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.
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.
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.
The last attempt dates 1933, and by its look, it seems that the best way to look at San Petronio is as-is: unfinished and magnificent.
[photos and credits foliamagazine.it and Alessio Vallero]