Basilica di Santo Stefano, also known as Sette Chiese (Seven Churches), is the most peculiar one in Bologna. Its origins are still at issue: according to some people, it was built in 430 when the bishop Petronio (now the Patron Saint of Bologna) decided to raise a building to be divided into seven churches, as a whole they were supposed to represent the places where the Passion of Christ had taken place (this would be testified by its old name: “Sacra Hierusalem”). Other people state that it was built on behalf of Saint Petronio on the ruins of a pre-existent pagan temple, next to which other buildings would be added: a copy of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and, next to the chapel preserving the bodies of Saint Vitale and Saint Agricola (unearthed in 392 by Saint Ambrogio), the buildings raised between the 10th and the 13th century by the Order of Saint Benedict.
From the wonderful square, the façade of three churches may be seen: the church of the Crucifix (on the right), the church of the Calvary (in the centre) and the church of SaintsVitale and Agricola (on the left). The first one dates back to the period of the Longobards and now preserves the 1019 crypt with the body of the abbot Martino and other valuable works of art; inside the second church there is a copy of the Christ Sepulchre (12th - 14th centuries) where the remains of Saint Petronio were once kept (at present, they can be found in the church dedicated to him in Piazza Maggiore); in the third church, well-known for its plain structure, there are the ancient graves of Saints Vitale and Agricola (there are also valuable capitals, first belonging to the Roman and Byzantine buildings, and the remains of the 6th century mosaic floors).
Pilato’s courtyard is remarkable for the marble basin offered by Liutprando and Ilprando, kings of the Longobards, who considered Saint Stefano as their main religious centre. The church of the Trinità was restored between the 12th and the 13th century, where a precious wooden crib by Simone dei Crocifissi may be admired (14th century). The Benedectine cloister is particularly appealing for its double open gallery (10th - 13th century), one of the most splendid works of art of the Romanesque style in Emilia. At last, it is worth visiting the Museum that hosts paintings, sculptures and other works of art from different periods.
Source: Curia Arcivescovile and Le Chiese di Bologna (L'Inchiostroblu)