San Giovanni Evangelista church and the Jerusalem Tower

San Giovanni Evangelista church and the Jerusalem Tower

Leaving the train station we immediately begin to enter the city atmosphere.
Overcoming the immediate surroundings of the train station, on the left side of the avenue you will  
see the Speyer Garden where it is located an artwork that is a sort of anticipation of the spirit of our city: Ravenna that sinks the roots of its beauty in ancient times, Ravenna that leads mosaic and other arts to present.
As a matter of fact, Jerusalem Tower is a mosaic artwork created by the students of  the Professional Training Center of Ravenna on a project by Enzo Pezzi (professor at the center) in 2003.
The work is inspired by the towers of the Heavenly Jerusalem represented in the Byzantine mosaics of the basilics of San Vitale and Sant'Apollinare in Classe. It is another example, likewise the majestic Ardea Purpurea, of how  mosaic can become contemporary and can go out of sacred buildings and museums to invade the streets with its colours.

At a  short distance from the Jerusalem Tower it rises the oldest church of Ravenna, San Giovanni Evangelista (St. John Apostole).
During high school I passed by this church every morning, it was the view from our classroom in Dante Alighieri High School which is right in font of the church.
I've always found elegant the way in which this church is barely visible through the trees of the garden and it jealously hides its beautiful Renaissance cloister (usually closed to visitors).
The church was built in the fifth century A.D. by Empress Galla Placidia to fulfil a vow expressed to St. John during a storm she came across while returning from Constantinople to Ravenna for the settlement of his son Valentinian III on the throne of the Western Roman Empire.
Galla Placida promised that if she ever would have got to Ravenna safe she would have build a church in honour of the saint in the point of her disembarkation.
Over the centuries San Giovanni Evangelista church has been subjected to various interventions and it was largely destroyed in 1944 by air raids that caused the loss of the mosaics of the apse and frescoes from the Middle Ages.
The church of San Giovanni Evangelista is worth a visit for its fourteenth-century Gothic portal, which anticipates a small green space in front of the actual entrance, and some beautiful fragments of mosaic floor dated 1213.

The Gothic portal is decorated with bas-reliefs representing the Apparition of St. John to Galla Placida, the Annunciation and St. John and an emperor (perhaps Valentinian III) .
What makes it even more special is the lush vegetation that surrounds the upper part of the wall
where the portal is set, creating a play of frames in which the portal is framed by the wall framed by
green vines.

The church is simple inside, with high ceilings with wooden trusses and columns in Byzantine style.
Your attention will be certainly drawn by the fragments of floor mosaic depicting episodes of the Fourth Crusade commissioned by Guglielmo in the fourteenth century. Crusaders brandishing spears and shields, fantastic animals, sailing ships and mermaids peep out between the marble columns making you dream of a mysterious past.

Also the bell tower of the tenth century deserves a note as two of its four bells are among the oldest in Italy dated and signed.

How to get there

On foot/By train: the Speyer's Garden are just on the right after the round-about in front of the railway station. San Giovanni Evangelista church and the Jerusalem Tower are located in the gardens

By car: the closest pay and display parking is in Piazza Mameli, right in front of the church


The entrance is free

What to see in the environs

Mausoleum of Theodoric – The legend of the Barbarian King

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After having travelled to China to know the world, I found out that my heart is here, in the streets of Ravenna and the beaches of Marina di Ravenna where I grew up. Graduated in Linguistic and Cultural Mediation and with a master's degree in Tourism Economics and Management in Venice, today I deal with events and tourism. My passions? Travelling, the tagliatelle with ragù, my cats Red and Grace, the sunset at the beach in summer, the plants on my balcony and photography.

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