I had few reasons to looking forward to visit Bologna – first of all Italy. I could honestly leave it just like that and stop right here – who need more, really? My second reason – seeing my sister and be able to relax totally, taking a lot of pictures and just drink in the atmosphere of the town, since she was going to be our guide and handle the map (which I am terrible at by the way). And thirdly – the churches! No, I am not religious, I am just fascinated by them and I am always on a look out, willing to step inside whenever I am.
For me the churches are the biggest and in many cases almost impossible tasks people set themselves to carry out. So often their history is long and full of unexpected turns. You can recall Sagrada Familia here – the church which is still being built since 1882! Many of them were erected few times in their life time, rebuild or redesigned, changed or left almost without any changes. The way they look was influenced by love, hate, blood and times. They were sanctuary and the face of crime and fanatics. Especially in Italy, when in XVI century the Roman Inquisition was in full bloom.
Apart from that the churches inspired great artist to leave their mark in them – Michelangelo, Giotto, Francesco Albani, Cesari, Donatello and Titian – to name just a few painted or left their sculptures in the churches so people could admire the talents they received from God. That was a common believe at their lifetime.
The one very characteristic thing about Italian churches is the element of surprise hidden inside usually not very exciting buildings, lucking the splendour and genius hidden inside. My heart is always beating harder with emotions when I am crossing wooden or metal gates, feeling like stepping into a different world filled with silence and prayers, faith and hope and leaving behind very rushed and stressful life. The church can wrap you up with the silence and peace and it does not matter if you are believer or not – the power of human emotions is implemented in the building and art surrounding you. You can free yourself from the rush of the street by hiding in them, you can stop the time by sitting for a moment and taking the beauty created by many. Because the church is never a work of one – yes, there is the great designer behind the building, the great architect, but to carry on the idea he need more people to help him.
When we visited Cattedrale di San Pietro I knew that we will be seeing great art there – the Annunciation by Ludovico Carracci in the presbytery, a Roman Crucifix in wood, and a group of terracotta figures depicting the dead Christ and Mary weeping. These brilliant expressions of human emotions and believes can be found inside the XVI-XVII century building, the official seat of Archbishop of Bologna. I especially like the weeping group by Alfonso Lombardi – so many different emotions closed in almost human size figures – from anger to cry and helplessness, from being full of love to being overwhelmed by hate and sense of loss… The expressions frozen in the faces of people surrounding the body of Christ lying in front of them are almost scary, at one point you might even think that one of the figures is screaming at Christ rather than screaming from pain, but I will leave the interpretation of this great art to you.