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Home The Via dei Romei The Cesarea and Classe suburbs

The Cesarea and Classe suburbs

Just south of Ravenna (5km) the little town of Classe popped up, and was joined by a suburb called Cesarea. Today they both have a very low population, but between the 2nd and 6th century, the town of Classe was a pulsing center of economic activity in this area near Ravenna, thanks to its port, the remains of which have been brought to light in an archeological dig.


S. ApollinareOf the numerous chapels and churches built in these suburbs, today there is only the basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, built where Apollinare, the first bishop of Ravenna, was buried, and consecrated by the archbishop Maximian on May 9, 549.


The building, with a longitudinal plan, is not so different now from when it was originally built, but it had to wait 4 centuries before being completed with its beautiful cylindrical bell tower.


The inside is divided into three naves with two rows of proconnesian marble columns, topped with noteworthy capitals. As with the buildings in Ravenna of the same period, a big part of this building’s importance is due to its decorative mosaics that, even if they are from different time periods, are all true to the eastern Byzantine style.

In the concave apse there is a symbolic form of the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor, with an enormous cross positioned in front of a blue sphere covered in stars, and farther down the image of the bishop Apollinare praying, in the middle of a procession of lambs representing the faithful flocks.


In the walls of the apse, there are two remarkable panels created in verisimilar in the 9th century, of which the one on the left depicts the “historic” image of the moment of the handing over, on the part of the emissaries of Emperor Constantine II, of the document that made the church of Ravenna independent from that of Rome (in 666).


Always in the two suburbs, documents attest to the existence of numerous religious buildings, some of which were abandoned in the late middle ages. Those that housed relics enjoyed more notoriety and were sanctuaries of interest for the faithful and pilgrims.


Of these, the church of San Lorenzo in Cesarea, found along the actual via Cesarea and built in the early years of the 5th century, is famous because it is the place where the pilgrim Paolo supposedly experienced a miraculous healing; there is also the basilica of San Severo in Classe, the remains of which were brought to light not far from Sant’Apollinare, which was probably very famous for the presence of the relics of Severo, an important local bishop.


Of no less importance is the church of Santa Maria in “Porto Fuori” or outside the city gates; today it is at the center of a recent residential area, but in the past it was isolated in the pinewoods. Rebuilt after its destruction during the Second World War, the original building was an imposing structure, flanked by a cloister. In the church, there were still two priceless marble medieval objects that made it a true sanctuary of devotion, and a probable pilgrim destination.


One was a porphyry red vase, which according to legend, should have been recognized, together with those of Bobbio, Caorle, Torcello and Pisa, as one of the five “hydria” used by Christ to transform water into wine at the wedding in Cana and then brought, according to legend, as a relic from the Holy Land; the other was a panel with the “Greek Madonna”, a priceless marble bas-relief, created in the Byzantine east, and which local tradition says was brought here by sea by two angels on the morning of April 8, 1100.


Both of these precious relics can be found today in the church of Santa Maria in Porto in Ravenna.


For tourist information:
Local site: Ravenna

Last modified Feb 02, 2017

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