From the historical centre, along the portico holding the world record, up to the hill of the Basilica.
Bologna is famous in the world to be the town of the porticoes, most of which are very ancient and were used for centuries to protect from the rain during strolls in Bologna.
This itinerary which goes up to the Colle della Guardia, for example, is all covered and walkable and, in the part that starts from Porta Saragozza, is 3,796 mt long with a unique portico, including the elevated pedestrian crossing (covered) of the street.
Following a common theme (fil rouge) concerning also the Basilica di San Petronio, it is possible to start from the Archiginnasio portico, on one side of the basilica, going ahead towards via Farini and via De’ Carbonesi: on the corner with via Collegio di Spagna the chiesa di San Paolo Maggiore overlooks with its wide façade standing out like a stage.
The church was built in 1606 by the Chierici Regolari di San Paolo (the Barnabiti) thanks to father Giovanni Ambrogio Mazenta (1565-1635) architect and priest of the same confraternity.
The front, imposing and harmonious at the same time, was finished in 1636 by Ercole Fichi, a sculptor from Romagna known in Bologna.
The interior is amazing for the vaults painted by Antonio and Giuseppe Rolli, representing San Paolo in the Aeropagus in Athens (the supreme council in Athens). There are also works by Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri), by Giuseppe Maria Crespi, by Ludovico Carracci and a very beautiful high altar with a sculptural group by Alessandro Algardi: the Decollazione di San Paolo work of art dated 1644.
The church rises up on the side of the Collegio di Spagna where also King Charles I of Spain stayed for some months when he was crowned, in San Petronio, Charles V Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by pope Clemente VII in 1530. Perhaps also Charles will have walked along these porticoes to reach piazza Maggiore from his residence.
The Collegio di Spagna was built in 1364 thanks to a bequest of the archbishop of Toledo Egidio Carilla Albornoz that was appointed papal legate in Bologna. The building was the residence of the Spanish students that arrived here to attend the Studio, as it was called the university of the town.
The work was given to Matteo di Giovannello an artist from Umbria known as Gattapone, who had already built for the cardinal Albornoz some military fortifications among which the fortress of Spoleto which shows analogies with the Collegio di Spagna in the architectural solutions of the courtyard.
After the stay of Charles V the name became Real Collegio di Spagna and since then all the successors of the spanish throne have renewed the royal patronage to this spanish enclave in the heart of Bologna.
The Collegio looks out onto via Saragozza and going on – under the porticoes – along this street we get to the ring road and to Porta Saragozza. This door is one of the twelve ancient doors of entrance of the town and it shows the powerful stone city wall built to protect Bologna in the 14th century, in place of the wooden one. The walls were broken down in 1902 as a result of the urban expansion of the period.
Just from Porta Saragozza, after crossing the avenues, the longest portico in the world begins and it brings up to the top of the Colle della Guardia and to San Luca’s Basilica.
It’s a 3,796 mt walk covered and well paved, with 316 arches from Porta Saragozza to the Arco del Meloncello and with 350 arches along the way to the hill from Meloncello to the Sanctuary of Madonna di San Luca, for a total of 666 arches.
The number of the arches has a symbolic meaning: 666 is the devil number and the long winding portico recalls the snake, or the demon, that arrives on the feet of the Sanctuary symbolising the image of the devil defeated and crushed under the foot of Virgin Mary.
The walk to get to the top of the Colle della Guardia is a tradition that starts in 12th century, when it is built the first church to protect an icon of byzantine school representing Madonna and child and that the tradition attributes to Saint Luca.The worship of this Madonna di San Luca brought a lot of pilgrims and the necessity of building a larger church and for this reason in 1194 was put the first stone coming from Rome and blessed by the pope Celestino III.
For centuries thousands of pilgrims blazed the trail to the hill simply with their steps: at first it was a simple path then a mule track, paved to facilitate the way. Everything changes in 1674 when the works for the portico started designed to be still today the longest in the world.
The building of the portico was completed by the architect from Bologna Carlo Francesco Dotti (1670-1759) who designed the new Basilica di San Luca and the Arco del Meloncello, from where the portico starts its path up to the top of the Colle della Guardia.
The portico is worth a walk through up to the basilica. The view from the hill will be a further prize, in addition to the awesomeness of moving through this long corridor of arches and columns.
Who wants, can stop and rest at the Arco del Meloncello before starting the walk: leaving the portico in via Saragozza for the one of Dall’Ara stadium, with a short walk you can get to the Chiesa di San Girolamo della Certosa, old monastery that later became the town cemetery. Its origins date back to the settlement of the certosini in 1333. The church was then completed in the 17th century with the powerful bell tower overlooking the building.
The interior is rich of works of art with outstanding works by masters from the school of Bologna and with a beautiful wooden carved choir by Biagio de’ Marchi in 1539.
The church is surrounded by some very interesting cloisters like the one of the Chapel or of the Madonne, enriched with various sacred images, transferred from other churches in Bologna during napoleonic suppression at the end of the 18th century.
PLACES TO BE VISITED
•The porticoes and the changes of style and pavements among the palaces
•The chiesa di San Paolo Maggiore
•The byzantine icon of the Madonna of Basilica di San Luca
NOT TO BE MISSED
•The sculptural group by Alessandro Algardi of chiesa di San Paolo Maggiore
•The walk under the portico of San Luca
•The view from the top of the Colle della Guardia
© Copyright 2013 all rights reserved – Along the porticoes and at Saint Luca’s – It may not be reproduced in whole or in part.