The Municipality of Bologna has recently taken the first step towards the candidacy of the city’s arcades as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Meanwhile, the cleaning and restoration works have also begun, which symbolically concern first the record porch, the one that leads to the Basilica of San Luca.
Right from Porta Saragozza, along the ring road, begins the longest portico in the world, which leads up to the top of Colle della Guardia and the Basilica of San Luca.
There are 3,796 meters of covered and well paved path, made of 316 arches for the stretch of plain from Porta Saragozza to the arc of Meloncello, and of 350 arches for the hill from Meloncello to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, for a total of 666 arches.
The number of arches has a deep symbolic meaning: 666 is the diabolical number and the long sinuous portico recalls the serpent, or the devil, and ending at the foot of the Sanctuary refers to the iconography of the defeated devil and crushed under the foot of Madonna.
The walk to climb to the top of the Colle della Guardia is a tradition that began in the 12th century, when the first church was built to guard and protect an icon of the Byzantine school that depicts the Madonna and child and that the religious tradition attributes to San Luca.
The cult of this Madonna of San Luca was immediately such that the influx of pilgrims required a larger and more adequate church, and so in 1194 the first building stone was laid directly from Rome and blessed by Pope Celestine III.
For centuries, thousands of pilgrims traced the ascent to the hill simply with the work of their steps: first a simple path and then a mule track, paved to facilitate the journey. However, everything changed in 1674, when work began on the portico, which is still the longest in the world today
The construction of the portico was completed by the Bolognese architect Carlo Francesco Dotti (1670-1759) who was also responsible for the construction of the new basilica of San Luca and the Arco del Meloncello, the point where the porch begins the uphill path to the summit of the Colle della Guardia. The portico deserves to be covered all the way to the basilica: the view from the top of the hill will be a further prize, in addition to the suggestion of moving inside this long corridor of arches and columns.