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, which pretends to be a giant that dominates the Plaza Mayor Bolognese. An urban space of the most eclectic and lively. A place that is absolutely impossible not to visit during a trip to Bologna.

The size of the Basilica of San Petronio

Basilica of San Petronio

Let's start talking about the most characteristic of the Basilica of San Petronio: its portentous size. We are talking about a temple that reaches 130 meters in length, while its width is slightly 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 still wanted to get older, with the intention of surpassing Saint Peter of the Vatican. But the pope of the time prevented him, saying that there could be no church greater than his.

Saint Petronius, patron of Bologna

Door of the basilica - Parsifal / Wikimedia Commons

The Basilica of San Petronio is under the invocation of the patron saint of Bologna. It was in this city where the saint served as a bishop back in the fifth 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 14th century.

However, and 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

St. Petronio's Basilica - Gwendolyn Stansbury /

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

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

In large part, the tortuous constructive development of this church is because the project was very ambitious. Neither more nor less that the largest church in the world was to be made. Something that in itself entails its risks.

But also, there was the opposition of 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 managed to prevent the temple from continuing to grow.

In addition, that also had another consequence. For being so ambitious, the authorities of Rome did not grant him 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

Interior of the basilica - Adrian Scottow /

Beyond those disputes, the truth is that the Basilica of San Petronio has a maximum interest. The greatest Italian architects have passed through here, as Andrea Palladio, famous for its Venetian villas; Vignola, who worked with Michelangelo; or Rainaldi, which 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 of the Bolognini Chapel, painted by Giovanni de Modena.

A curiosity inside the basilica

Another element to look at the visit to the Basilica of San Petronio is a long meridian line. It is a line that the astronomer G. Domenico Cassini drew in the middle of the 17th century. Even today, with its 65 meters, it is the largest meridian that can be seen in the world.

Video: San Petronio Basilica, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy, Europe (April 2020).