Basilica of San Petronio - Table of Contents  .............................Architecture Around the World

Exterior - Basilica of San Petronio
Piazza Maggiore, Bologna, Italy

(pronounced boh loan ya)

Construction begun:
Architect: Antonio di Vincenzo (1350 − 1401/1402), native of Bologna
Facade begun:
Saint Petronius, who was the bishop of Bologna in the fifth century.
Transfer from the city to the diocese:
Church status:
 Consecrated as a minor basilica in 1954
Other unfinished church facades:
Basilica of San Lorenzo , Florence, Italy
February 2020 photos

Partial reprint
The Basilica of San Petronio: The Biggest Church in the World…if the Pope Had Allowed it
By Dhwty
April 3, 2016
Ancient Origins (online June 2020)

The Basilica of San Petronio is one of the most important churches in Bologna, the largest city (and the capital) of the northern Italian administrative region of Emilia-Romagna. The basilica is often mistaken for the city’s cathedral, due to its central position on the Piazza Maggiore, and enormous dimensions. Additionally, this basilica is the 15th largest church in the world, though it was originally planned to be the world’s largest.

The construction of the Basilica of San Petronio commenced during the final decade of the 14th century, though its current form was attained around the middle of the 17th century. This basilica [basilica style] is dedicated to St. Petronius, who “takes precedence over St. Francis” in Bologna. By the way, the feast days of St. Petronius and St. Francis of Assisi (one of the patron saints of Italy) are on the same day, i.e. October 4th.

During the time of the basilica’s construction, Bologna was an independent city state. This means that the city was ruled by its own citizens, rather than by a noble family, the Papacy, or even by a foreign power. Therefore, the basilica might have been constructed in order to symbolize the freedom that the people of Bologna enjoyed at that time. In 1388, the Commune of Bologna passed a resolution to build the basilica, and in 1390, the first stone of the basilica was laid.

The plan to make the Basilica of San Petronio the largest church in the world seems to have been maintained despite the slackening pace of the building work. According to one story, Pope Pius IV, who reigned during the 16th century, was alarmed by what the Bolognese were doing (as it would overshadow St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome), and decided to halt their ambitions. In 1562, the pope ordered the construction of a university building adjacent to the basilica, effectively preventing any future construction of the basilica to be carried out in that area.

Upper half made of bricks   ...   Marble facade, begun in 1514, unfinished because of lack of funds

Cross bottony top finial

Roman and sawtooth bricks on upper half of facade

Two details below:

Detail #1 - Crockets

Detail #2 - Niches featuring pinnacles and twisted columns

Left portal   ...   Three details below:

Left portal
Tympanum The Resurrection    ...   Sculpted by Alfonso Lombardi

Left portal
Surrounding  bas-reliefs by Amico Aspertini, Alfonso Lombardi and Properzia de’ Rossi, one of the rare female sculptors of the Renaissance.    ...   Paneled pilaster features Biblical scenes   ... Second panel detailed below:

Left portal

Center portal  
unfinished central doorway, c. 1425-1440, was created by the sculptor Jacopo della Quercia who decorated the door frames with bas-reliefs depicting the story of Genesis.     ...    Jacopo della Quercia’s innovative, ‘muscular’ style, would influence Michelangelo, who spent some time in Bologna as a young man. Michelangelo  reproduced some of the panels in his figures in the Sistine Chapel.   ...   Tympanum depicts Madonna and Child, Saint Ambrose and Saint Petronius

Center portal  
Left: Saint Ambrose is carved by Domenico Aimo in 1510.   ...  San Ambrogio / St. Ambrose (c. 340-397), bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century   

CenterMadonna and Child   ...   Michelangelo called the Madonna "the most beautiful Madonna of the fifteenth century"

Right:  San Petronio / St. Petronius of Bologna (died ca. 450 AD), bishop of Bologna, patron saint of the city   ...    Holds a model of Bologna in his right hand

Center portal  
Jamb   ...    Five Garden of Eden panels on the  pilaster are detailed below:

Center portal  
God creates Adam

Center portal  
God creates Eve

Center portal
Temptation by the Serpent  

Center portal  
Banishment from the Garden

Center portal
Adam & Eve after Banishment

Right portal  
TympanumDeposition from the Cross, Virgin St. Mary and St. John the Evangelist   ...    Tympanum  sculpted by Amico Aspertini (Nicodemus and Christ), Il Tribolo (Virgin) and Ercole Seccadenari (St. John)   ...   Surrounding  bas-reliefs by Amico Aspertini, Alfonso Lombardi and Properzia de’ Rossi, one of the rare female sculptors of the Renaissance.   ...   Two upper left pilaster panels detailed below:

Right portal

Right portal
Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist

Photos and their arrangement 2020 Chuck LaChiusa
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