dante Museum proves it: on the first floor of the museum is a journey through the works, life and memory of Dante Alighieri.

Today, the Old Cloisters are owned by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Ravenna. Beyond the Dante Museum, the cloisters have also a fascinating venue for exhibitions and artistic and cultural events.

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The history

Built in the Middle Ages (1261), the building was a cloister of the Minor Franciscan Friars, set just behind the Basilica of San Francesco, which in 1321 hosted the solemn funerals of the Supreme Poet.

Between the 15th and 17th century, a series of works went to overlap the original structure. The current aspect of the Old Franciscan Cloisters dates back to the Twenties, when the entire area dedicated to Dante took on the Romantic design you still see today.

On the occasion of the sixth death centenary of the Supreme Poet, other religious buildings connected with Dante’s memory have undergone several restoration works. Among them were the Basilica of San Francesco, the Quadrarco di Braccioforte, Dante’s Tomb itself, on a project by architect Giulio Ulisse Arata (he also signed on the restoration projects of the Provincia Palace, just a few steps from the area).

Two cloisters in one soul

The complex counts two cloisters, one next to the other, with a space between the two that is used for exhibitions and conferences.

The first cloister is called “Dante” because of its vicinity with his tomb. It features a refined portico, embraced by Doric columns. At the centre, a well is framed by two columns with Byzantine capitals of the 6th century aD, maybe coming from the Basilica of San Vitale.

The second cloister is called “della Cassa”. It is rectangular shaped and has a portico of columns made of Istrian stone, red Verona marble and Greek marble. The puteal standing at the centre is of Istrian stone as well. It is decorated with two urns and two crests engraved on it, on which stands out an eagle and the motto “In Pietra Exaltavit Me”.

On the western side is a slab stone that reminds of the extraordinary event of the Dante’s spoils snatching, which were hidden in 1519 by the Franciscan friars in order to avoid them to be brought back to Florence – Dante’s birth city.

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Chiara and Francesco di Augusto Bartolotti

The wrought iron statue of St. Francis of d’Assisi is today in the old Franciscan Cloisters. With this statue, Augusto Bartolotti earned the prize at the 1960 Biennial of Sacred Arts in Bologna.

This is how Gian Roberto Cavalli described it:

On the stone, with the iron, the spirit of its maker designed your face, and you search across space, looking for the divine love. The strong iron molded under the earthly fragility, and the body is devastated. The hands, though, splendid and tragic, preserve, untouched, the kind wealth of will and passion.

Not far from there is the Statue of St. Chiara, created in the same year, and  Cavalli has said: «Spirituality is combined with a delicate iconography, which recalls a poetic thirteenth-century femininity or, in a manner of speaking, ‘Stilnovismo’».

Felice Nittolo reminds of how Augusto Bartolotti «is, and remains, a supreme poet of iron, among the few artists that were able to celebrate man’s dignity and the universal truth that distinguishes and dignifies human experience».

Further information

Opening times

From November to March: 10am – 6pm
From April to October: 10am – 7pm

1 January 2022: 1pm – 6pm

Closing time

Closed on Monday and 25 December

Free of charge

The admission is free

How to get there

The Old Franciscan Cloisters are in the very heart of Ravenna, in a pedestrian area closed to the traffic, in the so-called Zone of Silence (Basilica of San Francesco, Dante’s Tomb, Dante Museum, Quadrarco di Braccioforte).

On foot: the area can be easily reached on foot from the near railway station

By bus: the area is just 20 m. from the bus station Piazza Caduti della Libertà, connected with all the urban bus routes.

By car: the area is mainly closed to the traffic and with restricted access. If you want to find a suitable parking lot, look HERE.

Accessibility

The Cloisters are accessible for people with disabilities

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

Last edit:1 October 2021

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