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San Petronio

The Really Big One

San Petronio

On Piazza Maggiore, opposite the Palazzo del Podestà, the Basilica di San Petronio begun by Antonio di Vincenzo (1390), is the largest structure on the square—yet, had the Bolognesi had their way, this temple to their most important patron saint would have been far, far grander, and even larger than St Peter’s in Rome.

An entire city neighbourhood, eight other churches and countless towers were cleared for the site, but that wasn't enough. The Bolognesi constantly remind us that Pope Pius IV himself, in 1565, ordered that the money be spent instead on the university’s Archiginnasio, instead of on municipal prestige.

As it is, San Petronio is the fifth-largest church in Italy and the fifteenth largest in the whole world (132m by 60m), and the Pope’s decision may have been less maintaining Rome’s bragging rights than simple economy.

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Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Images by Basilica di San Petronio, g.sighele, Laurom, PD Art, Rinina25 Twice25, Superchilum, Università degli Studi