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Photo of Basilica San Petronio, Bologna

Visit Basilica San Petronio, Bologna

The Basilica San Petronio is a very large church in the historic centre of Bologna in the north-east of Italy.

Discover the Basilica San Petronio in Bologna

The basilica is named for Saint Petronius, a bishop of the city in the 5th century who was later sanctified.

Italy This Way comment: the basilica San Petronio, the largest church in the city of Bologna, includes many interesting artworks and frescoes and there is a lot to see during a visit

Interior decoraion in the Basilica San Petronio

Although construction of th Basilica San Petronio started at the end of the 14th century, it was only consecrated in the mid-20th century and the facade - started in the first half of the 16th century - still remains unfinished.

To be honest, we would have assumed that it was a design feature to have the lower part in a more ornate finish than the upper part, and would not have realised it was "unfinished" if we had not been told!

After the church was constructed, it took until the end of the 15th century to add the side chapels (of which there are numerous) and the belltower, and the nave was not completed until the 17th century.

The original plan to have a large dome on the basilica was too costly, and work on this stopped after part of the structure to support the dome had been built. The original plan to build a church larger than the Cathedral of Saint Peter in the Vatican was stopped by Pope Pius.

An imposing church that is about 130 metres long and 66 metres wide, the facade of the basilica overlooks Piazza Maggiore: the lower half of the facade is decorated with marble, the upper half is in red brick.

 
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Visiting the Basilica San Petronio

Even before you enter the basilica you can admire the artwork in the main doorway which has numerous representations of Biblical stories, not just on the doors but also on the arch and pillars next to the doors and on the architrave and tympanum above the doors.

Inside Basilica San Petronio, the main nave is tall and has gothic style arches separating the nave from the side naves. It is very tall and full of light but is not exceptional: the highlights are to be seen in the chapels and around the edges of the basilica.

There is a large ciborium (covered altar), built at the end of the nave in the 16th century, that supports a large crucifix.

You can see numerous frescoes around the edges of the church, including one that represents Mohammed in hell and has provoked angry reactions and terrorist threats from Muslims. There are also several artworks of interest.

The Lamentation of Christ in the right nave is one of the most impressive artworks in the basilica with painted statues by Vincenzo d'Onofrio and was created in the 15th century.

Lamentatio of Christ in Basilica San Petronio

You can also see a "Cassini Line" in the basilica. This line is produced by recording the position of sunlight on the floor at midday each day (from a small hole high in the wall of the church) - each day of the year the position is slightly different, and together they create the Cassini line.

In the 16th century this was very useful information to record and allowed Cassini and other scientists to learn a great deal about the planets, the movement of the earth around the sun and other astronomical information.

There is no charge to enter the basilica, but if you want to take photos inside the basilica you need to pay about two euros for a 'photography pass'. You can also pay an additional three euros to climb to the terrace of the basilica for lovely views across the Bologna rooftops.

Note: you will also need to pay to rent a temporary cape if you want to enter the basilica San Petronio and you are not suitably dressed - shorts and short dresses are not permitted

Attractions nearby

Bologna has several very interesting monuments to visit: see the Bologna guide.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Emilia-Romagna guide.

See also: 

Photos of Basilica San Petronio, Bologna

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Map of Basilica San Petronio, Bologna and places to visit

 
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Basilica San Petronio, Bologna places to visit

Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio

Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio

The Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio has a remarkable anatomical theatre and a 16th century library to see

Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio guide
Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Vita, Bologna

Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Vita, Bologna

The Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Vita includes a very impressive baroque church and a remarkable 15th century Lamentation of Christ artwork

Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Vita, Bologna guide
Two Towers, Bologna

Two Towers, Bologna

The Two Towers in Bologna are two of the most imposing medieval towers remaining in the city

Two Towers, Bologna guide
Basilica of Saints Bartholomew and Gaetano in Bologna

Basilica of Saints Bartholomew and Gaetano in Bologna

The basilica of saint bartholomew and saint gaetano is a renaissance style minor basilica in the historic centre of Bologna

Basilica of Saints Bartholomew and Gaetano in Bologna guide
Basilica of San Domenico, Bologna

Basilica of San Domenico, Bologna

The Basilica of San Domenico is a very large church in Bologna, with the Tomb of Saint Domenico and carved stalls among the highlights

Basilica of San Domenico, Bologna guide
Santo Stefano church, Bologna

Santo Stefano church, Bologna

On the site of a Roman temple, there are seven connected churches in Santo Stefano

Santo Stefano church, Bologna guide

...or see all our recommended places to visit in Emilia-Romagna

 
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