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Church of Santa Maria ad Nives and Bell tower
Church of Santa Maria ad Nives and Bell tower

Of very ancient origins (VI-VII century), perhaps the first cathedral of the city outside the walls (from here the synonym of S. Maria foris portam or S.Maria Vecchia), it still maintains important historical and artistic interests.
Of very ancient origins (VI-VII centuries), this church, at the time situated outside the city walls – only the Manfredi walls, after the mid 1400’s the walls then closed it in – had the name of S.Maria foris portam; it is known as S.Maria Vecchia (old St. Maria) to distinguish it from S. Maria Nuova (the new church, also known as dell’Angelo). Originally it was orientated, in other words the apse faced east, like all early Christian churches. The hypothesis that it was the first cathedral of the city is still quite discussed. It still has the upper part of the sides remaining of the period, with dark arches around the large windows (the same model as the basilicas of Ravenna) and the two marvellous internal columns on the sides of the entrance of Africangravel with finely sculptured marble capitols, of Theodosian typology of the VI century. It was then certainly entrusted to a Benedictine community and for this reason was frequented by S.Pier Damiano who, passing on his way to the Gamogna hermitage for Easter 1072, died here (the last chapel on the right, the ex guest quarters where the saint stayed, is today dedicated in his name).The current interiors dates back to 1655, when Bartolomeo Sauli began his long renovation works, changing the orientation and enlarging many spaces (the naves, originally one, became three) and creating a monumental entrance where there was once the apse, preceded by a portico.Today the interior surprises for its airiness and majesty, even though it is very cold. Amongst the numerous works of art, there is the table of the first altar on the left (Madonna and Saints) of the not common painter from Imola Gaspare Sacchi (1522) and chapel on the altar of San Bernardo (the chapel to the right of the main altar) with slabs depicting the stories of the saint the work of the Faentine Niccolo Paganelli (1610 circa).

The Bell tower is most famous monument from the high-medieval period in Faenza, erected by the Black Benedictines from S.Maria Foris Portam in the IX century.
Dating back to the IX century, the bell tower was erected by using the remains of even more ancient material, including that from Roman times. The structural planning of this bell tower is unique in its kind while, at the same time, it has similarities with those from the Ravenna area, especially with regards to the base with spurs that join up the four corners to the external octagonal structure which holds the staircase that winds around the internal cylindrical flue. Beneath the XII century belfry a second belfry with central columns and small covering arches was built (a kind of “elevated crypt”), devoted to San Pier Damiano, who died in the monastery guest-rooms near to the bell tower base on February 22nd 1072. The top was damaged by cannon shots in 1944; the section was rebuilt after the war, returning it to its original appearance which, in the year ‘400, had been modified by placing a spire on its roof.

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  • Address
    Piazza Santa Maria Foris Portam
    48018 Faenza RA
  • Area: Center
  • Map: