* Between The Sea (the Med) and The Alps -- {Pronounce: ontruh la mair eh lay zalp}

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Bologna: Architecture & History

Bologna II 01In my last post, I introduced you to Bologna, Italy, viewed from a tourist's standpoint.  This time, I'm going to take you on a little guided visit of the city itself, as I saw it in a single day.  I love visiting these old European cities, many having had their heyday before my own country even existed.  Not only do I come from a newly developed country in the scheme of world history, but I spent most of my non-expat life in the newer parts of it.

I hope you will enjoy a bit of this part of the Old World from my perspective, especially if you've never had the opportunity to see it yourselves.

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Medieval wooden portico, XIV

While Bologna's history dates back to at least 1000 BC, it experienced a rapid expansion during the Middle Ages, and much of the current city dates back to the 11-15th centuries. 

When the homeowners were needing to expand their living space, they built porticos in front of their houses so they could create larger upper floors without blocking the passageways.  Eventually, the town decided that was a great idea also for the protection they offered from the weather. 

Thus, the Edict of 1288 required all buildings to provide these porticos.  Originally built in wood, by the 14th century they had to be built of brick and stone.  And that is why Bologna is known for its 24 miles/38 kilometers of arcades in the city center.

This 14th century house still has its original wooden pillars.

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Classy strolling
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Mixing arcade styles
As I walked around, I tried to capture the various sections of arcades that I thought were interesting. 

The left one is on a classy main street, the one on the right part of an older section.

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Dining by day
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Empty by night

This is a day and night view from both sides at the edge of the main square. 

The different times of day give a totally different feel, don't they?

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A protected walk
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Student hang-out
These two sets show distinctive aspects of the area.  As you can see on the left, Disney doesn't have a trademark on that Italian patched look.  You can find it everywhere.

On the right, I think this is in a really old section.  I was roaming at midday, and most of the arcades were full of students lunching.  As I wanted the arcades and not the students, I found this emptier group.  The detailed work is really pretty.

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Side street porticos
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Arcades on a main street
You can get a totally different impression by the light of night, even if I captured a really greenish look!

Not only can you see multiple sets of arcades in these two photos, you can also see some typical street views, including the very common scooter.

As I wandered, I came across this pretty triangular piazza with all kinds of different architecture, including a lot of green moss in the stone pavement.  I was there at a low daily sun period, but this area must not get a lot of direct sunlight at any time of year.  This triptych portrays the three sides of the square.  In the first picture you can see an example of the typical faded chalk façades so common in Italy.  

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Medieval market place
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Wealthy merchants homes
Basilica of Santo Stefano

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Church of the Crucifix in Basilica of Santo Stefano

Now we'll tour this church in the center, called the Basilica of Santo Stefano.  It's apparently one of the jewels of Bologna, dating back to the 4-5th centuries (but greatly renovated over time).

It's actually a complex of churches, locally referred to as the Seven Churches, but renovations have now reduced it to only four. 

This is the interior of the main church, originally built in the 8th century.  It's actually fairly plain for a major Italian church.  The tour carries on through a door in the front on the left.

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Church of the Holy Sepulchre, V
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Pilate’s Courtyard

First I'll show you the pretty architecture from the outside of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. 

This octagonal building was supposedly built in the 5th century.

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Tomb of St. Petronius, XII

Outside of this building is the courtyard of Pilate.  The basin comes from the 8th century.

The whole central area was surrounded by columns, which made my picture taking abilities a bit difficult.  Apparently, the structure in the center was the tomb of the patron saint of Bologna, St. Petronius, until 2000 when moved elsewhere.

While it can sometimes be difficult to separate tradition from reality, the fact remains that there were people who built these buildings, lived among them, and contributed to the history of civilization.  Trying to imagine their time periods can really bring the past to life.

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Mosaic floor tiling, VI
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Church of Saints Vitale and Agricola, IV
Passing into the next building, the Church of the Saints Vitale and Agricola, built in the 4th century and renovated in the 12th, one walks on a prettily tiled floor.  These may date from the 6th century.

Although it was fairly dark, I tried to capture the center aisle and the altar.  I wish there had been more information as to how much of what I was seeing might have been part of the original architecture.  Even the 12th century was a long time ago!

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Medieval fresco
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Wooden cross
In the side aisle, I came across this old fresco on the wall and this old wooden cross.

As many other labeled items seem to be from the 14th century, I'm assuming these have a similar age.

Did the artists have any clue somebody like me would be observing their work around 700 or more years later?  Do we consider any of our own accomplishments lasting as much as a single hundred years?

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Garisenda & Asinelli  Towers, XII

Leaving this Medieval church complex, I came across another similarly aged oddity.  For some reason, between the 12-13th centuries, building towers was the thing to do, a status symbol for affluence, and there were over 100 of them.  Then they started pulling them down; perhaps the towers were taking themselves down!  Only 21 still remain today.

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University of Bologna

Unfortunately, my photo doesn't show how the smaller of these two famous landmarks is leaning, but this is a rather nice image. 

They lowered the shorter one in 1360 before it could fall down, as it leans about 9 feet/3 meters due to an improper foundation.

I was pleased to capture a nighttime view of this clock tower.  It's part of the main building of the Bologna University.  The university system itself is a European invention, and this one is the oldest one in Europe in continuous use, dating from 1088.

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Neptune's light and shadow show
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Neptune's Fountain, XVI

At the other end of this building is Neptune's fountain, built in the 16th century.  I think it might be one of Bologna's most famous landmarks.

I think it's cool how the lighting creates this shadow.  No way it was done on purpose!

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Narrow street
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Typical street
Finally, here are two very different but typical looking street views with very typical architecture and definitely typical scooters.

Also quite common all over Italy are the rooftop gardens and ochre façades.

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Restored fresco in St. Giuliana's Chapel, XIV
I hope you've enjoyed my little mini-tour of this Medieval city.  As is quite typical all over Europe, Bologna is a curious mix of old and new, with emphasis on protecting as much of the old as is possible while promoting a vibrant modern life.

While I didn't capture any, I found it quite amusing to be touring sites around a 1000 years old, with signs telling you how to find out more on Facebook!  Such is life today.

1 comment:

  1. You do such wonderful travel commentary. Feel like I've been there! And, as always, your photography is so excellent. Love the rooftop garden idea.


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