Sidebar Menu

Photo of Basilica of San Francesco in Ravenna

Visit Basilica of San Francesco in Ravenna

The Basilica of San Francesco is an important church in the city of Ravenna in north-east Italy, best known as the church where the funeral of Dante Alighieri took place.

Discover the Basilica of San Francesco in Ravenna

Italy This Way review: although the basilica of San Francesco does not contain the byzantine mosaics that you will see in many churches in Ravenna, it has a history connected with Dante and an impressive crypt so you should visit while you are here - a tour of the basilica only takes a few minutes

The Ravenna Tourist Office is on the same square as the basilica so it is a good place to begin your visit - even if you are impatient to see the famous byzantine mosaics elsewhere in the city!

Baroque paintings in the apse of the basilica San Francesco in Ravenna

There has been a church in this location since the middle of the 5th century, when the Bishop Neone built a church dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul. This church lasted until the 9th century, when it was demolished so that a larger church and tower could be built: this is the church we see today.

When it was first built the church was dedicated to Saint Peter, and only became the church of San Francesco in the second half of the 13th century when the Franciscan order of monks took control of the church and it became dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi.

The connection with Dante is from 1321, when the funeral of the poet took place in the church. You can visit the small chapel containng the tomb of Dante next to the church.

Like many of the churches in the city, the basilica of San Francesco has a simple facade in red brick with only a doorway and a small mullion window as features. To the right of the facade there is a tall tower, with rows of arched windows at the upper levels.

 
Advertisement
 

Between the 16th and 18th century the basilica of San Francesco underwent various programs of renovation, in the baroque style that was popular at this time. This is why the paintings in the apse and the dome are in the baroque style.

The rest of the church was also decorated in the baroque style, but these decorations were removed in the first half of the 20th century as part of a program to restore the building to its condition a the time of Dante. There was a plan to repaint the inside with paintings based on images from the Divine Comedy by Dante, but unfortunately the artist died before the plan could be carried out.

The baroque paintings and statues that remain are perfectly acceptable if you like this style, but seem very ordinary after seeing the mosaics elsewhere in Ravenna. Also in the basilica of San Francesco you can see ancient sarcophagi and a sculpture of Dante.

Below the apse you can see the crypt of the basilica, the only part that remains of the earlier church on the same site and the most interesting part of your visit. The crypt is now flooded so you can only see it from the edge, but that is enough to admire the impressive floor mosaics that can still be seen below the water. The goldfish swimming in the water are a more recent addition!

I understand that the level of water in the crypt changes with the seasons, so in winter it can be more than one metre deep, and in summer can dry out completely. When we visited it was about 50 centimetres deep.

Entrance to the basilica of San Francesco is free, and you can pay one euro to illuminate the crypt.

Crypt of the original basilica of San Francesco

Attractions nearby

Visitors to Ravena will find many monuments of great historic interest to visit, in particular the monuments from the 5th and 6th centuries that contain remarkable byzantine mosaics: see the Ravenna guide.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Emilia-Romagna guide.

See also: 

Photos of Basilica of San Francesco in Ravenna

Click any picture to start the gallery

  • apse
  • crypt
  • dante-mask
  • nave (1)
  • nave (2)
  • sarcophagus (1)
  • sarcophagus (2)

Map of Basilica of San Francesco in Ravenna and places to visit

 
Advertisement
 

Basilica of San Francesco in Ravenna places to visit

Rasponi Crypt and gardens in Ravenna

Rasponi Crypt and gardens in Ravenna

The Rasponi crypt is the underground chapel of an 18th century palace, next to a large courtyard garden

Rasponi Crypt and gardens in Ravenna guide
Dante's Tomb in Ravenna

Dante's Tomb in Ravenna

The Tomb of Dznte is the final resting place of the great 13th century poet, Dante Alighieri

Dante's Tomb in Ravenna guide
Ravenna

Ravenna

Ravenna is world famous because of the exceptional mosaics and several 6th century churches in the city

Ravenna guide
Archbishop's Chapel in Ravenna

Archbishop's Chapel in Ravenna

The Archbishop's Chapel in Ravenna is a tiny 6th century chapel decorated with byzantine mosaics

Archbishop's Chapel in Ravenna guide
Ravenna Baptistery of Neon

Ravenna Baptistery of Neon

Ravenna Baptistery of Neon is one of the most ancient Christian baptisteries, built in the 5th century and decorated with mosaics

Ravenna Baptistery of Neon guide
Ravenna Arian Baptistery

Ravenna Arian Baptistery

The Arian baptistery in Ravenna was built in the 5th century and retains its original mosaic ceiling in the dome

Ravenna Arian Baptistery guide

...or see all our recommended places to visit in Emilia-Romagna

Back To Top