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Official Tourist Information Site
Municipality of Ravenna

Basilica of Sant’Agata Maggiore

Via Mazzini, 46 - Ravenna
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Located in the historical centre of Ravenna, just a few steps away from the Basilica of San Francesco and Dante’s Tomb is the BASILICA OF SANT’AGATA MAGGIORE, one of the oldest ones in the city.

A journey through history

The church was erected in the 5th century AD along the Padenna river, an ancient and no-longer-existent branch of the Po river that once flowed on the line of today’s Via Mazzini.

Just like the most famous Basilica of San Vitale, this one was built under Bishop Peter II (494-519), whose monogram can still be seen in the central nave. The real founder of the basilica seems to be Bishop John I (477-494), though.

The apse was probably built in the following century, under Bishop Agnello (556-569), thanks to the contribution of Giuliano l’Argentario, banker and patron who financially participated in the construction of other important buildings, as Basilica of San Vitale, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe and Church of San Michele in Africisco.

The church underwent several restoration works over time. The green area surrounding it (and that once served as cemetery) once hosted a four-sided portico, that was then replaced with a circular bell tower during the 16th century (1560). An earthquake in 1688 destroyed the mosaic decoration of the apse, and the floor was then raised by 2,5 metres.

During the renovation works carried out by Giuseppe Gerola between 1913 and 1918, the facade was enriched by a remarkable portico made of white stone coming from the former Church of San Niccolò and coeval with the bell tower; and the overlaying mullioned window, giving back to the building the original early-Christian atmosphere.

Today, between Via Mazzini and the facade of the church, it is possible to admire a small four-sided garden located in the place of the ancient four-sided portico. It is still possible to admire the remains of some columns and more than fourteen ancient sarcophagi, originally housed inside the church.

The inside of the basilica

The basilica has three naves separated by two rows of ten columns surmounted by pulvinos and Corinthian capitals dating back to the 6th century. Among them, an ambon made of gray/green Greek marble stands out.

At the end of the central nave, the apse is polygonal on the outside and semi-circular on the inside. In the middle, it is possible to admire the painting of the artist from Ravenna Luca Longhi (1546) depicting Saint Agatha between Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Saint Cecilia. Nearby, an ancient urn preserves the ashes of Saint Sergius and Bishop Agnello.

This church was once decorated with mosaics (see focus) that were destroyed over time and replaced with frescoes that were then destroyed in their turn.

CONTACTS

  • +39 0544 31327

FOCUS

The ancient mosaics of the basilica

Just like the coeval 5th-century buildings, the interior of the Basilica of Sant’Agata Maggiore was originally decorated with mosaics. Some traces of them are still visible today in the intrados of the large apse windows, but for the most part they were destroyed during an earthquake in 1688.

A drawing by Padre Pronti come down to us shows that the mosaic of the apse was originally divided in three horizontal sections.

The lower one featured the representation of some ministers of religion on either side of Bishop John celebrating the mass on a square altar, similar to a pagan one. On the side, there was an angel holding a chalice and surrounded by clouds, ready to take the people’s offer to God. The windows were decorated with columns similar to the ones separating the windows in the apse of the Basilica of San Vitale.

The central part was dedicated to the figure of a blessing Christ enthroned, shrouded in a large scarlet mantle between two angels in white robes.

Further information

Opening times

The church is open during liturgical ceremonies.
Contact +39 0544 31327 for more information on opening hours.

Entrance fee

Free entry.

Accessibility

The building is not accessible to people with physical disabilities.

How to get there

The church is located in the historical centre of the city, in a Limited Traffic Zone.

On foot / by bike: the church is easily reachable on foot or by bike from the railway station (about 20 min.)

By car: near the basilica are many parking areas. More information HERE.

By bus: bus stop only just 50 metres away in Piazza Caduti della Libertà.

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

Last edit:21 March 2022

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