Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Temple of science

Basilica di San Domenico
Armed with the facts and ideas planted in my head from Thursday's lecture, Mikey and I set out to be tourists for the day. Saturday morning we headed to the church of Santa Maria della Vita but on our way were sidetracked by the Archiginnasio.

This "temple of science," as the lecturer called it, was a basically a gift (read bribe) to the Bolognese people after Bologna was besieged by Papal troops and taken over by the Catholic Church in the early 16th century. The church knew just how much the University of Bologna (founded in 1088) meant to the people, so they built a beautiful building, a temple if you will, to centralize the university and give a formal house to the institution.

The University of Bologna was (and is) the premier institution for law and medicine in Italy. Though the Catholic Church officially banned dissection (Leonardo di Vinci had to steal corpses in the middle of the night to study anatomy), they included in the Archiginnasio an Anatomical Theater. It's a beautiful room made entirely of spruce wood. A statue of Apollo circles above, and the figures holding up the lecturn are skinless anatomical studies. In the center of the elliptical  room is a marble table where the body would be laid and dissected.

Dignitaries and important people that came to Bologna didn't visit the churches. Rather, they went to view dissections and experiments in the Anatomical Theater. It's a fascinating place to visit (and sketch! Oh yes I did . . .)

We eventually made it to the Santa Maria della Vita. I sketched for a while and Ada fell asleep looking up at the beautiful domed ceiling. I hope she has flashes of memories of living here (if she's anything like her grandmother who swears she can remember teething, she will). The church is home to famous sculptures by Niccolò dell’Arca (the Compianto sul Cristo morto). The emotion on the figures faces is very unlike the typical Romanesque figures that dominate the rest of the city's art. The flyer I picked up say that the artist is thought to have studied people who were in pain and dying at a nearby hospital. (Subsequently, donations given to view the sculptures were used to fund the hospital for many years).

We ended our day (after coming home for lunch and naps and a brief clean-the-church-trip somewhere in there) at San Dominica. I took my sketch book this time. And Mikey took Ada. It was perfect. And beautiful. And I might go back every week.

Piazza Domenico


La Penseuse Viable said...

interesting and beautiful!

SouthMainMuse said...

Wow. That was truly beautiful. How neat to learn all that history right there.

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