Bologna is one of the most livable cities in Italy, a city of universities, very international and it has the nearest airport from where I live when I am in Italy. Here friends arrive when they come over visiting me. Sometimes the flights arrive late or the departure is very early in the morning and I/we prefer an overnight stay as the city is about two hours from the place I stay. This way I had the opportunity to visit the city and see the sights. Like the basilica San Petronio in the Piazza Maggiore in the heart of the historic district.
The 51 meters high religious building is dedicated to San Petronio, a bishop of the 5th century and the patron saint of the Bologna. An interesting fact is that the building is a communal project and not of a bishop. It symbolize the communal power and was only consecrated in 1954 after being transferred to the diocese in 1929.
The building of this amazing master piece started in 1390. Antonio di Vicenzo was commissioned with erecting a Gothic church. At least 8 other churches and towers, the Curis of Sancti Ambrosil and other buildings had to be demolished for giving space to this huge building with a large piazza in front. Only 90 years later the church was ready in its first version.
Just 20 years later there was already a revised plan to get into competition with the Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The church to me still seems to be unfinished as the facade is half with marble and half brownish stones which gives a very special look anyway.
The church inside is amazing and breathtaking. It appears rich in decoration but compared to most of the Catholic churches it doesn’t feel overloaded.
I love a lot the combination of white and pink and the play of the colors. They give the church a great depth and dimension.
Noteworthy are also the stained glass windows. Wonderful colors and very vivid images that come wonderfully out with the sunlight.
The church houses 22 chapels inside. Every chapel is different and all are amazingly decorated. And there are two great organs, completed in 1476 and 1596 and still in original condition.
The church was (and is still) renowned for the instrumental and sacred instrumental and choral music in the middle ages.
Don’t miss the meridian line inlaid. In the left aisle in 1655 it was calculated and designed by the astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini, a astronomy teacher at the university of Bologna. It determines the length of the solar year and is one of the largest astronomical instruments in the world.
In the church there is buried Elisa Bonaparte (Napoleon’s sister) and Charles V was coronated here.
Now in modern times in 2002 there was a planed terrorist act to destroy the church but the people were arrested before anything happened.
I was very impressed by the church and I am looking forward to showing it to some other friends when they come to Italy. Oftentimes in summer there are concerts and other events in front of the church in Piazza Maggiore. At the time I visited the place last year they were preparing for an open cinema event.
Sitting under the arcades with a coffee you can admire this masterpiece of architecture and enjoy the sunset over a super busy piazza full of music and dancing people.
For further information:
Basilica of San Petronio