Bologna Information

Bologna History

Bologna was founded by the Etruscans, who called it Felsina. Later it fell into the hands of the Boii, a Gallic tribe, and from that time took the name of Bononia, whence the present form. In 189 B.C. the Romans established a colony there, which was enlarged and beautified by Augustus. After Byzantium had broken the power of the Goths in Italy, Bologna belonged to the Exarchate of Ravenna (536). As a result of a donation by Pepin, Bologna was made part of the patrimony of the Holy See, but during the disturbances of the 9 C it was wrested from the popes. At the beginning of the 9 C it was laid waste during the incursions of the Hungarians. Otto I did much to restore the city to its former condition, giving it the privilege of enacting its own laws, and making it directly dependent on the imperial authority. Bologna was then governed by consuls. During the struggles between the empire and the popes, the city took the part of the latter and was enabled to assert its independence, which was definitively recognised by Henry V in 1122. Bologna was among the first to join the Lombard League. From 1153, it was ruled by podestas, who were for most part foreigners. From the accession of Frederick II, Bologna was split between Guelphs and Ghibellines, the former being in the majority. On 26 May, 1249 at the battle of Fossalto, the forces of Bologna conquered the troops of Frederick II under the leadership of King Enzo (Ezzelino). Enzo himself was taken prisoner, and neither the threats nor the promises of Frederick availed to secure his liberty. He remained in captivity until his death eleven years later.

In 1276, in order to safeguard their communal liberty more thoroughly, the inhabitants of Bologna placed themselves under the protection of the Holy See, and Pope Nicholas III sent them as legate his nephew, Berotoldo Orsini, whom he also commissioned to reconcile the opposing factions. In the 14 C, the preponderance of power was in the hands of the Pepoli family, but later passed to the Visconti of Milan, who alternated with the Bentivoglio family in holding the reins of power. At intervals, the popes attempted to make their authority recognised, or else the city spontaneously recognised their sovereignty (1327-34; 1340-47; 1360-76, through the efforts of Cardinal Albornoz; 1377-1401; 1403-11, during the pontificate of John XXIII; 1412-16; 1420-28, under Cardinal Condulmer). At the beginning of the 15 C, there were frequent popular uprisings against the nobility. From 1443 to 1506 three of the Bentivoglio family succeeded each other as rulers of Bologna. In 1506 Julius II incorporated Romagna into the papal states, Bologna included. The city, however, retained a great degree of communal autonomy. The papal authority was vested in a legate, who in the beginning was generally a cardinal but later, however, was only a titular bishop. In 1796 Bologna was occupied by the French and made a part of the Cisalpine Republic, and afterwards of the Italian Kingdom. In 1814 it was seized by the Austrians, who in 1815 restored it to the pope. From the time of its restoration, Bologna was the scene of a series of deep-seated agitations and revolts against the papal rule. These uprisings were repressed by Austrian troops. Finally, in 1859 Romagna, together with the Marches and Umbria, was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.

Bologna in Emilia Romagna

Bologna architecture

Christianity in Bologna

The only sources for the history of the beginnings of Christianity in Bologna are legendary accounts, according to which St. Apollinaris, disciple of St. Peter and first Bishop of Ravenna, was the first to preach the Gospel in Bologna. The first bishop is said to have been St. Zama, who is supposed to have been ordained by Pope St. Dionysius (270). However, it may be maintained with certainty that Christianity, and likewise the episcopate, in Bologna dates back to a more remote period. During the persecution of Diocletian, Bologna was the scene of the martyrdoms of Sts. Vitalis and Agricola, whose bodies were interred in a Jewish cemetery and only discovered in the time of St. Ambrose, in 392, as related by him in a letter, the authenticity of which, however, is questioned. The fact is referred to perhaps by Paulinus in his life of the saint, when he speaks of Ambrose taking to Florence some relics of these martyrs. It was possibly during the same persecution that the martyrdom of St. Proculus occurred. The episcopal See of Bologna was first subject to the Metropolitan of Milan, and later, probably after Milan had fallen into the hands of the Lombards, it recognised the authority of the Metropolitan of Ravenna. In 1106 it was placed immediately under the Holy See. Finally, in 1582 Gregory XIII raised the Bishop of Bologna to the dignity of a metropolitan, assigning him as suffragans the Sees of Imola, Cervia, Modena, Reggio, Parma, Piacenza and Crema. Today, however, only Imola and Faenza are suffragan to Bologna.

Among the Bishops of Bologna worthy of note are Sts. Faustinianus, Basil and Eusebius, in the fourth century. About 400, there is a record of St. Felix, succeeded about 430 by St. Petronius, who is extolled for having restored the church of Bologna, and who later became patron of the city. His relics are preserved in the church of San Stefano. A number of the Bishops of Bologna were later raised to the papal chair, including John X, Cosimo Migliorati, who assumed the name of Innocent VII; Tomaso Parentuccelli, later Nicholas V; Giuliano della Rovere, who became Julius II; Alessandro Ludovisi, Gregory XV; and Prospero Lambertini, Benedict XIV. The last two mentioned were born in Bologna. Other celebrated bishops were: Cardinal Filippo Caraffa (1378-89); Cardinal Antonio Correr (1407-12); Blessed Nicolˇ, Cardinal Albergati (1417-34); Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggi, known for the many embassies on which he was sent to Germany and England, in connection with the Reformation and the marriage of Henry VIII (1523-25). After Bologna became an archiepiscopal see, almost all the metropolitans were cardinals, among whom may be mentioned: Gabriele Paleoti (1591-97), who left the cathedral as it exists to-day, built the episcopal palace, and endeavoured to put the Tridentine reforms into execution in Bologna; Vincenzo Malvessi (1754-75), to whom the cathedral and the seminary owed much; Carlo Opizzoni (1802-55); Michele Viale PrelÔ (1855-60); Lucido Maria Parocchi (1877-82). Bologna was also the birthplace of the following popes, in addition to the two already mentioned: Honorius II (Lamberto Scannabecchi), Lucius II (Gherardo Caccianemici dell' Orso), Alexander V (Pietro Filargo), Gregory XIII (Ugo Buoncompagni), and Innocent IX (Giannantonio Facchinetti).

Churches of Bologna

The Duomo (cathedral) of Bologna. The most important of the churches of Bologna is the cathedral, dedicated to St. Peter and erected by the commune in 910 to replace the ancient cathedral which stood outside the city walls. It was destroyed by fire in 1130, but rebuilt in 1165 and in its present form it dates from 1605, according to plans drawn by the Magenta, a Barnabite. The fašade, however, was designed by Alf. Torreggiani, who also added the first two chapels to the church. The majority of the paintings are by famous masters, including Ventura da Bologna, Ercole Graziani, Francesco Tadolini, Onofrio Zanotti, del Bagnacavallo (Bartolommeo Ramenghi), Ludovico Caracci, and others. There is also a lower church with five altars. Worthy of note is a crucifix of cedar wood dating from the time of the old cathedral.

The church of San Petronio, dedicated to the patron of the city, was built by order of the Secento, at public expense, in 1390. A competition was announced for the plans and among all the designs the preference was given those of Antonio Vincenzi, while the supervision of the work of erection was entrusted to Andrea Manfredi da Faenza. However, the original drawings, providing for an octagonal dome 500 feet high, were not adhered to. The fašade still remains incomplete, only the lower part being covered with sculptures in marble. The ornamentation of the larger door is the work of Pietro della Fonte. Many of the figures compare favourably with the works of an age in which the art was more highly developed. In the architrave is the Madonna and Child. The two naves are adorned with statues of Sts. Petronius and Ambrose. The carving of the doors was done by Sigismondo Bargelloso, aided by Andrea Magnani and Gabriele di Zeccaria. The two side doors are also adorned with magnificent carvings, the work of other artists. It is a three-naved church, the twenty-three chapels being adorned with the masterpieces of distinguished artists of different ages. Worthy of note is the statue of St. Anthony of Padua by Sansovino. A sun-dial is to be found there, likewise two clocks, among the first to be made in Italy with pendulums.

The church of Corpus Domini, founded by St. Catherine de' Vigri, commonly known as St. Catherine of Bologna. The monastery of the Poor Clares adjoins this church. The mummified body of the saint, together with many objects used by her during life, is preserved in one of the chapels. There is also a beautiful church of St. Dominic, close by the Dominican convent in which the death of St. Dominic occurred. The tomb of the saint is in itself a veritable museum of works of art by the great masters. The casket was carved by Nicol˛ Pisano, and one of the angels was done by Michelangelo in his youth. The choir is beautifully inlaid with tinted wood, the work of Fra Damiano da Bergamo, a Dominican lay brother. The church is cruciform, and in one chapel of the cross is the tomb of King Ezzelino, in another that of Guido Reni.

The church of San Stefano is composed of a group of chapels once used by ancient monks from Egypt, who dwelt there before the time of St. Benedict. The site later passed into the hands of the Benedictines who erected there a monastery which in 1447 was reduced to the rank of an abbey to be held in commendam. In 1493, the Celstines took possession, and remained there until 1797. A tablet found there indicates that this was once the site of a temple of Isis. Among the different chapels should be mentioned Calvary, or of the Holy Sepulchre. It is octagonal in form and contains replica in marble of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The baptistery of the ancient cathedral was probably situated there. The chapels of San Giacomo Maggiore, built in 1267; San Giovanni in Monte, said to have been erected by St. Petronius and renovated in 1221 and 1824; San Isaiah the most ancient; Santa Maria di Galliera; Santa Maria dei Servi; San Martino; San Paolo; and San Francesco, still incomplete Ś all rich in monuments of artistic and historic interest.

A celebrated Certosa is situated outside of Bologna. It was built in 1334 and converted into a community burying-ground in 1802. The church attached to the convent is dedicated to St. Jerome. On the Monte della Guardia is the shrine of the Madonna di San Luca, which is connected with the Saragossa Gate by a portico with 635 arches 11,483 feet (2.17 miles), in length, constructed between 1661 and 1739. The shrine takes its name from a painting of the Madonna attributed to St. Luke, which was brought here in 1160 by Euthymius, a monk of Constantinople. The present church dates from 1731.

Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca Bologna

Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca

Municipal architecture of Bologna

With respect to secular architecture, the porticoes in which nearly all the roads terminate are of great interest, as are the famous towers, particularly that of the Asinelli, 320 feet in height, erected between 1105 and 1109, and nearby, that of the Garisendi, built in 1110, the inclination of which, it seems, was due to a subsidence of the earth in the 14 C, which carried away the uppermost part of the tower. It is 154 feet in height, and has an inclination of 7.77 feet. 

First among the palaces is that of the PodestÓ, a structure dating back to 1301, where the conclave for the nomination of John XXIII was held in 1410. It was remodelled in 1481. Next in importance are the communal palace, the civic museum and the Archiginnasio, the ancient university.