The Basilica di Santo Stefano, also known as Sette Chiese (Seven Churches), is the most peculiar in Bologna. Its origins are still debated: according to some, it was built in 430 when the Bishop (who later became the Patron Saint of Bologna) decided to erect a building to be divided into seven churches which, as a whole, would represent the places where the Passion of Christ had taken place (which would in turn be testified by the name “Sacra Hierusalem”). Others believe it was commissioned again by Saint Petronio, but built on top of the ruins of a pagan temple, next to which other buildings were added: a copy of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and the buildings constructed between the 10th and the 13th century by the Order of Saint Benedict next to the chapel preserving the bodies of Saint Vitale and Saint Agricola (unearthed in 392 by Saint Ambrogio).
The churches of the Crucifix (on the right), of the Calvary (in the centre) and of Saints Vitale and Agricola (on the left) overlook the square. The first one dates back to Longobard times and now encloses the 1019 crypt with the body of abbot Martino. It was named after the crucifix found at its centre and attributed to Simone dei Crocifissi. The second church has a round shape and is dominated by a copy of the tomb of Christ (12th - 14th centuries) where the remains of Saint Petronio were once kept (they can currently be found in the Basilica dedicated to the Patron Saint). In the third church, well-known for its plain structure, there are the ancient graves of Saints Vitale and Agricola (the capitals belonging to previous Roman and Byzantine buildings and the remains of 6th century mosaic floors are or particular interest).
Pilato’s courtyard is remarkable for the marble basin donated by Longobard kings Liutprando and Ilprando, for whom Santo Stefano was the main religious centre. The church of the Trinità was restored between the 12th and the 13th centuries and is home to a lovely painted wooden crib by Simone dei Crocifissi (14th century). The Benedectine cloister is particularly appealing for its double open gallery (10th - 13th centururies), one of the most amazing examples of the Romanesque style in Emilia. Last but not least, the Museum that displays paintings, sculptures and other works of art from different periods is definitely worth a visit.
Source: Curia Arcivescovile and Le Chiese di Bologna (L'Inchiostroblu)