Sacred Art Works in Terracotta - Bologna and Modena

The tradition of works in terracotta on a fascinating route through Bologna and Modena

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Discover the timeless fascination of terracotta on this thrilling journey to Bologna and Modena, where Renaissance art comes to life in the works of great artists.

  • Length
    48 hours
  • Interests
    Art & Culture
  • Target
  • First stop - The Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Vita Bologna

    Start your tour from the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Vita, in the artistic center of Bologna, with a visit to the Compianto sul Cristo Morto (“Lament for the Dead Christ”), the master work of Niccolò dall'Arca, completed in 1463. 

    This terracotta grouping is a marvel of minute details and pathos. 

    The intense facial expressions of the figures reveal the artist’s skill in capturing the essence of human suffering. The sculptor’s work renders the emotional drama so palpably that the scene seems to unfold before your eyes.

  • Second stop - The Basilica of San Petronio Bologna

    Continue toward Piazza Maggiore where you’ll find the majestic Basilica of San Petronio, one of Europe’s largest churches, often erroneously believed to be the city’s main cathedral. 

    Nonetheless, it remains one of the best-known symbols of Bologna because of its historic ties to the residents of the city. Without the support of the Vatican, they began to raise funds for the completion of the façade of the Basilica, which remains unfinished to this day. The sacred character of the group of terracotta figures inside the basilica, known as the Compianto sul Cristo Morto (“Lament for the Dead Christ”) by Vincenzo Onofri, is unmistakable. Onofri, along with Guido Mazzoni, Niccolò dall'Arca and the younger artist, Alfonso Lombardi, were among the Emilian sculptors most responsible for elevating the art and teaching of sculpture in terracotta.

  • Third stop - The Cathedral of St. Peter Bologna

    The next stop takes you to the Compianto di San Pietro (“Lamentation of St. Peter”) by Alfonso Lombardi

    In Lombardi’s work, the technical mastery and delicacy of the figures are the culmination of aesthetic representation. Here, art and spirituality merge, inviting reflection. Take time to explore the interior of the Cathedral of St. Peter and to admire its art and architecture, including the ornamentation of the apse and the many other splendid works on display. Continue your visit by taking the stairs to the cathedral’s belfry, which is open Saturday and Sunday. The bell tower soars seventy meters (230 feet) over the city and offers magnificent panoramas.

  • Fourth stop - The Davia Bargellini Museum Bologna

    Next, visit the Davia Bargellini Museum and take in Angelo Gabriello Piò’s Compianto sul Cristo Morto (“Lamentation for the Dead Christ”) and Re Davide (“King David”). 

    As a sculptor, Piò was quite active among the “Filippini” (that is, the devotees of St. Philip Neri). Here is his small copy in terracotta of another “Pietà” (another term for representations of the “compianto”), which is located under the Altar of the Cross in the Church of Santa Maria di Galliera. The museum contains a series of surprising works of art and was opened to the public in 1924. The displays are divided into two distinct sections: the picture gallery and a collection of industrial art, whose juxtaposition in the museum’s baroque exhibition halls was intended to decorate a furnished apartment in Bologna in the 1700s.

  • Fifth stop - The Church of Saint Mary Magdalene Bologna

    Here we come to the end of the first day of your itinerary with a Compianto (“Lamentation”) by Giuseppe Maria Mazza in the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene in the university area. 

    The work merges the artist’s creativity with his religious devotion and demonstrates Mazza’s exceptional skill as a sculptor. So able was he that he is remembered as one of the masters of the Bologna school. He was, in fact, rewarded with a teaching position for his work.

  • Sixth stop - The Church of Saint Augustine Modena

    Your tour of the great terracotta artists continues the second day with a visit to Modena and the Church of Saint Augustine, a fitting place to experience the works of Antonio Begarelli

    Inside the church, you’ll find one of Begarelli’s most celebrated works: his Compianto sul Cristo Morto (“Lamentation for the Dead Christ”). Begarelli sculpted his depictions of figures from the Gospels in terracotta with unparalleled artistry, capturing them in a moment of profound sorrow. These engrossing, hyperreal representations communicate their grief with a delicacy and an intensity that touches the soul.

  • Seventh stop - Galleria Estense Modena

    Only a short distance from the church is the Galleria Estense, where you can see one of Guido Mazzonis most stunning works: the Testa di Vecchio (“Head of an Old Man”), a sculpture that is closer to a funeral mask than to a statue. Mazzoni’s vivid realism has endured over time, and for six centuries visitors have marveled at the lifelike realism of the faces he sculpted.

    Don’t leave the Gallery without stopping to see Begarelli’s La Madonna col Bambino (“Madonna with the Christ Child”), a work of extraordinary beauty and artistic excellence. Fashioned in polychrome terracotta, the sculpture draws observers in with its grace and delicacy. The expressions on the faces of the Madonna and Child, along with the details of their clothing, and the position of their hands and arms, are represented with an extraordinary precision that evidences Begarelli’s achievement as a sculptor. 

  • Eighth stop - The Church of St. John the Baptist Modena

    Move on next to the Church of St. John the Baptist to have a look at Guido Mazzoni’s Compianto sul Cristo Morto (“Lamentation for the Dead Christ”). 

    You’ll be captivated by the extreme realism of the figures, visible in the folds of their clothing and the care Mazzoni took with their facial expressions and the positioning of their hands. These elements combine to make Mazzoni’s work an extraordinary testimony to his skill in sculpting terracotta to communicate emotions of great intensity.

  • Ninth stop - The Modena Cathedral Modena

    Bring the day to a close in the heart of the city with a visit to the Modena Cathedral to admire Mazzoni’s La Madonna della Pappa ("Madonna with Feeding Baby"). Mazzoni honored the patrons of this marvelous work by giving their features to the figures of St. Joseph and St. Anna. 

    The truly surprising element of this piece, however, is the extraordinary realism that is evident in the fur-lined overcoat and the satchel, on which a coin of the Este duchy has been stamped, that hangs from the belt of the kneeling figure.

    But that’s not all. Look closely at the Christ Child, who holds in one hand a crust of bread, and at the figure of the serving woman who blows delicately on a spoon to cool the babe’s porridge. How could any observer fail to experience a sense of affection toward them for their authenticity and naturalness?

Last update 25/04/2024

Information offices

IAT Bologna Welcome
Piazza Maggiore, 1/E - Bologna (BO)
+ 39 051 6583111
Modena Tourist Information Office
Piazza Grande, 14 - Modena (MO)
+ 39 0592032660 + 39 059 2032659 Opening: all year round

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