At the top of the main portal of the Palazzo Comunale is placed magnificent Pope Gregory XIII bronze statue, carved by Alessandro Sermenghi.
Pope Gregory XIII (1502-1585) born Ugo Boncompagni, was Pope from 1572 to 1585. He is best known for commisioning and being the namesake for the Gregorian Calendar. The chief architect in the process of reforming the calendar was Christopher Clavius, Jesuit priest and astronomer, who was credited by the Pope.
In the beginning, the switchover from Julian to Gregorian Calendar was bitterly opposed by much of the populace, who feared it was attempt by landlords to cheat them out of a week and a half's rent. The Catholic countries complied it soon but more than a century passed before Protestant Europe accepted the new calendar. The Gregorian Calendar, however, was not accepted in eastern Christendom for several hundred years, and then only as the civil calendar.
Gregory XIII was liberal patron of the recently formed Society of Jesus throughout Europe, for which he founded many new colleges. The Roman College of Jesuits became the most important centre of learning in Europe for a time, known as the University of the Nations. It is now named the Pontifical Gregorian University.
In many aspects, Pope Gregory XIII is one of the most significant popes in the history of Papacy.
Piazza Maggiore is in the center of the hisotrical town. Main events are often held here. Always full of people, both tourists and local.. young people seemed like to gather here.. especially around Fontana Nettuno.. and the staircase below Basilica San Petronio... It's a perfect spot to relax and people watching if that's your thing.. :)
“Gregory XIII, Hugo Buoncompagno of Bologna, who had raised himself to eminence as a jurist and in the civil service, was cheerful and lively in disposition.”
— from “The History of the Popes, Their Church and State” 1853 by Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886)
Above the entrance gate to Palazzo Comunale is a 1580 bronze of the Bologna’s native son, Gregory XIII. Alessandro Menganti created the likeness of this reforming pope between 1576 and 1580. It was saved from France’s invading, destructive, anti-papal Grande Armée when Bologna’s citizens disguised it to resemble their patron saint, San Petronio.
Ugo Boncompagni was born on the 7th of January 1502, in Bologna. He studied law, and later taught at Bologna’s university; his students included a future cardinal, Alexander Farnese and a future saint, Charles Borromeo. Cardinal Boncompagni was called to Rome in 1539 by Pope Paul III, who him employed in various offices.
Following his election to the throne of St. Peter, Cardinal Boncompagni chose the name Gregory XIII, in honor of Pope Gregory I, in whose footsteps he planned to follow as a reformer of the church.
Gregory XIII is best known for giving the world a new calendar, the Gregorian Calendar vs. the old Roman Julian Calendar.
The Palazzo del Podestà was built around 1200 as the headquarters/offices for Bologna’s podestà, the chief administrator of an Italian city-state. It was at Bologna that the first documented usage of the word podestà can be found in 1151. Guido di Ranieri di Sasso of Canossa was brought from Faenza to Bologna to be rettore e podestà.
This palazzo faces the Basilica di San Petronio on Piazza Maggiore; and it is across from Palazzo Communale. The functions of government quickly outgrew the space in Palazzo del Podestà. In 1245 Palatium Novum (New Palace) was added; today this building is known as Palazzo Re Enzo. Torre dell’Arengo, whose bell once called the citizens during emergencies, looms over both buildings.
The double open arcade, called Voltone del Podestà, of Palazzo del Podestà is made up of two lanes of shops on the ground floor. The large Hall of Podestà was used as a public theatre between the 16th and the 18th centuries, and then for handball games.
“Carving is easy, you just go down to the skin and stop.”
— Michelangelo (1475-1564)
Two marble eagles sit beneath a window of Palazzo Comunale; the left-hand bird was carved by Michelangelo.
“Once or twice wandering about Bologna while my friends were at the Congress of Philosophers, I caught a glimpse . . . (or was it rather one of those sounds whose hearing is partly one of expectation?)—I caught, shall we say, the ghost of a mood; almost an emotion of forty years ago.”
— “Dark, Many-Towered Bologna” 1922 by Vernon Lee (1856–1935)
On the right-hand wall of Sala Ercole is a fresco known as the Madonna del Terremoto, Madonna of the Earthquake. Madonna con bambino appear in glory, blessing Bologna, its walls and many towers beneath them. Fascinating: to be in Bologna of the early 16th century. Francesco Francia’s fresco was painted for the nearby Elders’ Chapel in fulfillment of a vow made when the city was struck by an earthquake in 1505, the same year the fresco was painted; it was moved to Sala Ercole in the 19th century.
The city’s art collection above is also on view at Palazzo Comunale.
“Bologna, where I stayed ten days, is next to Rome in regard to fine paintings.”
— from a letter, dated 23.March.1771, written by Mr. John Gray to Dr. Tobias Smollett
FINE PAINTING, FINE SCULPTURE In Sala Ercole, on the first floor of Palazzo Comunale, was once the dining hall; it retains its Renaissance look. Alfonso Lombardi’s 1519 terracotta sculpture at the far end gives the hall its name. Painted in mock bronze, it shows a victorious Hercules after killing the Hydra of Lerna.
Sheltered under a wooden canopy, to the left of the main entrance to the Palazzo Comunale, sits Niccolò dell’Arca’s 1478 “Madonna con bambino.” This high-relief work is known as Madonna di Piazza. Created in terracotta and formerly gilded and polychromed it was placed where a portrait of Pope Julius II once hung.
“Proceed next southward into the Piazza just named, and observe, Palazzo Maggiore fronting it on the west, the Palazzo Maggiore, the residence of the Papal Legate, and of the Senator of Bologna, with a bronze statue of Pope Gregory XIII in a niche on its front.”
— from “Handbook for Travelers in Northern Italy” 1860 by John Murray
WHAT’S IN A NAME? What Mr. Murray calls Palazzo Maggiore is Palazzo Comunale or Palazzo d’Accursio, Bologna’s city hall until November 2008. It borders the 161,458-square-foot Piazza Maggiore, the city’s main square.
Palazzo d’Accursio houses the Civic Art Collection, displaying art work from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. The Museo Morandi, with the works by Giorgio Morandi donated to the city by his family, is also located within Palazzo d’Accursio.
Palazzo d’Accursio is a huge complex of buildings which have been connected over the years, originally it was the residence of Accorso di Bagnolo (1182-1263), an Italian jurist. In 1336 it became the seat of the Anziani, the Elders, the city’s highest magistrates; it then became the city hall. It was renovated in the 15th century by Fioravante Fioravanti, when the Clock Tower (see photo #4) added. Another round of restorations were made in the 16th century.
Bologna's central square, the Piazza Maggiore, is a good starting point for a walking tour of this city. The most prominent building here is the Palazzo del Podesta, which served as the seat of municipal government for centuries. The Arengo Tower stands over the great palace.
At the south side of the square is the Flemish Giambologna's statue of Neptune, Roman god of the sea (Poseidon to the Greeks).
The current town hall is in the Palazzo d'Accursio, completed in the 16th century. In front is a statue of Pope Gregory XIII.
On the north side of the piazza is the Basilica of St Petronius, begun in 1390 but never quite completed. Antonio di Vincenzo, the noted Bolognese architect, designed it to be even more imposing, but it was just too costly and time-consuming. It's still a masterpiece of Italian Gothic architecture.
Piazza Maggiore is Bologna's most famous square, featuring one of the world's largest basilicas and a selection of fine palazzi, which makes it an ideal starting point for a tour of the city.
It's all-pedestrian, and is also a lovely place for a cappuccino and a gelato, or ice cream
- Basilica di San Petronio
- Palazzo Comunale
- Palazzo del Re Enzo
- Palazzo del Podesta'
Facing Basilica di San Petronio on Piazza Maggiore, il Palazzo del Podestà was built in 1200 as the seat of the podestà, the governing body. In its original form, the building was Gothic in style, more typical of Bologna's architecture of the period. However, in 1453, the façade was completely remade in the Renaissance form we see today. It was the work of Aristotile Fioravanti, a bolognese Renaissance architect who eventually moved to Moscow to build the Cathedral of the Assumption. Behind the palazzo is a vaulted passageway, Voltone del Podestà, above which stands the mediaeval tower, Torre dell'Arengo. The passageway connects Palazzo del Podestà to il Palazzo Re Enzo. The ground floor of the palazzo is used as a commercial space with a couple of pleasant cafés, a tourist office and other shops overlooking the spacious piazza.
Bologna's main square, Piazza Maggiore, is both its geographic centre and its cultural and political heart. The spacious piazza began to take on its current shape in the 13th century, and soon afterwards, it found itself encircled by the city's most important edifices. For the first time visitor, standing in the middle of la Piazza, as it is referred to locally, and gazing at the impressive architecture surrounding it could be an overwhelming experience. On one side is the enormous, albeit unfinished Basilica di San Petronio, and on the other three sides are monumental public palaces: Palazzo d'Accursio, Palazzo del Podestà, and Palazzo dei Banchi. The impressive Piazza Maggiore is connected to another square, Piazza del Nettuno, which is marked by the famous statue of Neptune.
Bologna's city hall for centuries, the magnificent Palazzo d'Accursio is a patchwork of buildings and architectural styles. Also known as Palazzo Communale, the city hall was first constructed in the late 13th century overlooking Piazza Maggiore. Neighbouring buildings were later acquired and adjoined to the main edifice, which also functioned as a stock exchange. Further renovations resulted in the construction of the clock tower, la Torre d'Accursio (15th century), and the addition of sculptures on the façade, such as those of the Madonna and Child by Niccolò dell'Arca (15th century) and of Pope Gregory XIII by Alessandro Menganti (16th century). Nowadays, the northern half of the building is a public library, Biblioteca Sala Borsa, whose glass floors reveal architectural remains from the Roman period. The other half of the palazzo houses a couple of museums, with a rich collection European art, and showcases several grand halls with stunning frescoes. For more photos of its exterior and interior, take a look at the Travelogues: "Palazzo d'Accursio Architecture" and "Palazzo d'Accursio - Interior."
Although built in 1412, il Palazzo dei Banchi obtained its beautiful façade in 1568. The Renaissance-style façade facing Piazza Maggiore was the work of the architect Jacopo Barozzi. The palazzo contains Bologna's most famous portico, il Pavaglione, which links Piazza Maggiore with Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio, the headquarters of the University of Bologna. Behind the Palazzo dei Banchi lies the traditional market area of Bologna which is connected to Piazza Maggiore via two passageways through the building.