University and Churches of Medieval Bologna

The University of Bologna was founded in 1088 (which makes me think Holy Crap that’s just after the battle of Hastings every time).  Its not a campus so much as its the woven through the entire old city.  Students don’t live in dorms but in rental units throughout the city – one of the reasons behind the piazzas which are the cities classic architectural form is that they were an easy way to add a few extra rooms for rental to your house.  The university specialized in Law, Medicine and Engineering (back when physics included most of the natural sciences.   Famous students and professors include:  Francesco Petrarca (aka Petrarch), Leon Battista Alberti, Nicolaus Copernicus, Dante Alighieri, Paracelsus, Giovanni Cassini, Luigi Galvani and Umberto Eco.

Some of her ladyships churches, for she has several.  First and foremost is San Petronio, which is definitively NOT the cathedral – it was conceived of and paid for by the city.  The city of Bologna was trying to build a church bigger than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  This plan was scotched when the pope commissioned a new University building in the path of its construction and you can still see where they had to cut off the arms of the latin cross plan.

My last stop in the city was the Museo Civico Medievale which is probably the only medieval history museum in Europe which has more non-religious art than religious art.  There’s so much content from the university – sculptures of students studying, famous scholars rather than famous priests or religions icons.  You can’t have one entirely free of god, of course, but it was a pretty astonishing collection.  Don’t miss the scroll down flashing Jesus.  He’s pretty astonishing too.

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