The Santo Stefano Basilica in Bologna is also known as the Sette Chiese (“Seven Churches”). The complex is located in Piazza Santo Stefano, which is considered one of the most beautiful squares in the city. There is some disagreement about the history of the complex, which, as its nickname suggests, consists of several churches.
Santo Stefano Basilica Bologna
Address: Via Santo Stefano, 24, 40125 Bologna.Telephone: +39 051223256. Opening hours: From 09:00 to 12:00 and 15:30 to 18:30. Admission: Free of charge.
History and description
It is not entirely clear exactly when the Santo Stefano Basilica was built. One theory claims it was the patron saint of Bologna, Saint Petronius, who in 1430 wanted a building divided into seven churches to be erected. These churches were supposed to represent the seven places where the Passion of Christ took place. The former name of the church, “Holy Jerusalem,” lends credence to this theory.
According to others, Petronius had the church built on top of the ruins of an already existing pagan temple. This temple was dedicated to Isis, the Egyptian goddess of motherhood and fertility. After this, the other buildings were erected, beginning with a copy of the Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In addition to a chapel dedicated to the mortal remains of the Saints Vitale and Agricola, the Benedictine monks built several more buildings between the 10th and 13th centuries.
From Piazza Santo Stefano the facades of three of the churches are visible. The one on the right is the Chiesa del Crocifisso, the central one is the Chiesa del Calvario (“Golgotha Church”) and the one on the left is the Santi Vitale and Agricola Chapel.
In the Chiesa del Crocifisso, which dates from the time of the Lombards, one can see a crypt from 1019 with the mortal remains of the Abbot Martino.
The Chiesa del Calvario houses a copy of the tomb of Christ, made between the 12th and 14th centuries. The remains of Saint Petronius, which were preserved in this church, were later moved to Saint Petronius Basilica.
The remains of Saint Vitale and Agricola are buried in the third church. In this Santi Vitale and Agricola Church, the floor mosaics (6th century) and the capitals are noteworthy. The latter were originally part of Roman and Byzantine buildings.
In the Cortile di Pilato (“Courtyard of Pilate”), there is a marble vessel donated by the Lombard kings Liutprando and Ilprando. These rulers used to consider the Santo Stefano Basilica to be their main religious center.
The Trinità Church was restored between the 12th and 13th centuries. The main attraction of this church is a wooden manger by the hand of Simone dei Crocifissi (14th century).
The beautiful Benedictine Cloister was built between the 10th and 13th centuries, while the museum belonging to the complex displays paintings and sculptures from different periods.