PARISH CHURCH OF SAN MICHELE ARCANGELO (26)
Built in the Byzantine period (6th – 7th century).
The “Pieve” (or parish church) dedicated to the archangel Michael is not only the most ancient religious building in town but also the most important one. At least, it was, until the second half of the 18th century when the Collegiate Church was built, in Santarcangelo’s historic town centre.
The building goes back to the Byzantine period, probably the 6th century, and is considered the oldest, existing church in the province of Rimini; as well as being one of the most important and significant examples of medieval ecclesiastic architecture.
The building-style, using special mortar and reused thin bricks, is very similar to the Byzantine churches in Ravenna (such as San Vitale and San Apollinare in Classe).
The church has a single nave with an external seven-sided apse with two windows to replace the three original ones.
The façade, slightly oblique, has another unique feature: the bell tower in the centre.
Today there is only one main entrance, situated at the bottom of the bell tower; originally this “Pieve” (like all churches of this type) had seven entrances.
Inside, the altar is held up by a stone block, depicting an eagle in the act of catching its prey. It also has a simple floral embellishment. To the right of the apse there is a huge baptismal font made of stone.
Legend has it, that under the altar there once was a tunnel that connected the church to the fortress, allowing people to flee when the town was under siege.
Most of the archaeological findings of Santarcangelo, especially from the protohistoric and Roman periods, were found in the area around the “Pieve”.
Therefore, it is believed that the oldest and first settlement was established here, between the Marecchia River and Verucchio.
Certainly, in Roman times, this area was a busy productive hub with many workshops and furnaces for bricks, amphoras and pottery for domestic and agricultural use.
In the Middle Ages, the centre of town moved to Mount Giove, which offered greater protection from the barbaric invasions.
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