According to a documented tradition, the hill was the retreat of Saint Anthony of Padua between 1223 and 1227. In the early fifteenth century Osservanza was already an important monastery and in 1417 major works were started, to rebuild completely the church and the monastery. After the suppression from the French in 1812 the church was pulled down by Antonio Aldini to build his new villa. The new church of San Paolo in Monte dell’Osservanza of the Franciscan friars was rebuilt in neoclassic style in 1826, according to a project of the architect Vincenzo Vannini. Osservanza can be considered a museum itself, and so we can say that there is a museum inside a museum.
The attention of the friars for every religious work that they owned became a historical memory during the centuries, and in this way the fortunes of the Order are linked to the town of Bologna, from the very beginning, through the cult of objects, reliquaries, and sacred images that we find here.
Museum of Osservanza The Museum of Osservanza, that was set up in 2011 in rooms adjoining the Basilica of Osservanza, consists of a wide collection of high-quality paintings, polychrome earthenware, sacred objects, illuminated codices, printed books from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century and sculptures of the fourteenth and fifteenth century. The art works were completely restored. Among others: The “Crucifixion” by Orazio di Jacopo (1430); - the "Monogram" by Saint Bernardino of Siena (1423); - the "Madonna with child on a throne” from the fifteenth century;- the "Madonna with Child” by Sassoferrato (around 1659); - and the beautiful " Saint Rose of Viterbo” by Giuseppe Maria Crespi (1665-1747). The collection of polychrome earthenware from Bologna includes the “Head of a Franciscan friar” by Guido Mazzoni (around 1500); - the " Nativity Scene” and " Saint Dominic " by Angelo Gabriello Piò (mid-eighteenth century); - " Saint Onophrius” by Gaetano Gandolfi (late eighteenth century), - the " Novelty" by Filippo Scandellari (1790); - and the " Flagellation of Christ " by Algardi.
Missionary Museum of Chinese Art Inside the monastery, in 1940, the Museum of Chinese Art was set up, with a collection of artistic and artisan objects coming from missions in the Far East until 1948 (the last year of missions). The finds that are kept here have an ethnographic value or a historic- artistic value. The main interest of the friars in collecting those objects was to document the customs of the people that they intended to Christianize. The Museum is the result of the activity of Franciscan missionaries from Emilia who were in China before the second World War. An interesting art piece is the group of small votive statues of bronze, some of them golden, near cult images and symbols of popular religion. There are also some small wooden sculptures from the Hunan area depicting gods of the popular pantheon and small sculptures linked to the cult of ancestors. A series of finds and objects bear witness to other religious aspects. Next to them there are sacred images with a Christian subject that were made by Chinese artists and artisans. Other interesting objects are the embroidery works on silk and the paintings, the rich series of head gears of priests with the embroidered pattern of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the monogram of Saint Bernardino of Siena, made by skillful artisan women of the Hunan area and other refined art pieces. Besides in the Museum there are ethnographic finds from Central Africa (Zaire) and New Guinea, current destinations of missions of the Friars Minor of Emilia. The description is taken from "Arte cinese ed extra - europea (nel museo Missionario del Convento "Osservanza" Bologna)" - "Il Museo dell'Osservanza di Bologna" (guide to the art collections), by Donatella Biagi Maino.