HALF DAY (1.5/2 hours)
The Basilica of Santo Stefano is located within the complex known as the Seven Churches or, one of the most evocative and exciting places in Bologna.
It was built on the remains of an ancient pagan temple dedicated to Isis and, over the centuries, a series of extensions led to the creation of seven churches. Its origin is attributed to San Petronio, bishop of Bologna at that time. He wanted to build a faithful reproduction of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem in which it would be possible to preserve some of the relics that the saint is said to have brought from the Holy Land, very close to the sacellum with the remains of the Bolognese protomartyrs Vitale and Agricola.
The visit begins with the first of the churches: the Church of the Crucifix. It was built in the Lombard period during the 7th century and visitors tend to be pleasantly surprised by its bare simplicity that emphasizes both the marvelous Crucifix of 1300, the work of Simone dei Crocifissi, and the Lamentation of Dead Christ. In the crypt under the presbytery there is a column which according to legend represents the actual height of Jesus Christ.
You continue to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher that was built just above the ancient temple of Isis. The relics of San Petronio were kept in this octagonal room for a long time. Not until the year 2000 were the saint’s troubled remains transferred to the Basilica in Piazza Maggiore.
The Church of the Saints Vitale and Agricola which is the oldest section of the Seven Churches complex. Here are the remains of the two saints persecuted under Diocletian in 305 d.c.
Heading back a little, from the Church of the Sepulcher you enter the Courtyard of Pilate, a gathered space that symbolizes the place where Jesus Christ was condemned. In the center of this inner court there is the Catino di Pilato, a marble basin donated by Liutprando, King of the Lombards. The courtyard is a perfect example of the romantic Bolognese. Walking on the portico you will be able to observe some tombstones among which there is a curious one of a tailor on which some real scissors are set. The last stop of the tour will be the Church of the Martirium. It was rebuilt several times on the same ground where a baptistery once stood. Here you can see a remarkable wooden nativity scene with human-sized figures from the 12th century.
Thanks to this tour you will discover the secrets hidden in one of the most mysterious and intriguing places in Bologna!
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