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Official Tourist Information Site
Municipality of Ravenna

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

Via Galla Placidia, 10 - Ravenna
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Located next to the Basilica of San Vitale and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the BASILICA OF SANTA MARIA MAGGIORE is a small religious building commissioned by Bishop Ecclesius (525 – 532 AD).

According to the historian Girolamo Rossi (16th century), Ecclesius converted his father’s house into a church, as it already happened in the case of many other early Christian churches in the area.

In the 13th century the church was entrusted to the Sassi family, then to the Polentanis, to the Morigias (17th century) and finally to the Rasponi del Sale family and other ones, up to the present day.

After being renovated at the beginning of the 20th century, the church is now a religious building and is used as a parish seat.

The interior of the basilica

Just like many other churches in Ravenna, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore – which probably had a Latin cross plant at the beginning – was richly decorated with mosaics, that were progressively destroyed around the mid-16th century and then thoroughly renovated.

By entering the church today, it is possible to admire the Baroque-style renovation realised by architect Pietro Grossi in 1671.

He transformed the basilica plan into a nave and two aisles with two rows of round arches and re-used various original columns and capitals.

The cylindrical bell tower, with three orders of windows, was added between the 9th and 10th century. The apse, on the other hand, is still the original one, although stripped of its features.

Below the apse arch is the main altar, made of polychrome marbles and surmounted by the statue of the Virgin and the child dating back to the 17th century.

At the end of the left aisle there is a painting by Luca Longhi depicting Saint Paul visiting Saint Agnes in prison.

At the end of the right aisle, by contrast, is a Roman sarcophagus, later used as a sepulchre by the Rasponi family, and other prestigious paintings.

The fine tombstones inside the church indicate the burial place of some important people from Ravenna: architect Camillo Morigia (1743-95), designer of Dante’s tomb and other buildings in the city; historian Ippolito Gamba Ghiselli (1724-88); various members of the Rasponi and Monaldini families and many others.

What makes this basilica particularly popular, and dear to the people of Ravenna, is the small altar at the far right dedicated to Sancta Maria a tumoribus, represented in an image of the Virgin to whom the believers who care about the health of their loved ones speak to ask for recovery from cancer.

Next to the small fresco of Saint Mary of tumours, it is possible to notice a number of votive offerings decorating the wall as a sign of thanksgiving for the grace received.

CONTACTS

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Ecclesius, the “builder” bishop

According to the Liber Pontificalis by Andrea Agnello, Ecclesius was the 24th bishop of Ravenna. Even though there is not much information about him, we know that he had a central role during the end of the Goth domination and the beginning of the Byzantine one.

Thanks to the financial support of Giuliano l’Argentario, he started the construction of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and the Basilica of San Vitale.

Today, it is possible to admire his figure on the apre of the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, where he is depicted with a book of the gospel and  dressed with the archiepiscopal pallium.

He is depicted in the same way also in the apse of the Basilica of San Vitale, where he is offering the Lord the model of the religious building.

These two depictions – both realised after the death of the bishop –  are similar to each other.

Further information

Opening times

Every day: 9 am – 7 pm

Entrance fee

Free admission

Free of charge

Free admission

Accessibility

The building is accessible to people with disabilities.

How to get there

The basilica is located in the historical centre of the city, in a Limited Traffic Zone, right behind the Basilica of San Vitale.

By bus: bus n. 70, bus stop in Piazza Baracca.

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

By car: paid parking areas in Piazza Baracca and Largo Giustiniano. Click HERE for more information on parking areas in the city.

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

Last edit:19 October 2022

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