The Basilica di San Petronio, dedicated to the city's patron saint, is the biggest and most important church in Bologna. Its construction was started in 1390 and continued until the 1600's, when the roof and apse were completed. The facade has remained unfinished. The main portal contains the Stories of the Old and New Testament, sculpted by Jacopo della Quercia, between 1425 and 1438. The solemn and majestic interior is divided into three naves supported by ten pillars. Twenty-two chapels open off the side naves. One contains an organ which still works built around 1470: the oldest in the world still in use.
This is the cathedral of the city. Its origins date back to the 10th century, but it was rebuilt after a terrible fire in 1141. Nevertheless, the original Romanesque-Gothic layout underwent a profound transformation in the 17th and 18th centuries, which gave it its current Baroque appearance. The interior is home to a lot of interesting artwork, including the Annuciazione by Lodovico Carracci (1619) on the high altar and the frescoes in the rectory and apse. The Cathedral Treasure, is also worth visiting, a extensive collection of furnishings and religious objects of a great artistic value, from the 15th to 20th centuries.
Piazza S. Stefano is the old heart of Bologna. This enchanting triangular square contains the most sacred spot of Bologna, the Sette Chiese complex. These churches (there are actually four) date back to the 10th - 13th centuries forming a symbolic reconstruction of the Passion of Christ. The church of Crocifisso (on the right) contains a 1019 crypt and precious works of art; the church of Calvario (in the center) is a reproduction of Christ's tomb and contains the remains of San Petronio, patron saint of Bologna; the church of Santi Vitale e Agricola (on the left) is the oldest, marvelous in its bare simplicity, and holds the sarcophagi of two Bolognese martyrs, as well as the remains of the previous Byzantine constructions. The Romanesque kiosk with dual loggias is not to missed, one of the most superb Romanesque creations in Emilia Romagna.
The church was built in the 13th century, the first example of French inspired Gothic style in Italy. The most striking feature of the exterior is the apse part, with its famous arches and two elegant Gothic bell towers. Three monumental 13th century tombs sit at the foot of the apse. The marble altar piece stands out in the grandiose interior on the high altar. The walls contain various tombs including that of Pope Alexander V.
The church, built upon the death of the saint 1221, overlooks one of the most beautiful squares of Bologna. If the exterior seems simple, the interior instead is filled with magnificent works of art, including paintings by Guercino, Luca Cambiaso, Lodovico Carracci and Giunta Pisano. The main sight is definitely the S. Domenico Chapel: richly frescoed it contains a marble arch with the remains of the saint. This arch is considered one of the most important sculptures of Italian art, sculpted by famous artists like Nicolò Pisano and Michelangelo. The wood chorus by Fra'Damiano da Bergamo (1528-51) is also not to be missed, his contemporaries called it the eighth wonder of the world!
Santa Maria dei Servi
This extremely beautiful Gothic church, built between 1386 and 1437, is preceded by an airy square portico. The Gothic inspired interior is divided into three naves. Numerous works of art can be seen, including the Madonna in trono by Cimabue (13th century), the marble altar piece on the high altar (1558-61), the 14th century frescoes by Vitale da Bologna and valuable paintings by the Bolognese school in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
San Giacomo Maggiore
In the heart of the university area sits this church built between 1267 and 1315 by the hermit monks of S. Agostino and rebuilt at the end of the 15th century. The single nave interior contains many remarkable works of art. The most admired work is the Cappella Bentivoglio, one of the major creations of the early Bolognese Renaissance. Walking along the portico which flanks the Church you will find the entrance of the Oratorio di Santa Cecilia, an old church which houses the most important picture cycle of the Bolognese Renaissance, created by the best masters at the beginning of the 16th century.
San Michele in Bosco
This impressive architectural complex stands in one of the most scenic spots of Bologna. There is a wonderful view of the city and plains from the square in front of the church. The church was built in the Middle Ages, but was rebuilt in its current form in the 15th and 16th centuries by the Olivetani monks. The Renaissance facade is decorated with a beautiful marble portal by Baldassarre Peruzzi (1522). The interior is formed of two floors and decorated with valuable paintings and sculptures from the 16th and 17th centuries. One of the most charming parts is the octagonal cloister, from the end of the 16th century, decorated with famous paintings of the Carracci school.
San Luca see Secret Bologna
Photos courtesy of: APT Servizi, Regione Emilia Romagna, Comune di Bologna.
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