The Church of S. Pietro is a "Cathedral", in other words, the church where the Bishop holds his See and therefore the religious and spiritual centre of the Diocese of Bologna.
The first historical documents that actually mention the building only date from the 10th century. However recent studies, together with the archeological elements that have been discovered beneath the present church, have led experts to believe that it is early Christian in origin and that the first church was built on a basilican plan with three naves. The Cathedral was reconstructed in Romanesque style after the terrible fire in 1141, and then, in the second half of the 16th century, architect Domenico Tibaldi redesigned and transformed it in Renaissance style, together with the Main Chapel and the crypt.
The architects Floriano Ambrosini, Nicolò Donati and Giovan Battista Natali raised the great nave with the lateral chapels between 1605 and 1622, basing their designs on an earlier project by architect Ambrogio Mazenta. The first chapels on either side of the church and the facade were instead carried out by architect Alfonso Torreggiani between 1743 and 1755. Special mention should be made of some of the paintings that decorate the church: the huge "Annunciation", Ludovico Carracci's last work (in the lunette above the apse); the altarpieces by Donato Creti (in the Chapels of the SS. Sacramento and S.Carlo) and Marcantonio Franceschini (Chapel of S. Rocco).
Visitors to the church can now find an extremely interesting novelty. The door at the end of the minor nave on the left leads to the new exhibition rooms, prepared specifically for the Jubilee 2000. Here, for the very first time, the public can admire a permanent arrangement of the CATHEDRAL TREASURE, in other words, a wide selection of the priceless religious objects and furnishings of great artistic importance that were donated to the Cathedral over the centuries for use in the most solemn religious celebrations.
The three most important sections are composed of the religious articles that belonged to the Blessed Nicolò Albergati (Bishop of Bologna from 1417 to 1443), to Pope Gregory XV (Alessandro Ludovisi, Archbishop of Bologna from 1612 to 1621) and Pope Benedict XIV (Prospero Lambertini, Archbishop of Bologna from 1731 to 1754). However it would be true to say that conspicuous gifts have marked the passage of all the Archbishops. Thus visitors to the Cathedral treasure can now find a really extraordinary collection of religious objects, from those the Blessed Nicolò Albergati, mentioned above, that have been preserved since the first half of the 15th century, to the splendid processional cross donated by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi in 1996, the museum's most recent acquisition.
The bell tower rises up on the right-hand side of the church, near the side entrance in Via Altabella; it is the oldest part of the Cathedral and an extremely important document for its history. It was built in Romanesque style in the early 13th century, but contains another bell tower in the interior, built on a circular plan in the late 10th century and raised up immediately afterwards in 1184. The bell tower, 70 metres in height, represents the second highest tower of medieval Bologna (after the Tower of the Asineli).
Access for groups with authorised guide only.