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San Domenico

Treasurehouse of Art

San Domenico

San Domenico was built in 1251 to house the relics of St Dominic, founder of the Order of Preaching Friars, the Dominicans. Dominic had arrived in Bologna in 1218, and was so impressed by the scholarship of the university city, that he built a convent by a small church on this site.

He died here in 1221 and was buried in a simple wooden coffin in the church floor (as was the custom then: holy bodies had to be hidden away to foil relic thieves). As the Dominicans' popularity soared, a bigger church was built to house the saint's tomb; Pope Innocent IV consecrated it in 1251, and although the exterior and interior have been frequently remodelled (the façade was only added in 1910), it is still one of the great treasure-houses of art in Bologna.

Chapel of St Dominic

Inside, the narrow Baroque nave only accentuates the effect of a church that is nearly as long as San Petronio. The main attraction is the big chapel of St Dominic in the right aisle, originally Gothic but rebuilt and enlarged in the 17th century by Floriano Ambrosini to contain all the pilgrims who came to worship beside the saint's relics, installed in the spectacular, and at the time revolutionary Arca di San Domenico, completed for the most part in 1261.

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Medieval Art and Architecture

Renaissance Art and Architecture

Baroque Art and Architecture

Churches in Bologna

Top Sights

Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Images by Allan Parsons, Georges Jansoone, PD Art, Sailko, GNU Free Documentation License