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Basilica di San Petronio

Basilica of St. Petronius

Piazza Maggiore - 40124 Bologna (BO)

Phone +39 051 231415

Reference maps: D-4

Date of last update: 23/01/2020, 14:29

Named in honour of Bologna patron Saint Petronius - 8th bishop of the city from 431 to 450 - the Basilica is the most imposing and important church in Bologna (132m long, 66m wide, 47m high). The construction started in 1390 under the supervision of architect Antonio di Vincenzo. In 1514, Arduino degli Arriguzzi designed a new Latin-cross layout that would overtop St Peter's Church in Rome. According to the legend, Pius IV stopped the construction of this megalomaniac dream and pushed for the construction of the Archiginnasio instead. Even the facade remained incomplete. The central nave covering and the apse shooting, designed by Girolamo Rainaldi and directed by Francesco Martini, were completed only in 1663, while the lower naves were closed by rectilinear walls.
Built in 1470 by Lorenzo da Prato and featuring the most prestigious and oldest functioning organ in the world, the Bologna musical Chapel was once very famous. Another more recent organ (1596) belongs to Baldassarre Malamini, which is also still functioning despite being 400 years old.
In 1894, the Museo di San Petronio designed by T. Azzolini opened.
There are then four stone crosses between the chapels 1-2, 9-10, 13-14, 21-22 that, according to legend, were placed by St Petronio at the corners of the city limit, which was then defined over the following centuries with selenite walls.

Façade - In 1538, Giacomo Ranuzzi started the marble facing designed by Domenico da Varignana, which though remained incomplete. The finished part was decorated with works by sculptors Jacopo della Quercia, Amico Aspertini and Alfonso Lombardi.

Main doorway - Dating back from 1425, the central door is a masterpiece by Jacopo della Quercia. Old Testament's scenes are represented on the pillars as well as 18 prophets on the archivolt. New Testament's scenes are instead represented on the architrave, then a beautiful Madonna and Child and Saint Ambrose and Saint Petronio on the tympanum. The centre of the tympanum's arch is by Amico Aspertini.

Side doors - Alfonso Lombardi’s "Resurrection" on the left door and Amico Aspertini’s "Deposition" on the right one are both noteworthy.

Sides and Bell tower - The sides are made of red bricks arranged to create cuspidate chapels. The ornaments of the first two windows (1393) were designed by Antonio di Vincenzo with the collaboration of Francesco di Simone, Domenico da Milano, Pagno di Lapo Portigiani and Antonio di Simone. The bell tower was designed by Giovanni da Brensa. (1481-1487);

Interior - Even though the interior of the temple was built up over different periods, it has marvellous classical features, far from the Gothic beyond the mountains. It is divided in 3 naves supported by ten pillars with polygon ribs overlooked by arches and vaults: the bays of the main nave have a square shape. In the smaller naves there are twenty-two chapels:

St Abbondio Chapel (I) - formerly dei Dieci di Balia In 1865, Albino Riccardi restored it in the false Gothic style. The only older element is the ornamental decoration with the patrons’ coats of arms (1397) as well as two large frescoes touched up by Giovanni da Modena (around 1420): "Trionfo della chiesa cattolica sull'eresia" (Triumph of the Catholic Church over Heresy) is on the right  while "Redenzione del peccato originale" (Redemption from the Original Sin) is on the left. In 1530, Charles V was crowned emperor by Pope Clement VII in this chapel.

St Petronius Chapel (II) - formerly Cospi and Aldrovandi Designed by Alfonso Torreggiani to contain the relic of St Petronius' head. The vault was decorated by Stefano Orlandi and Vittorio Bigari.

St Ivo Chapel (III) - formerly di S.Brigida dei Foscherari Statues by Angelo Piò, an altarpiece depicting the  "Madonna di S: Luca e Santi Emidio e Ivo" (Madonna of St Luca, St Emidio and St Ivo) by Gaetano Gandolfi and on its walls there are illusionistic quadrature by Prospero Pesci, “S. Carlo Borromeo” by Francesco Bizzi and "L'apparizione della Vergine a S. Francesca Romana" (The Apparition of the Virgin to St Francesca Romana) by Alessandro Tiarin (1615) can be found in this chapel.
Two of the first clocks made with pendulum correction in Italy, designed by Domenico Maria and Cristino Fornasini (1758), cover part of the following pillar;

Three Kings’Chapel (IV) - formerly Bolognini and Salina Amorini This is the only chapel that features almost intact original ornaments. The marble Gothic railing was designed by Antonio di Vincenzo (1400). The "Wooden Polyptych” and polychromatic windows were painted by Jacopo di Paolo. The walls were sumptuously frescoed by Giovanni da Modena with a cycle depicting " Heaven" and " Hell" on the left side, "Le storie dei Re Magi" (The Stories of the Three Kings ) on the right wall and"Consacrazione di San Petronio" (The Consecration of St Petronio) with scenes from his life on the back wall;

St Sebastian's Chapel (V) - formerly Vaselli - In this chapel, you can admire the large temperra painting "St Sebastian's Martyrdom", "Our Lady of the Annunciation" and the twelve "Apostles" designed on canvas by Lorenzo Costa; "The Annunciation Angel" painted by Francesco Francia;

St Vincenzo Ferrer's Chapel (VI) - formerly Griffoni, Cospi and Ranuzzi - You can admire the large painting with the Saint by Vittorio Bigari (on the right)

St James Chapel (VII) - formerly Rossi and Baciocchi Lorenzo Costa's wonderful masterpiece "Madonna in Trono" (Madonna on the Throne) (1492) can be found on the altar. The polychromatic large windows are also attributed to him. The tomb on the right-hand side was designed by Antonio Serra (1845) and contains the remains of Prince Felice and of his wife Elisa Bonaparte;

St Rocco’s Chapel (VIII) - formerly Malvezzi Ranuzzi - On the altar you can find the Parmigianino "St Rocco" (1527). The large windows were designed by Achille Casanova (1926);

St Michael Chapel (IX)- formerly Barbazzi and Manzoli " L'Arcangelo Michele che scaccia il demonio" (Michael the Archangel crushing the Devil) " by Donato Creti (1582) is found on the altar, with the terracotta bust of Andrea Barbazza by Vincenzo Onofri (1479) on the left;

St Rosalia Chapel (X) - formerly Sedici del Senato, now del Municipio The altar piece depicts "Gloria di S. Barbara e punizione del padre omicida" (St. Barbara’s Glory and the punishment of her murderer father) by Alessandro Tiarini. The Neo-Gothic walls and the frescoed walls are by Gioacchini Pizzoli (1723).

St Bernardino Chapel (XI),

Main Chapel The four Veronese marble columns belong to the large tabernacle designed by Vignola. The large wooden "Crucifix" with cherub heads on the altar was made by an unknown artist in the 15th century. On the back of the apse, there is an imposing fresco depicting "Madonna with St Petronio" by Marcantonio Franceschini and Luigi Quaini on models by Cignani (1672);

The relics’ Chapel (XII) - formerly Zambeccari - The bell tower is on it.

St Peter Martyr Chapel (XIII) - formerly della Società dei Beccari the marble transenna with cherub heads (late 15th century) is by Francesco di Simone while the altar piece is by Passerotti;

St. Cross Chapel (XIX) - formerly Rinaldi There are frescoes by Francesco Lola, Giovanni da Modena and Pietro Lianori The magnificent large window was created by the blessed brother Giacomo da Ulma according to Michele di Matteo’s design.

Santissimo Chapel (XV) - formerly Malvezzi Campeggi The current appearance dates back to 1814 (Angelo Venturoli). On the altar, in a niche designed by Vignola, there is the "Trono del Santissimo" (Santissimo’s Throne) by Alessandro Algardi, who took the marble from the ruins of Ancient Rome;

Immacolata’s Chapel (XVI) - formerly Fantuzzi - Fully decorated by Achille Casanova and by Renato Pasqui;

St Girolamo’s Chapel (XVII) - formerly Castelli - The Saint on the altar is by Lorenzo Costa;

St Lorenzo’s Chapel (XVIII) - formerly Garganelli, Ratta and Pallotti - You can find the "Pity" by Amico Aspertini;

St. Cross Chapel (XIX) - formerly Rinaldi  - You can find Francesco Lola, Giovanni da Modena and Pietro Lianori’s frescoes. The magnificient large window was created by the blessed brother Giacomo da Ulma according to a Michele di Matteo’s design.

St Ambrose Chapel - formerly Marsili The altar features a frescoed polyptych found during the restoration depicting St Ambrose, two warrior saints, Pity and the Annunciation. The style resembles that of Vivarini (mid- 15th century);

St Brigida Chapel - formerly Pepoli The polyptych on the altar is by Tommaso Garelli (1477). The polychromatic bust depicting the Saint was made  by Giovanni Romagnoli;

The counter facade – Starting from the left, there is the smaller door ornament created by Francesco da Milano and designed by Alfonso Lombardi,  a Lombardi relief of the "Incontro di Gioacchino" (Gioacchino’s Encounter) on the golden door, and a sepulchral brick-work monument by Zaccaria Zacchi (1526). The ornament of the other smaller door is by Alfonso Lombardi;

St Petronius Meridian In 1656, after Egnazio Danti’s meridian was destroyed during the extension of the church, Gian Domenico Cassini, a teacher in Bologna, invented and created a new one. In order to calculate it, Cassini used some instruments now on show at the Museum. St Petronius’ Meridian is the longest in the world (length: 67.72m, light hole: 27m from the ground, distance between solstices: 56m); its length corresponds to the 600000th part of the earth meridian. In 1775, it was restored by astronomer Eustachio Manfredi, who substituted the iron line with a brass one.

by bus: lines and timetables on the website www.tper.it
by car: located in restricted traffic zone ZTL. Ring road exits n. 11/11bis-12 direction city center.

Basilica di San Petronio
Free entrance - Foto ticket € 2

Cappella dei Magi
Admission ticket € 3.00 - Group € 1

Panoramic terrace*
Admission ticket € 3.00
Free entrance: Bologna Welcome Card PLUS holders, Amici di San Petronio members, priests, monks, children up to 12.
*The visit takes approximately 30 minutes. Access to the panoramic terrace is allowed to max. 25 persons at the same time. 

For groups reservation is required.
 +39 346 5768400 every day from 10am to 6pm

Basilica di San Petronio

Monday to Friday 7:45am-1:30pm and 3.30pm-6:30pm

Saturday: 7:45am-1:30pm and 2:30pm-6:30pm

Sunday 7:45am-1:30pm and 2:30pm-7:00pm

During the religious services, the tourist visit could be limited or suspended.
Opening times can be subjected to little changes.

For further information: 
+39 051 6480611 Curia Arcivescovile

Panoramic terrace (54 meters in height) - entrance on the side Piazza Galvani. Access is by lift or by stairs (from the scaffold)
Monday-Thursday: 10am-1pm, 2.30pm-6pm
Friday-Sunday: 10am-1pm, 2:30pm-6:30pm
Opening hours can be changed on the occasion of special events.

Cappella dei Magi
Every day 9am - 5pm

At the entrance, Police controls are possible of backpacks and bags. In case of visit it is advisable not to bring large backpacks and bags with you.

Audioguide use is requested for groups of min. 7 persons + guide.
Reservations:  emiliaromagna@toursound.it info +39 349 1998587

Guided Tours: it is possible to attend 1-hour tour in: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Hungarian. Booking required within 2 days prior to the date of visit.
Visit Fee: € 50.00 for 5 persons + € 3.50 every additional person
Info and reservations: +39 346 5768400 - prenotazioni@succedesoloabologna.it

Basilica di San Petronio