Photo of Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio

Visit Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio

The Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio is an important palazzo and historic research centre in the heart of Bologna in north-east Italy.

Discover the Palazzo dell Archiginnasio

Italy This Way review: the Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio is best known for the remarkable anatomical theatre, but there are other parts of the palace that are also very interesting and a visit is recommended - it was one of our favourite plces in Bologna

The palazzo was built around 1562 for Cardinal Carlo Borromea of Bologna in order to create a single location to act as the centre of the university of Bologna, which was at that point dispersed across numerous buildings in the city.

As a result the Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio contains two remarkable sections - the Anatomical Theatre and the Library - as well as a large hall that was where classes were carried out called the Stabat Mater.

This role continued until to the beginning of the 19th century. After this time, when the university moved elsewhere, the palazzo was used as a primary school, then as the city library.

Walls of the Anatomical Theatre in the Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio

You enter the Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio through quite a discrete passage under the 30 arcades of the palazzo that extend for 139 metres along the street, and reach a large open courtyard surrounded by the buildings of the palazzo, and overlooking the courtyard through two rows of arches.

The ceilings of the arcades around the edges of the courtyard contain various frescoes on their ceilings - those in the entrance are the most impressive - and other insignia and monuments.

Inside the palazzo even before you reach the 'main attractions' you can admire the beautiful decoration of the corridors, with many of the surfaces painted with frescoes, or incorporating statues.

The Anatomical Theatre (see below) is the main reason that visitors come to the palazzo, but your entrance ticket also includes access to the Stabat Mater hall, from where you can look into a section of the very impressive library (this is closed to the general public).

Anatomical theatre

The Anatomical Theatre was built in 1637 and used to teach anatomy by using dissections in front of an audience of students. It is a large hall, with tiers of benches around the edges and a large table for dissection in the centre, all constructed of wood.

Around the walls you can see numerous statues of physicians that were well known in Bologna at that time, and on the ceiling there is an imposing statue of Apollo.

The statues to the sides of the lecturer's chair are the most famous and represent two skinless characters.

Note: the Anatomical Theatre was very badly damged during the Second World War, so what we see today is a reconstruction, wherever possible using parts retrieved from the site: the work is to an exceptional standard, and it is unlkely you would notice!


Stabat Mater Hall

The Stabat Mater Hall is one of two large lecture halls in the palazzo: this one was used by the lawyers and the other (now the reading room for the library) was used by the artists. There are also ten classrooms on this level.

The walls of the Stabat Mater are covered with various monuments, awards and scripts and includes a large fresco of the Virgin and Child and an imposing monument to the German state, both from the 16th century.

The room was given this name in the 19th century, after the first performance of the Stabat Mater by Rossini was held here.

From a doorway in the side of the Stabat Mater you can look into a part of the library, also largly unchanged since the 16th century, with shelves of ancient books and walls covered with paintngs and insignia, a very beautiful room.

Library in the Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio

Attractions nearby

For other places of interest in the city, see the Bologna guide.

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

See also Find Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio hotels

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Map of Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio and places to visit


Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio places to visit

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