This church is worth visiting for various reasons; the architecture of the large auditorium was transformed with precious stuccoes, ancones and frescoes in the 17th and 18th centuries, although the general structure and its tall bell tower date from the 13th century. Furthermore, the apsidal part houses two wonderful cycles of frescoes by the “14th-century School of Rimini”.
The bell tower chapel narrates the life of the Virgin Mary and the apse the life of John the Evangelist, whilston the far end wall there is a mighty Enthroned Christ and a majestic and gentle Virgin with Child.
The decorations in this church, probably by 14th-centuryRimini-based artists, perhaps the brothers Giovanni, Giuliano and Zangolo, active in the early decades of the century, also include a Crucifix paintedon a wood panel, now on the right wall of the nave and a large, fragmentedfresco of the Last Judgement, now housed in the Municipal Museum.By ideally reuniting and positioning these works we have anidea of the “educational” and catechetical function those responsible forcreating them and those who commissioned them sought to achieve and the spirituality of the message transmitted through the painted figures.
The imposing church constructed by the Augustine monks at the end of the 13th century had a rectangular plan and a trussed roof. At one end there was a large apse with two side chapels, one of which formed the base of the bell-tower. The façade seen today was extensively altered by work done in the 18th century, when the interior was also modified. However, the sides, with their thin pilasters, the three rear apses and the soaring bell-tower still constitute a precious testimony of Gothic religious architecture in Rimini.
The surviving decorations from the early 14th century consist in frescoes and a large wooden crucifix. It seems that several of the painters who brought fame to the 14th-century Rimini School, including the brothers Giovanni, Giuliano and Zangulus, started their careers working in this church.
The 14th-century frescoes were concealed by later decorations until a violent earthquake in 1916 revealed their presence. Only in 1926 was it possible to remove and restore the magnificent Last Judgement painted over the triumphal arch, and now conserved in the Civic Museum.
When it was reconstructed in the 18th century, the church was enhanced with important ornaments, such as the Baroque plasterwork on the ceiling by Ferdinando Bibiena and frescoes by Vittorio Maria Bigari.
Only a few traces remain of the large monastery that once stood next to the church, now incorporated into the 18th-century structure following the disastrous earthquake of 1786. The monastery is known to have had an important library and a famous Studiorum, as well as a school.