Official Tourist Information Site
of Ravenna

Church of San Giovanni Battista

Via Girolamo Rossi , 45 - Ravenna

Among the many religious buildings located in the historical centre of Ravenna, the CHURCH OF SAN GIOVANNI BATTISTA, with its peculiar brick-built circular bell tower is undoubtedly worth a visit.

To distinguish it from the Basilica of San Giovanni Evangelista, located near the railway station, the locals call it “San Giovanni della Cipolla” (lit. Saint John of the Onion) with regard to the ancient vegetables market hosted in the four-sided portico that no longer exists.

This tradition takes place still today: every June, on the occasion of the day of Saint John, the churchyard of the church hosts a unique fair dedicated to onions.

History of the church

Founded during the 6th century AD by Baduario (at least according to historian Andrea Agnello), the church of San Giovanni Battista seems to correspond with the old San Giovanni ad Naviculam, whose name recalls the presence of a small boat used to cross the Padenna river, which flew in this very part of the city.

The original structure of the church was divided into three naves divided by twenty columns and preceded by a four-sided portico, demolished in 1634. In the 13th century, a monastery was built right next to the church. In the 15th century, it received huge donations for the construction of a large hospital destined to needy people.

In 1688, the building was severely damaged by an earthquake. One year later, it was rebuilt by architect Pietro Grossi according to the aesthetic standards of the time. Many of the current walls were almost completely reconstructed around 1694.

This general intervention did not affect the circular bell tower dating back to the 9th century. It is 42-metres-high and has two orders of large single-lancet windows surmounted by mullioned and three-light windows.

The interior of the church

In addition to the striking contrast between the Baroque façade and the medieval bell tower, the inside of the church is very evocative.

Inside the church, art reigns supreme in every corner: the dome is decorated with frescoes by Francesco Ferrari, while the Spreti chapel features frescoes dating back to the second half of the 14thcentury. In addition to the wall paintings, there are also precious masterpieces by the most important artists from Ravenna active between the 15th and 18th century: Giovanni Battista and Andrea Barbiani, Domenico Cignani and Francesco Longhi.

From this church come the relics of Saints Quirico and Giulitta, now kept in the Archiepiscopal Museum, and several sarcophagi, including the ark of Pier Traversari, now in the Quadrarco of Braccioforte.

Lastly, this church also housed the triptych by Niccolò Rondinelli, now visible in the MAR – Ravenna Art Museum, depicting the Virgin with the Child, Saint Sebastian and Saint Albert, praised by Vasari as the work that “surpassed all his other works”.

The Neapolitan nativity scene displayed inside the basilica is also worthy of a note.



A charming Neapolitan nativity scene

The church of San Giovanni Battista permanently hosts a charming Neapolitan* nativity scene visible all year round.

The statues and the single elements that make it up are of excellent workmanship and are continuously renewed by artist Francesco Di Francesco, who also realised the work.

*The Neapolitan nativity scene is a representation of the birth of Jesus set in Naples in the 18th century.

Further information

Opening times

The church is temporarily closed to the public.

Entrance fee

Free entry.


The church is accessible to people with physical disabilities.

How to get there

The church is located right in the centre of the city, about 700 metres away from the railway station.

On foot / by bike: the church is easily reachable on foot or by bike from the railway station.

By bus: the closest bus stop is located in via di Roma (bus no. 3, 5, 70). For more information about bus routes:

By car: many parking lots in the area and along the street. For more information click HERE.

A cura della Redazione Locale

Last edit:21 March 2022

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