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Ancient parish church of Roffeno

A thousand-year history in the heart of the Bolognese Apennines.


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Where is


Via Possessione, 85, 40034 Castel D'aiano BO, Italia (0m s.l.m.)


What it is and where it is

Pieve di Roffeno, a few buildings surrounded by fertile countryside in the heart of the Bolognese Apennines. If you look it up on the map, at first glance you are likely to confuse it with a very common rural hamlet. Certainly, the last thing one expects is to find there the oldest parish church in the diocese of Bologna. On the curve of the road through this small nucleus, a modestly sized square stone parvis opens up, announcing the façade of the Pieve di Roffeno dedicated to St. Paul.

Why it is special

The façade is made of rough stones cleverly placed to build a wall with an ancient flavor interrupted by three decorative touches, as simple as they are graceful: the portal frame surmounted by a statue of St. Peter in a niche, a small oculus, and a white stone cross set in the irregular stones. It will be this ancient, rural flavor of the exterior that leaves one totally unprepared for the delicacy of the interior: airy frescoes and a baptismal font dating back to the seventh century (even older than the parish itself) of Lombard fashion and decorated in bas-relief. And immediately one feels drawn outside of time.

Not to be missed

Next to the parish is a courtyard that seems to have remained in the middle of the Middle Ages: gathered among buildings made of the same rough stones as the church, it has a rustic and warm appearance. At its center is a well, an unfailing source of water in times past, but the element that strikes straight to the heart is the wooden balcony marked by time and covered with creepers. In fine weather this riot of greenery makes everything more vital, but even the winter rest of the plants gives thrills: when the branches that wrap the gallery and the well are stripped bare and seem to dry up, the scene takes on a decadent charm that is well worth seeing.

A bit of history

The Pieve di Roffeno dates from around the year 1000 and is the oldest in the diocese of Bologna. In fact, this small Romanesque church would be nothing more than the rebuilding of an earlier house of worship. This at least is what is suggested by a plaque placed inside the parish church, and by the Lombard baptismal font, which would be the only remaining element of the earlier building. Also dating from the Middle Ages is the watchtower adjacent to the parish church, which today seems to have abandoned its former austere look, preferring to welcome friendly visitors who come so far.


This small hamlet also has no shortage of festive occasions: every year in July there is an evening dedicated to music: this is a concert dedicated to raising funds for the maintenance of the parish church itself.

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