In the alleys of the ancient market, between art, colours and flavours.
Quadrilatero is the heart of Bologna’s historic centre: one of the oldest areas of the city, created for the development of trade and crafts. It abuts Piazza Maggiore and the side of the Basilica of San Petronio which runs along Via dell’Archiginnasio and Piazza Galvani, Via Rizzoli, Piazza della Mercanzia/Via Castiglione and Via Farini.
Quadrilatero is a crossroads of narrow streets arranged in accordance with a Roman urban plan that, thanks to their original names, still bear witness to the network of activities and commerce that took place in past centuries: for example via degli Orefici (Goldsmith’s Street), via Pescherie Vecchie (Old Fisheries), via Drapperie (Drapers’ Street), via Calzolerie (Shoe Shops Street). And even today jewellers, typical Bolognese food shops, butchers and other crafts enliven daily life at Quadrilatero, together with places to stop for a drink or a snack, in the Petronian tradition.
Surrounded by street stands, old shops and bistros, you can admire a unique work of art for expressive strength and plasticity: it is the Compianto (Lamentation) by Niccolò dell’Arca, housed in the Church of Santa Maria della Vita, at via Clavature 10.
The building dates back to the midthirteenth century, while the work of art by Niccolò dell’Arca to 1463. The Lamentation over the Dead Christ is a sculptural group of terracotta made up of seven statues in natural size: Dead Christ surrounded by Nicodemus, Salome, the Madonna, St. John, Mary of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. The statues were originally multicoloured, as can be seen from some traces of colour still present, though perhaps natural terracotta makes the visual impact of figures around the reclining Christ even stronger.
The original layout of the scene is not documented with certainty and, as a result, the current arrangement of the statues is the result of deductive studies. Quadrilatero abuts some of the most representative monuments and buildings in Bologna, beginning with those surrounding Piazza Maggiore, such as Palazzo Re Enzo, bearing the name of Enzo of Swabia, King of Sardinia and son of Emperor Frederick II, who was kept prisoner here for 23 years. Enzo (1220-1272) was captured during the victorious battle of Fossalta, near Modena, in 1249 and never returned to his family, in spite of flattery, money and threats of his powerful father Emperor. The construction dates back to the first half of the third century and underwent its latest restoration in 1905, at the hands of Bologna-native Alfonso Rubbiani.
Palazzo del Podestà is also part of the same complex: behind this building lay two crossing roads making up the Voltone del Podestà, and on the vault rests the Arengo tower, at the top of which is Campanazzo, the historic bell that tolled when citizens were invited to gather on the occasion of special events. In front of Palazzo Re Enzo stands the Fountain of Neptune, by Giambologna (Jean de Boulogne 1529-1608), built in 1563: the original model of the statue is housed in the nearby Medieval Civic Museum. The west side of the square is occupied by Palazzo D’Accursio, seat of the Town Hall, while its most spectacular side is overlooked by Palazzo dei Notai (Palace of Notaries, the former seat of the guild, as evidenced by the emblem on the façade bearing three inkwells and goose feathers) and the Basilica of San Petronio, the last great example of Gothic architecture and sixth largest Christian church in the world.
The Church was dedicated to the Bishop, patron of the city, and its construction began in 1390 by Antonio di Vincenzo (1350-1402). Its singular façade remains incomplete to this day, and features a marble base on the lower part, on which three portals open. The interior includes 22 votive and celebrative chapels of the major Bologna families who financed the church construction, and a unique element: the floor of the left nave features the largest sundial in the world (67 metres long) for the study of solar revolutions detected through a hole on the dome, standing more than 27 metres above.
The sundial was created in 1655 by astronomer Gian Domenico Cassini, at that time Professor of Astronomy at the University of Bologna. It should also be remembered that Pope Clement VII crowned Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, in San Petronio, in 1530. Looking at the façade of the Basilica, on the left we find Palazzo dei Banchi, the last building erected in the square: in reality, it is an impressive façade created to hide the back alleys of the market.
Designed by Jacopo Barozzi, nicknamed il Vignola, it dates back to the second half of the sixteenth century. The façade is made up of fifteen arches, two of which, with a large vault, give access to Quadrilatero through via Clavature and via Pescherie Vecchie.
The arches of Palazzo dei Banchi are part of Portico del Pavaglione, and on via dell’Archiginnasio, standing on the side, is the Museo Civico Archeologico (Archaeological Civic Museum) where important findings of Villanovan, Etruscan, Gallic and Roman civilizations are on display. Under the Pavaglione, we also find Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio, built in 1562 by he Bologna-native Architect Antonio Morandi, called Terribilia.
Until 1803, it was the seat of the University, and from 1838 it has been housing the Civic Library. Inside the palace is the Anatomical Theatre, a spectacular wooden amphitheatre designed in 1637 for anatomical lessons by Bologna-native Architect Antonio Paolucci, nicknamed Levanti; the structure is enhanced by statues by Ercole Lelli.
Piazza Galvani is a few metres from the Archiginnasio, and right in front of the beautiful statue dedicated to Bolognese scientist (1737-1798) famous for his studies on muscular electricity stands the entrance vault to Corte dè Galluzzi, which still conveys well what was supposed to be a closed consortium area, just like a fort belonging to a single, powerful family, the Galluzzi family in this case.
The stone tower is the symbol of the strength and wealth of the clan to which it belonged: built in 1257, it is located at the centre of a small courtyard surrounded by buildings, though originally, houses (still in wood) were closer to the tower. 30 metre high, the tower is a true last impregnable bastion in which to find shelter in case of attack; its walls are of a seemingly unusual thickness and its only access is a little door placed almost 10 metres from the ground, which was accessed through wooden scaffolds mounted on the windows of adjacent buildings. Under the door, we can see the support holes used to support the posts of scaffolds. The access from the ground was created only recently, and by entering the room that currently houses a coffee shop, we can directly measure how thick the walls of this impregnable tower are.
The Court also connects with via D’Azeglio, with San Petronio behind us, we go up the street for a few dozen metres until we reach building number 52, the Church of San Procolo, one of the oldest in Bologna.
The first building dates back to the first Christian era and over the centuries it was first transformed into a Gothic structure (14th Century), then refurbished again at the hands of Antonio Morandi (Terribilia) and Domenico Tibaldi in the sixteenth century, and, finally underwent new changes by Alfonso Torreggiani in 1741.
In front of the high altar is the sarcophagus with the remains of St. Proculus, one of the first Christian martyrs, while the interior of the Church is enhanced by works of Lippo di Dalmasio, Bartolomeo Cesi and Giuseppe Pedretti. A few steps away, on via Tagliapietre, is the Monastery of Corpus Domini, also known as the Church of the Saint (Chiesa della Santa), because it houses the incorrupt body of Catherine of Bologna (1413-1463) foundress of the first convent of Clarisse nuns in Bologna.
Catherine was much loved in life and her cult began immediately after her death, well before she was sanctified, in 1712. The church was built in 1477, while the interior was renovated two centuries later and beautified by paintings by Marcantonio Franceschini and Ludovico Carracci.
The Church also houses the tombs of Luigi Galvani and Laura Bassi, the latter being one of the first female scientists active in the 18th century. But all eyes are for the Chapel of the Saint, which houses the incorrupt sitting body of Catherine. Nearby there is another church also serving as a municipal fourteenth to eighteenthcentury art gallery, displaying works by Vitale da Bologna, Lippo di Dalmasio, Simone dei Crocifissi, Alessandro Tiarini, Francesco Gessi, Guercino and Giuseppe Maria Crespi: it is the Church of the Santissimo Salvatore, on the corner between via Cesare Battisti and via Porta Nova.
The building has very ancient origins, and its current appearance dates back to its rebuilding in the early seventeenth century by Architect father Giovanni Ambrogio Magenta with the collaboration of Tommaso Martelli.
The style seemingly closes the Renaissance cycle and opens the Baroque era, and makes this church an important element in the transition between the two architectural styles.
The interior stands out for its wealth of works of art, including the famous polyptych by Vitale da Bologna with the coronation of the Virgin, The Madonna della Vittoria by Simone dei Crocifissi and a Saint Dominic attributed to Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) that is buried right in this church, as evidenced by the headstone in the centre of the floor in the nave.
• Shops and bistros in the medieval alleys
• Museo Civico Archeologico Archaeological Civic Museum
• The Fountain of Neptune
• The Basilica of San Petronio
• Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio
• The church of Santissimo Salvatore
NOT TO BE MISSED
• The Lamentation by Niccolò dell’Arca
• The Sundial inside San Petronio
• The Anatomical Theatre in Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio
• The body of Catherine of Bologna in the Church of the Saint
• San Domenico (Saint Dominic) by Guercino in the Church of Santissimo Salvatore
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