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Biblioteca Comunale Classense


Via Baccarini 3, 48100 Ravenna. The library is situated in the city centre, within walking distance from Dante’s Tomb. Originally a monastery, it winds through a sequence of cloisters refreshed by grassy grounds and trees.


The Classense library is the largest in town and an important tile in the mosaic of the Italian library system. It aims at general information, with particular attention to humanities, art, bibliography and history. The library developed within the Camaldolite monastery through the vision of remarkable abbots and monks, among whom, at the beginning of the 18th century, Pietro Canneti stands out. His knowledge of books, his personal driving force and literary network - Magliabechi and Mandosio being just two of his friends - made him transform the monastic library, enrich and organize the collections and commission the breathtaking woodwork and frescoes that still adorn it.

The Classense derives its name from the town of Classe (Classis Ravennas, originally the Roman port), where the Camaldolites had a monastery which was moved to Ravenna at the beginning of the 16th century. A small libreria was known to be attached to the monastery as early as 1515, although the early 1700s are regarded as the foundation years of the library as Canneti conceived it, anticipating 18th-century scholarship. By the end of the century the impressive book collection was rich in codices as well as in all those documents and printed books deemed important for culture and knowledge. With Napoleon’s abolition of the religious orders, the library passed into the hands of the municipality and collected also the books from other dispersed orders and monasteries. Today contemporary literature and children’s sections form part of the library’s activities.


View of the Aula Magna (Photo: Riccardo Vlahov/IBACN)

There are 650,000 books, among which 800 incunabula and 8,000 16th-century editions; 750 manuscripts, collections of prints and woodcuts, maps, photos and even of printed games. Among several special collections - either donations or acquisitions of complete libraries, the Collezione Dantesca is perhaps the best-known, with some 12,000 items. The collection of letters and other personal mementos of Lord Byron is extremely popular. It was bequeathed by Teresa Gamba, the poet’s Ravenna-born mistress. There are 700 current and 3,000 discontinued periodicals.

There are 18 catalogues overall: 5 general ones, by author, shelf and subject, card and since 1986 on-line, separate catalogues both card and on-line for children’s and contemporary literature sections and other special collections, fully on-line for periodicals, card and on-line for incunabula and printed music, card for prints and 16th-century editions.

The monastery was built and decorated to tell the story of the Order and its religious and cultural relation with the town. Along corridors and rooms artists such as Luca Longhi celebrate the patron saints and the Ravenna literati side by side. The Aula Magna, commissioned by Canneti, is a monument to 18th-century knowledge and architecture, with the stuccos of the vaulted ceiling reflecting the woodwork of the carved shelves and of the brackets. The playful decoration continues in the rooms built later in the century by Camillo Morigia in clean neoclassical style. The stables of the monastery were fairly recently converted into a striking exhibition room by Marco Dezzi Bardeschi.


Biblioteca Classense Ravenna, Fiesole, Nardini Editore, 1996.

Armando Petrucci, Pietro Canneti, in: Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Roma, Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana 1960-, vol.18. pp 125-129.


Donatino Domini

Opening hours

Monday to Friday 8.30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays 8.30 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. Summer: Monday to Friday 8.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. Saturdays 8.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. Last week of July and August 8.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. Rare books: Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays 9.00 to 1.00 p.m., Tuesdays and Fridays 9.00 to 1.00 p.m and 2.30 to 5.30 p.m. Different opening hours may apply to other collections and services. Possibility to reserve book material in advance.

Further information

Contact person: Claudia Giuliani
Telephone: 00 39 0544 482112; 00 39 0544 482117 (Contemporary Literature)
Fax: 00 39 0544 482104
E-mail: manoscrittierari@classense.ra.it
Website: http://www.classense.ra.it/

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