Battistero Neoniano

Battistero degli Ortodossi

Useful Information

Location: Piazza S. Francesco 3, 48121 Ravenna RA.
(44.41588309972946, 12.200943580216602)
Open: Summer Mon-Sat 7-12, 15-19, Sun, Hol 7-19:30.
Winter Mon-Sat 7-12, 15-18, Sun, Hol 7-18:30.
Fee: free, donations welcome.
Electric Light EUR 1.
Classification: SubterraneaCrypt
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Battistero Neoniano, Piazza S. Francesco, 48121 Ravenna RA, 48121, Tel: +39-0544-33256. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.



The Battistero Neoniano (Neonian Baptistery) or Cripta Rasponi (Rasponi Crypt), also known as the Flooded Crypt of the Basilica di San Francesco, is a crypt located in Ravenna. The Basilica di San Francesco was built between the 9th and 10th century and is an architectural masterpiece listed on the UNESCO WHL. The crypt in the basement is, as the name says a grave, crypts were used to bury important figures in the church or benefactors of the church. In this case it was the remains of the bishop Neone, which gave the place its name. People throwing coins into the water, and thus on the graves of those buried here, obviously have not understood this fact.

However, this crypt is quite different to other crypts, as it was flooded by the water of the surrounding marshes and is now a shallow, underground goldfish pond. The city of Ravenna sits on relatively soft marshland which has led to a number of structural issues among its buildings. The entire city is slowly sinking. As the level of the city is only 2 m asl, the floor of the crypt is actually below sea level, and as a result, groundwater flows in. According to some sources, the water is salty, we guess it is brackish. A channel with seawater from the Mediterranean ends only a few hundred meters away at the train station. The water at the crypt is now constantly about 30 cm deep, fighting the flood has proved fruitless. A strange occurence are the goldfish and occasional ducks which swim in the water. While the ducks are easier to explain, the goldfish are quite a riddle.

The first church on this site was built in 450 by Neone, bishop of Ravenna, and dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul. It became known as Chiesa degli Apostoli (Church of the Apostles). From the second half of the 9th to the 10th century, the church was demolished and a new church and a tall bell tower erected. The new church was dedicated to Saint Peter and named San Pietro Maggiore. It was handed over to the Franciscans in 1261 and rededicated to Francis of Assisi, so it is today called the Basilica of San Francesco. The most important event in its history was probably the funeral of Dante Alighieri, which was held in the church in 1321. Dante Alighieri's grave is located nearby. The church was restored several times, but between 1918 and 1921, in preparation for the 600th anniversary of Dante's death, all the later additions were removed. The result is a very pure romanesque church with sparse decorations.

The crypt is located below the presbytery and was built together with the church from the 9th to the 10th century. It is reached down a double flight of stairs and entered through a small arched window. From here it is possible to see the crypt, which cannot be entered, due to the water. It has three naves and is covered with cross-vaults supported by four columns with simple geometric capitals. The mosaics on the floor were rearranged in 1977. There is a machine at the entrance, throwing in a 1 € coin will turn on the light for some minutes.