San Pietro (Modena)
The Church with the Curious Frieze
The church of San Pietro is part of an Benedictine abbey founded in the late 10th century. It has a harmonious Renaissance façade (1530) with a strange terracotta frieze of winged satyrs and serpent-horses by the Bisogni brothers, perhaps inspired by some of the medieval carvings on the Cathedral.
The interior is one of the most sumptuous in Modena, with ornate pietra dura altars, a painted organ case of 1524, stuccoed decoration and a wealth of painting by local artists of the 16th and 17th centuries, including works by Francesco Bianchi Ferrari and Scarsellino. Best of all are the terracotta sculptures by Antonio Begarelli: the Dead Christ with the Virgin, St John and Joseph of Arimathea and six large saints lined up along the nave.
There is a small Renaissance cloister, recently restored, and an 18th-century Dispensary, also restored and recently reopened; here the monks will sell you products from Benedictine abbeys around Europe.
Outside the church, note the little medieval column topped by a cross, the 10th-century Croce di San Pietro. In old Emilia, as in much of Europe, these were common monuments at crossroads or market squares; this one is Modena’s only survivor.
Via San Pietro 1
Hours 6.15am-12noon and 2.45-7.45pm; closed Mon morning, Sun
+39 059 214016