Once the heart of the oldest University in Europe, this grand palazzo of murals, frescoes, facades and architectural follies is like no other.
The Archiginnasio palace occupies a proud place among Bologna’s top attractions. This must-visit site was built in 1563 as the main seat of the University of Bologna, the oldest university in Europe. Today it is the seat of the Library.
The idea behind the construction of Archiginnasio was to bring the schools of law and arts under one roof, and indeed unite scholarship and beauty they did. The late-Renaissance splendour and grandeur of the palace leaves a visitor speechless. Its double logged courtyard is heavily adorned with coats of arms and carved or painted memoirs. Each millimeter is used to convey history and prestige, inviting to linger under the arched porticoes and to breath in the atmosphere. The courtyard was theatre of numerous events and ceremonies, the most baffling of which would be the preparation of the Teriaca, a cure to all diseases and in particular against bites from wildfowl and venomous animals.
The most controversial, and hence the most popular, room in the Archiginnasio is the Anatomical Theatre, constructed in 1637 and named after its amphitheatrical form. The Theatre is absolutely magnificent, with Apollo in the center of the dome ceiling, the marble dissection table and the two skinless men above the lectures desk. At that time anatomy was being taught by the dissection of corpses, and students of Medicine would be seated on the wooden raised benches, watching the dissections performed on the slab below them. Although the place was bombed in 1944, what remained has been incorporated in the renovation. It is a perfect place to soak up the history of Bologna, sitting down on those benches in all their restored glory or strolling down the artful corridors painted with frescoes.
Piazza Galvani, 1, 40124 Bologna
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