The Basilica of San Domenico is an important church in Bologna, located in the homonymous square. The church houses the remains of San Domenico (Saint Dominic), founder of the Dominican Order, who died in 1221 in the adjacent convent.
Saint Dominic arrived in Bologna in January 1218, and settled in the convent of the Church of Santa Maria della Purificazione, located outside the city walls. In 1219, the saint moved to the Convent of San Nicolò delle Vigne, where the current basilica stands.
Saint Dominic died on August 6, 1221. In 1233, his remains were placed in a cypress chest, enclosed in a simple marble sarcophagus, and placed behind the altar of a side chapel of the right aisle. The following year, San Domenico was canonized by Pope Gregory IX. In 1267, his remains were placed in a monument known as the Ark of Saint Dominic (Arca di San Domenico).
Starting with 1228, the old church of San Nicolò delle Vigne was enlarged, with the demolition of the apse and the extension of the nave. The construction works of the new basilica were completed in 1240, with the building of the sober Romanesque facade. The basilica was consecrated by Pope Innocent IV on October 17, 1251.
In the 14th century, some chapels were added and the bell tower was built in Gothic style. In the 15th century, the Pepoli, Odofredo and Guidotti chapels were added on the northern side. Later, the chapels Volta and Solimei were built in Renaissance style.
Between 1530 and 1534, the Ghisilardi Chapel was built to the left of the facade, to a design by Baldassarre Peruzzi. In 1551, four small Gothic chapels in the left aisle were replaced by a second Pepoli chapel, designed by Antonio Morandi. Between 1597 and 1605, the 14th-century Chapel of San Domenico was rebuilt to a design by Floriano Ambrosini.
In the 17th century, following the prescriptions of the Council of Trent, the partition dividing the two parts of the church was eliminated, and the wooden choir was moved behind the main altar.
Between 1728 and 1732, significant changes and restorations were carried out by Carlo Francesco Dotti, with the patronage of Pope Benedict XIII.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The facade of the church, completed in 1240, underwent several alterations over the centuries. The current appearance is due to a project by the architect Raffaele Faccioli, carried out by Alfonso Rubbiani between 1909 and 1910.
The gabled facade is entirely built in bricks, as required by the style of the mendicant orders, and adorned under the eaves line by hanging arches. In the center, there is a large rose window in white marble, divided by 12 radial pairs of columns, above which there is a Greek cross.
On the facade, there is a single portal equipped with a slightly protruding porch. On both sides of the portal, there are two single lancet windows.
From the left of the facade, protrudes the Ghisilardi Chapel, while on the right, the structures of the convent are inserted longitudinally.
Inside, the church has three naves, numerous side chapels, a transept and a choir.
The Chapel of Saint Dominic opens on the right of the longitudinal body of the basilica, and contains the precious Ark of San Domenico, in which the remains of the saint are preserved. The chapel, 13.60 meters wide, 23.80 meters long and 38 meters high, has a square plan and contains a semicircular apse and a domed tambour.
The first nucleus of the Ark was built in 1267 by Nicola Pisano and his pupils, who decorated the marble sarcophagus with 6 panels describing the major episodes in the life of the saint. Later, various artists contributed to the decoration of the monument – Niccolò da Bari, the young Michelangelo Buonarroti, Alfonso Lombardi, and Jean-Baptiste Boudard.
Behind the Ark, there is also the precious 14th-century reliquary by Jacopo Roseto da Bologna, containing the head of San Domenico.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Basilica of San Domenico is located about 2.1 kilometers away from the Bologna Centrale railway station. The closest bus stop is in Piazza Cavour, about 140 meters away, on the bus Lines 13, 16, 29, 30, 51, 52, 59, 90 and 96.
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