The huge Basilica was built to honour Petronius, bishop of Bologna in the fifth century. it is reckoned to be one of the greatest Catholic churches throughout Italy and features a length of 132 metres, a width of 60 metres, a facade of 51 metres and finally a central vault of 41 metres. Basilica is the main church of the city, dominating the Piazza Maggiore, and is the fifteenth largest church in the world.
The construction was a communal project of the city and the property was a symbol of communal power. It was transfered from the city to a diocese only in 1929 and finally consecrated in 1954.
The three naves basilica was designed in a Gothic style by a local architect Antonio di Vicenzo, in June 1390, and completed only in 1479. The designed construction was never completed because of the great disapproval of the Roman Church. In 1514 Arduino degli Arriguzzi proposed a revision of the design with intention to outdo even the Basilica di San Pietro of Rome but Pope Pius IV halted such a project.
The facing of the main facade remains unfinished even though many celebrated architects were commissioned to propose the solutions for it, among them Vignola, Baldassare Peruzzi and Andrea Palladio. The main doorway was enriched by Jacopo della Quercia of Siena. Jacopo Barozzi, better known as Vignola was chief architect of the magnificent interiors which is enriched by great number of side chapels.
There were a several plans of Muslim terrorists, mostly connected to Al Qaeda, to blow up the building. They claimed, after being arested, that a 15th century fresco inside was insulting to Islam. It is fresco by Giovanni da Modena representing a scene from Dante Alighieri's "Inferno", depicting Muhammad in hell being devoured by demons.
“San Petronio contains a chapel of the Baciocchi family. Here lies the eldest of the sisters of Napoleon, the Princess Eliza Baciocchi, wisest, happiest, and least celebrated of the family.”
— from ‘Parma and Bologna’ from “The Gallaxy” February 1876 by The Making of America Project
SCIENTIFIC CELEBRATION Laid into the basilica’s floor is a sundial in the form of a meridian line. Astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini, a teacher at Bologna’s university, designed it in 1655. I spotted my zodiac sign, Aquarius, along the meridian (see photo #2). Running more than 219 feet, it is the longest sundial in the world. In 1695, Cassini and Domenico Guglielmini published an illustrated book about the meridian when it was made.
Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola (1507-1573) designed the ciborium, or canopy (see photo #3) supported by columns, over the altar.
Once leaving Bologna, our journey would be made by car. I was happy to see St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers, (see photo #4) frescoed on a column of the basilica’s interior.
In 2002, the basilica was the target of an unsuccessful terrorist attack. Five men, believed to have connections to Al-Qaeda, were arrested in connection with a plot to blow up the building. Another attempt, this time in 2006, was foiled by Italian police. Their reason for their destructive intent centers on an interior, 15th-century fresco by Giovanni da Modena. It depicts a scene from Dante’ Inferno where Muhammad is shown in Hell being devoured by demons.
“The Basilica of San Petronio, the largest in Bologna, and, though unfinished, one of the most interesting and remarkable, is a fine monument of the religious munificence which characterised the period of Italian freedom.”
— from “A Handbook for Travellers in Central Italy: Southern Tuscany and the Papal States” 1857 by John Murray
The three entrance doors are topped by lunettes. Above the right-hand lunette is the Resurrection (see photo #1); the left-hand one shows the Deposition from the Cross (see photo #3). Over the center door the Virgin is flanked by San Petronio and San Ambrogio (see photo #2).
Surrounding each entry door are a number of low-relief sculptures depicting scenes from the Old Testement, including Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (see photo #4). Jacopo della Quercia uses dramatic and forceful gestures in this composition. The angel pushes the resisting Adam from the gates of Paradise while Eve is shown in the pose of the classical modest Venus covering her nudity.
“On the south side of this Piazza is the Church of San Petronio, which covers more ground than St. Peter’s in Rome, but is unfinished, externally, and fails in height and proportions; having been commenced in the Gothic style. On the floor of this church, commencing at the left of the central door, is a meridian, traced in brass and marble, by Cassini the astronomer.”
— from “A Hand-Book for American Travellers in Europe” 1853 by Rev. Roswell Park, president, Racine College, Racine, WI
CHURCH AS BASILICA This church is a basilica, which means it is a place of pilgrimage. Dominating the south side of Piazza Maggiore, Basilica di San Petronio was begun in 1390 as a civic project to compete with Constantine’s St. Peter’s in Rome. It has a Roman basilica floor plan; its Gothic rib vaulting shows Northern European influences. When the ducats stopped flowing, work halted; I love the lopsided marble facing. There are some who say that the façade was not finished to keep it simple, less grand, more of a people’s church.
The Basilica San Petronio is justly listed amongst the treasures of Bologna. Only...you have to be appropriately dressed to be permitted inside. Apparently my bare arms (on a day with temperatures in the mid-nineties) were an affront to the Diety, so despite the heat, I was required to purchase and wear a coat of synthetic (that is, non-breathable) material whilst within the church precincts. I noticed that others wearing shorts were similarly attired, but girls wearing even very short skirts -- as long as they had some sort of sleeves on top -- weren't required to suit up! (I am told that in Pisa they require them to wear aprons, but perhaps that is just rumor.)
Once you meet the dress code, you are free to wander this immense, light-filled space (the fifth largest church in the world, apparently). What struck me most was the marriage of theology and science. I'm reasonably certain there was a Foucault pendulum in one of the chapels, and a "linea longitudinale" crosses the nave, part of the astronomer Cassini's creation of an internal sundial with zodiac signs in the 17th century.
Begun in 1390, San Petronio was not consecrated until 1954.
Candidly, I was so overheated in both body and temper that it was a struggle to pay sufficient attention to my surroundings. That doesn't mean YOU shouldn't, though. Read someone else's pages on the Basilica and I'm sure you'll be more motivated!
Commissioned in the late 14th century, Bologna's largest church, la Basilica di San Petronio was meant to surpass Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. Although construction continued for centuries, the basilica was not finished and it never reached its intended size, for Pope Pius IV stopped the construction to prevent it from achieving its grandiose target. Yet, even as it stands uncompleted today, it is the fifth largest church in the world. The basilica is dedicated to Saint Petronius, the 5th century Bishop of Bologna, and dominates the city's main square, Piazza Maggiore. It was only consecrated in 1954 and the relics of its patron saint were only moved within it in the year 2000. One need not look hard to see the unfinished details, as the towering façade - all 51 metres in height and 60 metres in width - is only less than half covered in polychrome marble and Gothic decorations. The rest is naked in its bare dark bricks that should have been embossed in marble and covered forever. Nevertheless, the finished half is of exquisite beauty with sculptures by Jacopo della Quercia decorating the Porta Magna, the main doorway. The basilica's square campanile or bell tower, dates from 1492.
Although minimally decorated, the interior of the Basilica di San Petronio is a beautiful example of Italian Gothic architecture. Most impressive is its sheer size and lofty ceilings. It consists of three naves, with numerous side and back chapels, only a few of which are adorned by stunning frescoes. The most famous chapel is the one depicting Dante's inferno (hell) in its frescoes by Giovanni da Modena. In its original plan, the church was to be cross-shaped, but when Pope Pius IV stopped the project, the two side wings completing the cross shape were never constructed. From the outside, the two sides of the Basilica seem oddly cropped as a result of the halted construction (see attached photo).
The Basilica di San Petronio is Bologna's main cathedral. Compared with other churches in Italy (like those in Florence and Siena), it looks modest. But that was not the original plan. When construction began in 1390, the grand plan was to build Christendom's largest cathedral, even bigger than Vatican's San Pietro. Still unfinished until the mid-1500s, Pope Pius IV squashed the original builders' dreams when funds were rechanneled to building a university on the eastern side of the church (the Palazzao Archiginnasio). The result was the unfinished facade that we see now, and the church being "demoted" to only the 5th largest in the world.
Despite the unfulfilled dream, San Petronio still boasts beautiful works by major Italian artists. The main doorway was carved by Jacopo della Querica in 1425 depicting the Madonna and Child and biblical scenes. The gothic interiors contain 22 chapels with some outstanding stained glass works by Jacopo of Ulm while Giovanni da Modena and Jacopo di Paolo painted the stunning frescoes.
While entrance to the church is free, non-personal bags (for example, backpacks) are not allowed inside the church and this is strictly enforced. I had to leave my backpack at my hotel - but I was lucky since it was only a few meters from Piazza Maggiore.
Dedicated to the 5th century bishop and patron of the city. The building of San Petronio was begun in 1390 by the architect di Vincenzo. Construction was started as gothic architecture but changed to renaissance around a century later. However the designed construction was never completed because of the great disapproval of the Roman Church. It was suppose to be bigger the saint peters in Rome, but was made smaller when the church authorities diverted money to the nearby Plaazzo Archiginnasio and the new university. All masonry work stopped and was moved to the Palazzo, but when it was completed funds for the new cathedral were no longer available. Despite the papal sabotage the basilica is still the fifth largest in the world
The doors feature sculptures by Tribolo, Lombardo, da Treviso and Aspertini. Inside you will find a museum with models and drawings of the original and modified plans for construction. Also the relicas of St. Petronius are in this church
San Petronio was begun in 1390 by the then unknown architect di Vincenzo and was not "completed" until the middle of the 17th century. I say "completed" because the façade of this church that would be a cathedral (but never was) is quite obviously not finished, with only half of it covered in pink and white marble. By the three arched doors you can see the sculptures dell Quercia (when there is no construction), erected between 1425 and 1438. You can find bas-reliefs of stories from the Genesis on the pilasters as well as images of the prohets on the archivolts. The doors feature sculptures by Tribolo, Lombardo, da Treviso, Aspertini and other artists.
The interior of the church defies description is such a small space, as it contains no less than 11 chapels (and the original plan called for a church twice this size!!!). Nevertheless, the rooms are not empty and will delight any visitor with the wealthy of the artistic heritage contained inside this church. The elevnth chapel has a high relief of the Assumption by Tribolo (16th Century) while the fourth chapel features primarily Gothic architecture. For those who are interested by the construction and history of the San Petronio, you will find a museum inside the church with models and drawings of the original and modified construction plans.
Located in a prime position on Piazza Maggiore, the Basilica di San Petronio is quite a sight. The intriguing thing about it is that its façade has never been finished, the bottom half is marble and the top half ugly bricks.
Building commenced on the basilica back in 1390 and was never completed, although work continued for a few centuries. However, enough was built to make it the 5th largest church in the world....if construction had continued to plan it may well have been the largest. Rumour has it that construction was abandoned by order of the Pope, as he didn't want it to end up larger than St Peters (in Rome), which was Bologna's plan.
The basilica is dedicated to the patron saint of the city, Saint Petronius, who was Bologna's bishop in the 5th century. The inside is a little sombre, though it has elegant arches adding more height to the already vast interior. There are 22 side chapels with interesting glass work, paintings and sculptures. Check out the Capella Bolognini with its frescoes depicting heaven and hell.
The Basilica of San Petronio was dedicated to a bolognan bishop of the 5th century who is also the patron of the city. It is the fourth largest catholic church in the world and could have been the largest, if funds were not rerouted to build a palace. So, the church remains unfinished with a couple of pillars intended for another church nave remaining next to it. Also, the pope opposed these plans, so that the largest catholic church remains St. Peter's in Rome.
Building began in 1390 as a gothic cathedral, but the style was switched to renaissance around a century later. The interior is predominantly gothic while the facade is kept in a mixture with the lower half in renaissance style. This lower half of the church is decorated with white marmour, leaving only the upper half of the church with the bare dark brickstones (a kind of trademark in Bologna) to be seen. Some historical events took place in this church, including the coronation of Charles V. of the Holy Roman Empire in 1530. The sister of Napoleaon Bonaparte, Elisa Bonaparte, was buried here and since 2000, also the relicas of St. Petronius are in this church.
Take a look at tzhe central portal, on which Jacopo della Quercia worked for thirteen years!
Bologna doesn't really stand out much in the line of Italian cities. The porticoed buildings and San Petronio are a sight, also check out Fontana di Nettuno which in my mind is one of the ugliest fountains in Italy.
Dedicated to the city’s 5 the-century bishop, it was founded in 1390 it was suppose to be bigger the saint peters in Rome, but was made smaller when the church authorities diverted money to the nearby Plaazzo Archiginnasio.the shortfall left the church decidedly lopsided, with a row of columns on it’s eastern flank that were intended to support an additional internal aisle .
Inside the church, Charles V was crowned king of the empire in 1530 by Pope Clement VII. Very interesting are the 15th-century wooden choir by Agostino de' Marchi, the two majestic organs and the high altar erected in 1547 by Vignola. The church contains the remains of Elisa Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon, and a big sundial, made by Gian Domenico Cassini. Of the 22 art-filled chapels, the most interesting is the Bolognini Chapel (Cappella Bolognini), the fourth on the left as you enter; it's embellished with frescoes representing heaven and hell. An interesting museum is annexed to the church.
Open: Daily 7:30am-1pm and 2-6:30pm (until 6pm Oct-Mar)