On Thursday 6 February 2020 the Archiepiscopal Museum of Ravenna is preparing to celebrate an important anniversary, documented by the pages of the “Risveglio Duemila”.
Ten years ago in the presence of Archbishop His Excellency Monsignor Giuseppe Verucchi, of Monsignor Guido Marchetti, at the time delegated to the ecclesiastical assets of the diocese and director of the Opera di Religione and many authorities including His Excellency Monsignor Mariano Crociata, Secretary of CEI, the Cardinal Ersilio Tonini and the mayor of Ravenna Fabrizio Matteucci, the inauguration of the renewed museum took place after about ten years of restoration [i].
The first nucleus of the Archiepiscopal Museum was realized in the first half of the 18th century by the will of the Archbishop of Ravenna Niccolò Maffeo Farsetti (1727 – 1741).
He wanted to collect – in a selected room of the bishop’s palace next to the private chapel of St. Andrew – the finds saved from the demolition of the primitive cathedral: the Ursiana Basilica, built by Bishop Ursus (late 4th-early 5th century AD). When this building was pulled down, it was found that most of the marble slabs that covered the floor (16th century) were actually old epigraphs reused upside down. Thus was born the Lapidario Farsetti set up by the Rimini architect Giovan Francesco Buonamici, designer of the new cathedral.
This collection has had other rearrangements and increases in collections in its long history: in the first half of the nineteenth century and in the first half of the last century thanks to the Superintendent of Monuments Giuseppe Gerola (1909 – 1918). He undertook the restoration of the chapel of Sant’Andrea and other rooms of the ancient episcope. This restoration culminated with the inauguration of a real Archiepiscopal Museum during the III Congress of Christian Archeology (which was held in Ravenna in September 1932). Right on that occasion, the Ivory Chair of Archbishop Maximian (546-556), symbol of the museum, was exhibited for the first time in these renovated spaces.
During the period 1955- 1969 new works were also started by Monsignor Mario Mazzotti, ‘historical’ director of the Museum and Archiepiscopal Archives. He had new pieces exhibited, for example the very rare Easter Calendar for the years 532-626 and other pieces from archaeological excavations he conducted in the diocesan territory [ii].
Later Don Giovanni Montanari, Mazzotti’s successor as director of the Archive and Museum, published considerable studies on these topics which culminated, on the occasion of the Jubilee of 2000, in the small volume: “Mosaic, cult, culture” [iii].
Finally, after several years of restoration, on Saturday 6 February 2010 the new Archiepiscopal Museum was inaugurated, designed by the architect Diletta Evangelisti, thanks to the joint work of the Archdiocese, Superintendence for Architectural Heritage and the financial support of the Cassa di Risparmio di Ravenna Foundation [ iv]. We cannot forget the vital role of the late Monsignor Guido Marchetti (1931-2015), diocesan delegate for ecclesiastical assets, who followed with great involvement and passion the restoration of the entire museum complex and the consequent publication of the first guide of the museum [v]. This volume was reviewed by Don Giovanni Montanari [vi]. It was Don Montanari himself who dictated the commemorative epigraph in Latin, relating to the inauguration of the museum. Located to the right of the entrance, it highlights in the text the undisputed and lively historical-religious link between bishop, episcope and cathedral [vii].
The renewed museum, compared to the original paleochristian and Byzantine aspect, has been enriched with new eighteenth-century rooms and a second floor. The latter – until 1990 the seat of the Archiepiscopal Archives – has a small picture gallery with paintings from the XV-XVIII centuries and the so-called Medieval Room, where the ‘Treasure of the Cathedral’ is exhibited.
In the following years of activity to date, the Archiepiscopal Museum has been appreciated by scholars, citizens of Ravenna and tourists because it embodies, according to His Excellency Monsignor Mariano Crociata: “.. the perennial testimony of a living documentary heritage, capable of explaining the cultural and religious identity, as well as the genius of man, to give perspective and meaning to the present days as well .. “[viii].
Opera di Religione della Diocesi di Ravenna
[i] F. Casanova, Scoprire le radici cristiane di Ravenna, in “Risveglio Duemila”, 13 febbraio 2010, p. 2.
[ii] P. Novara, Per una archeologia degli arcivescovi di Ravenna: spigolature minime intorno al rinnovato Museo Arcivescovile di Ravenna, in “Pagani e Cristiani”, IX, 2010, pp. 81-102; G. Gardini, Il Museo Arcivescovile, appunti di storia, in “Risveglio Duemila”, 22 gennaio 2011, p. 3.
[iii] G. Montanari, Mosaico, culto, cultura. La cultura religiosa nei mosaici delle basiliche ravennati, Ravenna 2000, pp. 76-84.
[iv] F. Casanova, Storia e Fede, in “Risveglio Duemila”, 6 febbraio 2010, pp. 1-2.
[v] Le collezioni del Museo Arcivescovile di Ravenna, a cura dell’Opera di Religione della Diocesi di Ravenna, con testi di G. Fanti, G. Gardini, G. Grillini, P. Novara, Ravenna 2011.
[vi] G. Montanari, Opera di Religione: nuove acquisizioni, in “Risveglio Duemila”, 23 aprile 2011, p. 12.
[vii] G. Gardini, Il Museo Arcivescovile di Ravenna, appunti di storia/2, in “Risveglio Duemila”, 19 febbraio 2011, p. 3.
[viii] M. Crociata, La bellezza [L’indirizzo di saluto della CEI], in “Risveglio Duemila”, 13 febbraio 2010, pp. 1-2.