The Basilica of San Petronio, the fifth largest in the world

The Basilica of San Petronio, in the Italian city of Bologna, is simply impressive. It is a temple of such dimensions that it simulates being a giant that dominates the Plaza Mayor of Bolognese. An urban space of the most eclectic and lively. A square that is absolutely impossible not to visit during a trip to Bologna.

The size of the Basilica of San Petronio

Let’s start talking about the most characteristic of the Basilica of San Petronio: its prodigious size. We are talking about a temple that reaches 130 meters in length, while its width is somewhat less than half, 60 meters. And as for the third dimension, the height, its dome rises 45 meters above the ground.

Its enormous dimensions make this Bologna temple the fifth largest church in Christendom.

However, it must be said that originally he still wanted to grow up, with the intention of overcoming St. Peter’s in the Vatican. But the pope of the time prevented it, saying that there could be no church greater than his.

Saint Petronius, patron saint of Bologna

The Basilica of San Petronio it is under the invocation of the patron saint of Bologna. It was in this city where the saint served as bishop back in the 5th century.

However, as a curiosity, we will tell you that his relics have not rested in this temple until the year 2000. And that the basilica began to be built at the end of the fourteenth century.

However, as we will see below, It is a work whose development has lasted hundreds of years. So much so that it was not consecrated until 1954. Anyway, we are going to tell you something about its history.

History of the Basilica of San Petronio

The beginning of the works of the Basilica of San Petronio took place in the year 1390. Some works that had to follow the project of the architect Antonio Vincenzi. However, just a dozen years later, with the death of the architect, there was a significant stoppage of work.

From here the construction work would continue until the 17th century. But not only that, but the façade of the basilica, still remains unfinished today. In fact, it only has its marble decoration in the lower area.

To a great extent, the tortuous constructive development of this church is due to the fact that the project was very ambitious. Neither more nor less than they wanted to make the largest church in the world. Something that in itself entails its risks.

But also, it was opposed by the papacy. In fact, in the 16th century, Pius IV, to prevent the Bolognese temple from being larger than the Vatican, had a university building built on a nearby site. In this way he was able to prevent the temple from continuing to grow.

Furthermore, that also had another consequence. for being so ambitious the authorities in Rome did not grant it the rank of cathedral. That is why the temple was not the seat of the diocese and its category is that of a basilica.

The interior of the Basilica of San Petronio

Beyond these disputes, the truth is that the Basilica of San Petronio has a maximum interest. The greatest Italian architects have passed through here, like Andrea Palladio, famous for his Venetian villas; Vignola, who worked with Michelangelo; or Rainaldi, who provided the temple with an outstanding decorative program in the Baroque style.

In addition to its architectural aspects, also inside there are many jewels. Some in the form of Gothic, Renaissance or Baroque paintings. Among all this, perhaps the most renowned are the frescoes in the Bolognini Chapel, painted by Giovanni de Modena.

A curiosity inside the basilica

Another element to pay attention to when visiting the Basilica of San Petronio is a long meridian line. It is a line drawn by the astronomer G. Domenico Cassini in the mid-17th century. Still today, with its 65 meters, it is the largest meridian that can be seen in the world.

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