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2020-08-21 12:26:33

Basilica of St. Petronio in Bologna: a historic long-term construction

Basilica of St. Petronio in Bologna: a historic long-term construction

The largest church in Bologna, the Basilica of St. Petronio, impresses with its size and appearance. Its unique architecture makes a strange impression, the basilica is very different from the air temples of Florence, Milan, Siena. The temple was built in 2 tiers: the lower one is decorated with pink marble and fine carvings, and the second one looks like the upper floor of an early medieval castle or even a sturdy stone barn.

The Basilica of St. Petronio is not just historical, but an epic long-term construction. Construction began at the end of the XIV century and has not ended until now! For more than 7 centuries, famous Italian architects, sculptors of different times participated in the construction of the temple, plans and drawings were regularly changed.

The history of the Basilica of St. Petronio: the special fate of the temple

The construction of the temple of San Petronio was not an initiative of the church: on the contrary, the Pope obstructed the construction of the basilica, frightened by the grandiose plans of the inhabitants of Bologna. The city dreamed of a temple that would surpass the Cathedral of St. Peter in the Vatican in grandeur and beauty. Nevertheless, the Bologna residents have achieved something: it is the largest brick temple in the world, and among all the temples it is in 5th position in size.

Saint Petronio is the patron saint of the city of Bologna. The former bishop of Bologna in the 5th century helped to restore the city from ruins, began to build the Cathedral of St. Stephen on the site of the sanctuary of Isis. The authorities of Bologna introduced a special tax so that the gratitude to the saint for his prosperity became enormous. The city was located at the crossroads of trade routes, which contributed to its prosperity and ever-growing ambitions. Once the next idea to expand the cathedral by additions infuriated the Pope, and he ordered to build a building next to the basilica from materials prepared for the expansion of the temple.

The basilica is associated with historical events and names. In 1530, in an unfinished and unlit church, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was crowned. The ceremony was performed by Pope Clement VII. And 15 years before that, the dome was erected, but it collapsed due to the mistakes of the architects - constant changes in the plan required more careful calculations. A temporary roof was erected for the coronation ceremony.

For over 200 years under the roof of Saint Petronio was the University of Bologna (the first university in the world, founded in 1088). Then it found its own shelter and moved. Giovanni Cassini's astronomical laboratory was also located here in the 17th century.

Elisa, Napoleon's sister, lived in Bologna. Due to the defeat of her brother, she had to leave, but after Eliza's death, her husband bought a place under one of the chapels of San Petronio and buried his wife there. He was later buried next to her.

And only in the XX century, at last, the Basilica of St. Petronio receives recognition of the Catholic Church (1929), and the rite of illumination itself was held in 1954. In 2000, the Bologna residents put a fat point in the history of the temple, transferring to it the relics of St. Petronius, which were previously kept in the Cathedral of St. Stephen that he built. And the facade of the ancient basilica remained unfinished: all proposals of architects, even the most famous ones, were rejected.


Art objects as elements of the Basilica of St. Petronio

The best painters and sculptors of Bologna took part in the decoration of the Basilica of San Petronio. The statues that adorn the façade and interior of the temple once inspired the young Michelangelo: staying in Bologna, he came to admire the sculptures of the Virgin Mary, the prophets and Bishop Petronius.

Above the altar stands a 16th-century canopy - a ceremonial canopy decorated with white sculptures. The lower part of the facade, walls and columns of the basilica halls are faced with white and pink marble and are decorated with elaborate carvings. Talented sculptors also took part in 2 perfectly preserved organs of the 15th and 16th centuries.

The basilica is decorated with art canvases and frescoes. One of the 16th century frescoes has become provocative in our time, so the building is guarded from Muslim extremists (in 2002 they planned to blow up the temple). The fresco about the stay of the Muslim prophet in hell amazes with its plot and naturalistic details. The plot itself was taken from Dante's Divine Comedy, whose hero meets Muhammad on the last circle of hell. At the time of Dante Alighieri, the prophet Muhammad was considered a Catholic priest who caused schism and founded his own cult. Therefore, Dante could consider him an apostate. Muslim scholars believe that Dante was familiar with early Muslim ideas about the path of the prophet. According to these ideas, Muhammad was able to visit hell and heaven before becoming a prophet. Dante himself shows his loyalty to Islam: in the limbo, where the souls of people who did not go to heaven for reasons beyond their control are located, he meets Saladin, Avicenna and other Muslims.

Even the astronomer Giovanni Cassini took part in the decoration of the basilica: he created a 67-meter brass meridian on the floor of the basilica, decorated with marble with dates inscribed on them. The sunbeam penetrating through the opening in the roof indicates the day and month corresponding to the calendar. This meridian helped Cassini to confirm the theory of the Earth's rotation around the sun.

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Egor Eremeev
Current material has been prepared by Egor Eremeev
Education: Westminster University (Business & Management), London.
Egor studied and lived in the UK for 8 years and graduated from the university of Westminster. He is currently the co-founder and the director of business development at Smapse Education and personally visits foreign schools and universities, interviews students studying in those institutions.
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