It is situated next to the Basilica of San Vitale and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. It is a sixth century building, commissioned by Bishop Ecclesius and built on a previous early Christian building. The cylindrical bell tower, with three orders of windows (single lancet windows in the two lower orders, double lancet windows supported by marble columns in the upper one), was added between the ninth and tenth centuries.
The early Christian style building, with its characteristic and central plan, was profoundly modified by the architect Pietro Grossi in 1671, who transformed the basilica plan into a nave and two aisles with two rows of rounded arches.
The apse, on the other hand, is still the original one, although stripped of its features. Below the apse arch is the high altar made of polychrome marble and surmounted by the seventeenth century white marble statue of the Madonna and Child.
At the end of the left aisle there is a painting by Luca Longhi with St Paul visiting St 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, “especially famous in their own country’s history for their imprints”.
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 Madonna to whom the faithful who care about the health of their loved ones turn to implore her to cure them of a tumour. Next to the small fresco of St Mary of tumours, one notices a number of votive offerings decorating the wall as a sign of thanksgiving for the grace received.
Here is the prayer to St Mary of Tumours:
Most holy Mother, healer of the sick,
You gave birth to the One who cured us of sin:
Without him that evil, incurable for us, would have ravaged us!
You are the Mother of the One who heals the wounds of evil
And who by his death and resurrection opens for us the doors of grace,
Source of health for body and soul.
You are our Mother: to you we confidently turn.
Remember us who are in the midst of trial.
Let us, O most tender Mother, pray with you to your Son,
And by the common invocation of his name,
Let him deliver us from the evil that consumes us and grant us life and health.
You who, with forbearance under the cross, offered up your own suffering,
Teach us to unite our pain
With you and like you
To that of your Son Jesus, our only Saviour.