The Fascinating Story of San Petronio Church: Will it Ever be Completed?

San Petronio Bologna

San Petronio Basilica isn't only the biggest and most important church in Bologna.
Its incomplete facade is a puzzle with a missing piece that many artists tried to fill. Curious to see how San Petronio would have been if complete?

San Petronio: magnificent and unfinished

You enter for the first time in Piazza Maggiore.
A few steps on the crescentone, a selfie in front of Bologna Neptune fountain, but then you can't look elsewhere.

The huge facade of San Petronio Basilica is in front of you and you can only admire it.

But something seems strange.
The facade seems cut in half: the basis with rose and white marble, steeples and decorative sculpture over the gates. Then over it just brown bricks.

What happened to it? Was it left unfinished or it's a choice?
Let's start from the beginning.

San Petronio Bologna Baldassarre Peruzzi 1522

Baldassarre Peruzzi first project - 1522

Things go wrong: the project of Antonio Di Vincenzo

The first stone of San Petronio dated June 7th, 1390.
From that day, the most important civic temple that would have changed the shape of the old Bologna would start to grow.

Or at least that was the plan.

Antonio Di Vincenzo
, the first architect, visited Florence, Venice and Milan to look for construction ideas.
From Milan Duomo comes the idea to inscribe the facade in an equilateral triangle, the symbol of God.

Di Vincenzo died in 1401 and his projection drawings got lost.
Arduino Arriguzzi inherited his role with an even more gigantic project.

In his idea San Petronio would have been 224m long, 150m large and with a 38m dome (you can still see its project in the wood model inside the Basilica).

The construction of the Archiginnasio Library prevented the completion of his grandiose plan.

Legend tells that the Pope wanted the construction of the Archiginnasio to prevent San Petronio from exceeding the size of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Despite this, San Petronio is still the 5th largest church in the world today.

San Petronio Bologna Jacopo Barozzi 1545

Jacopo Barozzi project - 1545

But the facade?

The church opened to the public only in 1663, almost 300 years after the first stone.

But from that time all the efforts were put to complete the facade.
Since the 16th century, countless projects appeared and you can see in this gallery.

Many famous architects like Domenico Tibaldi, author of San Pietro Cathedral's main chapel, Jacopo Barozzi, who made Palazzo de Banchi and inspired Torta Barozzi cake, or even Andrea Palladio.

In 2020 local architect Mario Cucinella reimagined San Petronio facade as a wood full of trees.
The provocatory project is a message to rethink the city in a green and sustainable way.

San Petronio Bologna Giulio Romano copia del disegno del 1545

Giulio Romano project - 1545

San Petronio Bologna Domenico Tibaldi 1570

Domenico Tibaldi project - 1570

San Petronio Bologna Andrea Palladio 1572

Andrea Palladio project - 1572

San Petronio Bologna Francesco Morandi detto il Terribilia 1571

Francesco Morandi (Il Terribilia) project - 1571

San Petronio Bologna Girolamo Rainaldi 1626

Girolamo Rainaldi project - 1626

San Petronio Bologna Mauro Tesi 1749

Mauro Tesi project - 1749

San Petronio Bologna Anonimo 1933

Anonymus project - 1933

San petronio bologna wood Cucinella

San Petronio as a wood by Mario Cucinella - 2020

[photos and credits and Alessio Vallero]

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