The Dominicans have not been more fortunate than the Franciscans. Somewhat to the north of the Piazza Venti Settembre in the Via Cavour we find their church S. Domenico. It is said that originally there stood here a Byzantine church dedicated in honour of S. Maria Callopes, but this Dr. Ricci denies. S. Domenico was built from its foundations it seems in October 1269 for the Dominicans and was enlarged in 1374 according to an inscription in the sacristy; but it was almost entirely rebuilt in the beginning of the eighteenth century. The facade and the side portico are perhaps now the most genuine parts of the church. The chief treasure is, however, not of the Middle Age at all, but of the Renaissance, and consists of four large pictures painted in tempera, probably organ shutters, representing the Annunciation, S. Peter Martyr, and S. Dominic. They are the excellent work of Niccold Rondinelli the pupil of Giovanni Bellini.
[Footnote 1: See infra, pp. 267 et seq.]
[Illustration: TORRE DEL COMUNE]
From S. Domenico we pass again to S. Giovanni Evangelista if only to note the beautiful Gothic portal of the fourteenth century, of which I have already spoken, and the spoiled frescoes by Giotto in the vaulting of the fourth chapel on the left. Giotto, according to Vasari, came to Ravenna at the instigation of Dante and painted in S. Francesco, but whatever he may have done there has utterly perished, and there only remains in Ravenna his spoilt work in this little chapel in S. Giovanni Evangelista. Here we see in a ceiling divided by two diagonals, at the centre of which the Lamb and Cross are painted on a medallion, the four Evangelists enthroned with their symbols and the four Doctors of the Church, a subject common everywhere and especially so in Ravenna. These works have suffered very greatly from restoration, but they seem indeed to be the work of the master in so far as the design is concerned, all surely that is left after the repaintings that have befallen them.
[Footnote 2: See supra, pp. 175 et seq.]
The mosaic pavements of 1213, representing scenes from the third crusade, in the chapel to the left of the choir should be noted.
We must not leave S. Giovanni Evangelista without a look at the great tower of the eleventh century which overshadows it. It might seem to be contemporary with the greater Torre Comunale in the Via Tredici Giugno as the street is now absurdly named. Nor should any one omit to visit the Casa Polentana near Porta Ursicina and the Casa Traversari in the Via S. Vitale, grand old thirteenth-century houses that speak to us, not certainly of Ravenna’s great days, but of a greater day than ours, and one, too, in which the most tragic of Italians wandered up and down these windy ways eating his heart out for Florence. Indeed Dante consumes all our thoughts in mediaeval Ravenna.
There is a tale told by Franco Sacchetti that I will set down here, for it expresses what in part we must all feel, and what in the confusion of philosophy at the end of the Middle Age was felt far more keenly by men who visited this strange city.