This statue of St Petronius on the Palazzo Comunale (city hall) in Piazza Maggiore was originally of Pope Gregory XIII (1571-85), after whom the Gregorian Calendar is named. A native of Bologna, he had studied law, both canon and civil (the famous “laurea utriusque”) at the university, which came into existence originally in the later 11th century specifically as a studium of canon law. During the Napoleonic invasion of Italy, the French government ordered the destruction of all public statues of the Popes; the Bolognesi hastily erected the inscription over the statue “St Petronius, Protector and Father” to save it, and wound up never changing it back.
|A statue of St Petronius at an intersection fairly close to the Piazza Maggiore, between the famous towers (the Garisenda on the left, and the Asinelli on the right), which are the two best-known landmarks and symbols of the city. They are the most prominent of the 24 medieval towers that survive in Bologna, which saw the construction of over a hundred of them in 12th and 13th centuries. The Garisenda was already leaning heavily by 1351, when it was cut down from almost 197 feet to 157½, but still declines 4 degrees off the perpendicular, slightly more than the more famous leaning tower of Pisa.|
The baldachin was constructed in the mid 16th century by Jacopo Vignola, who succeeded Michelangelo as the chief architect of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome in 1564.
The organ on the right side of the sanctuary (still commonly referred to as the organ “in cornu epistolae”) was built from 1471-75, and is the oldest functioning pipe organ in Italy.
The basilica also preserves the four crosses seen below, which according to tradition, were set up on ancient Roman columns by either St Ambrose or St Petronius outside the city walls, each near one of the gates; they were moved into the church in 1798, when both the walls and the small chapels that housed the crosses were destroyed. The first one seen below was dedicated to the Apostles, the second to the Holy Virgins, the third to all the Saints, and the fourth to the Martyrs. The attribution of the crosses to St Ambrose, whose see was the metropolitan see of all of northern Italy in the 4th century, including the territory of Bologna, fits nicely with the fact that Ambrose built in Milan churches at the four ends of the city which were similarly dedicated to the various orders of Saints, as a ring of protection around the city.