For the harmony and elegance of the surrounding buildings, its tidiness and tranquility, and its close relationship with Dante Alighieri, PIAZZA SAN FRANCESCO is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and charming urban spaces of Ravenna.
Built in 1679, enlarged towards the end of the 19th century and then rebuilt to its present look in the 1930s, this charming urban lounge has undergone various changes over the centuries.
With the creation of the “Zona Dantesca” (lit. Dante’s zone) in 1935, following a design by Corrado Ricci the square was lowered by about 60 cm from street level.
The beautiful Palladiana flooring is in Luserna stone, while the parvis dating back to 2011 is made of white limestone slabs.
It features engraved quotes from Dante’s Purgatory, suggesting the poet’s invitation to cross the threshold of humanness: “The passer-by is invited to become faithful. From the physical movement of entering the church and crossing the threshold, the passer-by who has become faithful is encouraged to go beyond space and time, learning to be silent in order to listen to a deep inner voice coming from above”.
Those entering the square from Via Corrado Ricci are immediately struck by the medieval facade of the Basilica of San Francesco. With its simple and linear shapes, this monument stands out from the background in all its magnificence. The square bell tower nex to it, 32.90 metres high, dates back to the 10th century AD.
Known as The church of Dante, it seems that this place was frequented by the Supreme Poet during his stay in Ravenna, as he was hosted by the Da Polenta family. It also hosted his funerals in September 1321.
As briefly mentioned, the square is an integral part of Dante’s zone, better known as Zone of Silence, which is full of elements and monuments related to the memory of Dante, among which his Tomb and the Quadrarco of Braccioforte.
The church is bordered by two central pilasters containing an elegant double lancet window and the majestic entrance door, over which rests a round arch, and by two other external pilasters delimiting the side naves.
During the 1921 intervention, the three orders of windows on each side were rearranged: a mullioned window in the lower order, a three-light window in the middle one and a four-light window in the upper one.
It is also possible to admire various ancient sarcophagi, cypress trees and other evergreen plants. Furthermore, the square is delimited by the garden-porch behind Casa Oriani dedicated to Rinaldo da Concorrezzo.
The monuments of the square
All around the square are other monuments worth mentioning.
Besides the already mentioned porch of Casa Oriani and the back of the Quadrarco of Braccioforte, the spectacular brick porch with round arches of Palazzo della Procincia is very interesting. From here, you can access the Tourist Information Office of the city, as well as the area of the Raspony Crypt and the Roof Gardens.
Thanks to these ones, it is possible to admire the square from above and get very close to the bell tower of the Basilica of San Francesco to appreciate all its beauty.