Basilica di San Petronio


Basilica di San Petronio

Unfinished Gothic masterpiece

An unfinished façade forms the backdrop of Piazza Maggiore. Basilica di San Petronio is both a Gothic masterpiece and Bologna’s largest church – even the largest brick church and overall fifth-largest church in the world. Its unique mix of incomplete exterior and ostentatious interior makes it one of the biggest highlights of every city tour.

About its origin

In 1390 the city of Bologna contracted Antonio Di Vicenzo to build a large Gothic church. Originally supposed to be bigger than St. Peter’s Basilica at the time, the pope intervened and the idea was dropped. Constructions on the basilica stretched over several centuries and remained partly incomplete due to funds running out. That’s why the decoration of the central aisles, for example, was only finished in mid-17th century. It was handed over to the diocese in 1929 and only consecrated in 1954. Ever since the year 2000 the relics of Saint Petronius, the city’s patron saint, are kept here. The basilica also holds the remains of Napoleon’s sister Elisa Bonaparte.

The interior

While the face will hardly attract any second looks, its sheer monstrosity and the porta magna on the lower area aside, the interior of Basilica di San Petronio is very much worth seeing indeed. Kept classically in sober Gothic style, ten reddish pillars divide the church into three aisles. Cappella Bologni in the left side aisle houses spectacular frescoes by Giovanni da Modena telling stories about paradise and hell. The basilica even has its own sundial. Around noon sunrays shine through the elliptical-shaped eye in the roof arch allowing precise time measurement on the marble floor.

Opening hours

Monday 07:45-13:15 | 15:00-18:30  
Tuesday 07:45-13:15 | 15:00-18:30  
Wednesday 07:45-13:15 | 15:00-18:30  
Thursday 07:45-13:15 | 15:00-18:30  
Friday 07:45-13:15 | 15:00-18:30  
Saturday 07:45-13:15 | 15:00-18:30  
Sunday 07:45-13:15 | 15:00-18:30  

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