Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio, Bologna
The Archiginnasio was once the centre of Bologna's ancient university. It was built in the mid-1500s with the express intention of bringing together under one roof the various university departments which until then had been dotted around the city's historical centre.
The Archiginnesio remained the main building of the university until the early 1800s, when it became the Institute of Science. Since 1838 it has also housed the massive Archiginnasio Municipal Library, a hugely important archive with thousands of books and manuscripts. It is open to the public (you'll have to leave bags etc at the entrance) but, unfortunately, when I was visiting there was a special event of some type (university-related, I think) with many important visitors.The library seemed to be off-limits that morning.
But even if you aren't interested in the library or the anatomical Theatre (see next tip) it's worth popping into the courtyard of the Archiginnasio just to wander its encircling arcade and look at the numerous memorials to past students and benefactors which are set there. I was particularly taken with the huge and elaborate memorial for the Fornasari brothers (mid-1600s), both lawyers and with their remarkably life-like portraits incorporated into the structure.
Do also walk up at least one of the staircases. They, like the corridors and the ceilings of the courtyard arcade, are painted with wonderfully intricate shields, family crests and so on and so forth.
Definitely worth a visit....and free to enter.
You'll find the entrance (it really doesn't look anything very special) set under the arcade which runs to the east of Piazza Galvani, behind San Petronio. Opening days and times are in the photo above.
I only went into the Archiginnasio to see this theatre, so was pleasantly surprised at the numerous memorials I found in the courtyard arcade and the intricate decoration of the staircases (see other tip).
This anatomical theatre...a place for students to watch the dissection of human corpses... was first built in 1636 but was remodelled and re-shaped. It is entirely panelled in spruce, including the ceiling, with wooden sculptures of famous figures (such as Greek & Roman physicians), tiered seating for observers and a large marble slab in its centre for the dissection of the body (humans and animals...the latter more often, for dissection was long forbidden by the Church except in very exceptional circumstances).
Most of the wooden sculptures were created by Silvestro Giannotti but the two famous 'spellati' ('skinless ones') were made by Ercole Lelli. They are wonderfully detailed examples of the flayed human body and support the canopy over the most important seat. They were damaged in the bombing but it was possible to restore them; you can clearly see the difference in wood between the original and the restoration.
Indeed, what you see now *seems* to be the final form of the theatre in the 1730s but, sadly, the Archiginnasio was bombed in 1944 and it was very severely damaged. What you see now is largely a reconstruction, although some of the many wooden sculptures were, at least in part, salvaged from the wreckage. There is a very interesting panel with photos showing the vast damage done by the bombing and subsequent fire which gives a very clear picture of how little remained.
The Spellati, along with the other wooden figures, were badly damaged in the bombing. But they have been beautifully restored. You can clearly see the difference in wood between the original and the restoration, which is as is should be.
In October 2014 i paid 3 euro entrance to see the anatomical theatre. It isn't much and it is, imo a worthwhile place to visit,. Reconstruction or not, it contains some wonderful examples of the woodcarver's art.
Access via the Archiginnasio; the theatre is signed form within the courtyard.
Visiting the inside of Archiginnasio, especially the Anatomical Theatre, was high on my list of things to see while in town. Luckily it is open also Mondays, so on my way back from Santo Stefano, after coffee and a delicious cake in Cafe Zanarini, I went inside. And my jaw dropped again when I entered the building with all these gorgeous paintings of coats of arms on the walls.
Archiginnasio was built in 16th century, commissioned by Pope Pius IV, to concentrate the university in one place. It was seat of the university from 1563 to 1803, when it was moved to its current location at the end of Via Zamboni. Already on the ground floor around the courtyard is full with frescoes on the wall honouring professors who lectured at the university. The two main staircases leading to the upper floor are equally beautifully painted, with coats of arms of the students. The Archiginnasio’s website writes that this is the “largest existing heraldic wall complex”. I was curious because of course I never saw something like this before. In the books and websites it is only said that the students’ names and country of origin were listed, together with their coat of arms. But some deeper research unveiled a fascinating part of legal organisation within the university as background for these coats of arms. Most logically in the middle ages, only wealthy youngsters could study, so they belonged to rich families which had their own coat of arms. I found a source which explained the organisation of Bologna’s university, called universitas scholarum. These days, a universitas” was not the whole university as we know it today but there were several, mostly two “universitates”, based on the teaching subjects: the legisti, the law universitas, and the artisti, the universitas teaching philosophy, medicine and science. And to complicate this, the law universitatas was divided in two, based on the students’ origin. These were called universitas citramontani and universitas ultramontani. Citramontani, deriving from Latin “citra” = near side (of the mountains), were from Rome, Campania, Toscana and Lombardy, while ultramontani, deriving from Latin “ultra” = far side (of the mountains) came from France, Spain, Provence, England, Germany and Burgundy. The source for this is here: citramontani and ultramontani. (As far as I could understand, the artisti universitas was not divided according to nations). Each universitas had a students’ schoolmaster and a students’ parliament. This explains somehow the amount of different coats of arms.
And if you look at my main photo, you can see the names.
Ok.. names... I was curious and looked up the name I can see in the middle (with coat of arms with a tree). It reads “Petrus de Peralta”, below “Hisp – Alcagniciensi” and above “Aracon et Cat”. I found a Pedro de Peralta from Spain in Wikipedia, but his coat of arms has the fortress, similar to the coat of arms on the left hand side. Painting error? Or not sufficient research? Most likely the latter, but next time I come with binoculars and smartphone to research some names. Or ... ask.
But back to the Archiginnasio and the rooms. Apart from the Anatomical Theatre, the upper floor houses the Municipal Library. I was not inside because it would have involved a bit of paper work and I was running late, but given the rooms I will definitely come back. In context to the two “universitates” (law and arts), there were two lecture rooms in this complex. The Aula Magna degli Artisti is the reading room of the library today, located in the northern part of the complex. And the Aula Mater degli Legisti is called “Salla dello Stabat Mater” today, located in the south of the complex. The name derives from the liturgical music ”Stabar Mater” by Gioacino Rossini. The latter can be visited, but when I was there in September 2014 it wasn’t open to the public because they were arranging an exhibition. But .. at least I could peek inside when someone left the room and yes, it is well worth visiting!
What I find even more fascinating is to read in the Municipal Library. It is open to anyone. However, one has to fill out some papers and has to leave all belongings tucked away in little lockers. Rules for reading in the library => here.
I don’t know though if all books and printed material can be consulted. The website of Archiginnasio lists the collections (and then further reading for manuscripts, drawings and prints), and in total it must be approximately 900.000 pieces of work which are housed in this magnificent building.
A book lover’s ultimate dream!!
A word about photography inside the palace. It is allowed, and moreover the Archiginnasio’s website even encourages visitors to add their photos to their Photo Group in Flickr. How interesting is that??
For those who like to listen to Rossini’s Stabat Mater, here is a Video.
Location of Archiginnasio on Bing Maps.
© Ingrid D., November 2014 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
The Anatomy Room in Archiginnasio deserves special attention. It was the main rooms for lectures in the medicine part of Bologna’s university, built in 17th and 18th century (there were earlier ones, but these were replaced). This room is fascinating because it also reflects the “medical” or better anatomy belief of these days. For example the magnificent carved wooden ceiling, made of spruce, shows Apollo in the middle, surrounded by fourteen astronomical constellations (6 from the zodiac signs plus others). According to the leaflet the stars were asked before performing operations on the human body or before prescribing drugs. These days the human body was seen as part of the universe and nature. (Well, this should be the perception again, but that’s my personal view).
Another striking feaure of this room are the two sculptures of skinned men who hold the baldachin under which the professors stood while lecturing. Very precise work! Above that sits a statue depicting Anatomy. The walls are decorated with statues and reliefs of heads, all of famous physicians (including Hippocrates) and famous anatomists from Bologna’s university.
When I was inside this room in September 2014, entry fee was 2,50 Euro and there was a leaflet in English available with information about the anatomy theatre. @Leics told me that only 1 month later, entry fee has gone up to 3 Euro. (Thanks :-)
Location of Archiginnasio on Bing Maps.
© Ingrid D., November 2014 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
Pavaglione comes from a local dialect, word "pavaglio" refer to the lucrative markets of the time, located in Piazza Galvani. The portico proceedes through Palazzo dei Banchi, Museo Civico and Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio.
Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio (unfortunatelly closed during my visit) was built in 1564 and once was the seat of the Studium (University). It has an impressive courtyard featuring more then seven thousand coats of arms used as emblems by noble families, scholars, chancellors and other well known persons who attended the Studium during the 16th and 17th centuries.
On the first floor of the palace there is a Theatre of Anatomy in which anatomy classes were held, also very impressive as well are two lecture halls; Aula Magna degli Artisti and Aul dei Legisti.
Nowadays the Archiginnasio is reckoned to be one of the most famous Italian municipal libraries with more then 700.000 volumes.
I really enjoyed the visit to this palace. There are always exhibit going on, mostly free and it is an amazing building full of history and art. It is also impressive to think it is used as the municipal public library so all the citizens walk in there to get their books.
It is also possible to obtain special permission to do research on the old books stored here.
The visit of the anatomy theater was the most impressive, especially after I saw the poster showing the picture of the same room after a alley bomb hit it during WWII!! It is amazing how they have been able to put it back together.
The long portico of l'Archiginnasio, which lies opposite the side of the Basilica di San Petronio, is made up of 30 uniform arches designed by Antonio Morandi. The Renaissance-style edifice was built in 1563 to unite the various departments of the University of Bologna, which up until then were spread out across multiple buildings around the city. The University remained in l'Archiginnasio until it moved to its current location on via Zamboni in 1803. Within l'Archiginnasio is a beautiful courtyard with a double loggia, whose walls are painted with beautiful frescoes and around 6000 coats-of-arms of people who attended the university. Within the building is the chapel of Santa Maria dei Bulgari and the impressive 17th century Anatomy Theatre. It also houses the Municipal Library.
This was Pope Pius IV's pet project that prompted the diversion of funds from Basilica di San Petronio resulting in the less-than-grand results for Bologna's main cathedral. In way, San Petronio's loss was mankind's gain, as the Palazzo di Archiginnasio housed the city's university from 1563-1805. Today, the Archiginnasio is the home to Bologna's biblioteca comunale (municipal library) and a museum on anatomy.
The first anatomical theatre in Bologna was constructed in 1595, in a different location, but in 1636 it was replaced by a bigger one in the current location.
The theatre – completely made with spruce wood – underwent several modification and reached its final shape between 1733 and 1736. In this period, Silvestro Giannotti carved the wooden statues which decorate the theatre walls. They represent some famous physicians of the old times (Hippocrates, Galenus, etc.).
The anatomy theatre was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War, by an air raid on January 29, 1944. After the war, the Theatre has been reconstructed, using all of the original pieces recovered among the rubble of the building.
The magnificent Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio was the first unified seat of the University of Bologna.The aim of the building, concieved in the cultural climate of the Council of Trent, was to give a home to the university until then dispersed in various locations.
The building has a long porch outside the 30 arches and is divided into two floors around a central courtyard a double row of loggias. Two large staircases lead upstairs which has 10 classrooms (now not used since major deposits of books for the Library) and two lecture halls placed at the ends of the building, one for Artists (now the reading room of the Library) and a for Human Rights (known also as a result of the Stabat Mater Room). The walls of the rooms, staircases and arcades are decorated with inscriptions and monuments celebration of the masters of the Study and thousands of badges and names of students.
The building ceased its function University in 1803 and from 1838, after having been for some years elementary school, houses the library.
The Archiginnasio is a bit difficult to find at first if you're not looking carefully. It was built between 1562-65 by Antonio Morandi and was the seat of the University of Bologna until 1800. You can request to see the upstairs of the Archiginnasio is you ask the doorman (nicely) in the morning. The University was famous throughout Europe by the 14th century for being the first school to use dissection on human cadavers. You can see the original anatomical theater built in the Archiginnasio in 1637 by Antonio Levanti. The anatomical figures over the Readers chair were done by Ercole Lelli in 1734. The aula magna now forms part of the Biblioteca Comunale (Municipal Library) and contains over 700 000 books and 12 000 manuscripts.
The Anatomy Theatre is absolutely amazing. Built in 1637 by Antonio Levante on the upper floor of the palace, the theatre is built entirely out of wood. This is where anatomy lessons were held, analysing and dissecting a body on the marble table in the middle of the room. The room features the famous statues of the Spellati - Skinless - by Ercole Lelli.
Open: Mon. to Sat. 9.00 a.m. - 1.00 p.m. (Mon. to Fri. afternoon opening from 1.00 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. not always guaranteed)
SUMMER 2005: From August 1st to 27th Mon. to Sat. 9.00 a.m. - 1.45 p.m. Closed Sun. and holidays.
This building was built between 1562 and 1563 from the project of Antonio Morandi, envisaged to become the first official seat of the University until 1803. The walls inside are covered with the coats of arms of the Italian and foreign students that attended the university. On the upper floor there is the amazing wooden anatomical theatre, where anatomy lessons were held, analysing and dissecting a body on the marble table in the middle of the room. Inside the building there is the City Library and the beautiful Chapel of Santa Maria dei Bulgari, with frescoes by B. Cesi.
Facing San Petronio, on your left following the portico you find the Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio. The Archiginnasio was the main building of the University from1563 to 1803. Now it’s the seat of one of the richest City libraries in Italy.
The courtyard is worth visiting: you can see monuments to famous professors of the University of Bologna and blazons of students coming from different countries. It's the biggest collection of blazons in the world.
For visiting the museum look at these informations: