My timing was a bit awkward - arriving Saturday evening and flying out Monday evening meant that all the museums were closed on Monday, whereas many things were a bit *too* open on Sunday, by which I mean many of the churches were full of people celebrating Mass all day long (fair enough, of course). This, coupled with the grey and drizzly weather, made it a bit difficult to plan out my activities. I had spotted a couple of activities I thought I'd quite like to do in Canedolia's recent posts about Bologna, particularly climbing up one of the two tall towers in the city centre, and doing a 4 km walk out to a sanctuary outside the city. However, I decided there was no point in climbing the tower in rainy weather, and, even though the walk to the sanctuary is almost all covered by colonnades (which is pretty cool), I could just picture the wind whistling through them, and decided I'd be cold and miserable (and probably not have a great view at the end anyway), even if I didn't get wet.
So, I had to find some alternative activities to keep me busy. First up was a visit to the Seven Churches of Santo Stefano, a complex of seven churches dating back to the 5th century (with various additions and alterations over time, of course). The churches were mostly deserted while I was there, except for a Mass in the biggest one and an old Italian lady who came and sat next to me in one, boxing me in to the corner, and talked at me for quite a while before I could interrupt and say I didn't speak Italian. It all had a very old - dim and sepulchral - feel to it, and there were some original frescoes etc. in the churches, which was nice. I didn't really have any information about the place while I was there, but there's some interesting tidbits about the different legends, history and saints associated with the churches here.
|In the Court of Pilate - the basin you can see behind me was meant to be the one Pilate washed his hands in after sentencing Jesus (or something like that). It actually dates from the 8th century|
|13th(?) century fresco in one of the churches|
|There was also a small museum in one of the buildings. Detail of a painting of the Massacre of the Innocents|
|This was a lot of arse for a chapel|
|One side of the frescoes|
|A better-quality version, courtesy of the web|
After lunch, I decided to go to the Medieval Museum, seeing that I like That Sort of Thing. It was quite good - I especially liked a very well-preserved, old and ornate English chasuble (none of the photos came out due to reflective glass, unfortunately). I can't really remember anything else that was in there right now - some tombs I think, a small collection of illuminated manuscripts, probably paintings... It was a good collection without being particularly outstanding.
|Very high heels|
The Last Judgement in the chapel was very interesting, particularly coming after seeing Giotto's Last Judgement. The influence in the huge figure of the Devil consuming sinners is clear, although this devil has two mouths - the figure sticking out of his crotch is not being excreted out, but eaten up as well. The audioguide said this represents the Devil's inability to produce life. The influence of Dante is also clear - the Devil is surrounded by different groups of sinners being punished in customarily creative ways, from being roasted on spits, strung up by their genitals or force-fed. It's also notorious for a depiction of Mohammed (clearly labelled) being tortured in Hell. Because of this, the cathedral has been the focus of terrorist plots in recent years.
|My sneaky snapshot|
|Close-up of the Devil (Mohammed is lying on the rock on the upper-right). Source|
My final activity in Bologna (after getting my hair cut and doing a bit of shopping in the sales - I scored two cheap tops I'd had my eye on in H&M back in France, and a pair of leather boots) was a visit to the original HQ of Bologna University, possibly the world's oldest university, founded in 1088. I was going off a brief description on the map I had, but didn't really know what to expect. I just thought since it was free and I had an hour or so to kill, I might as well check it out. I was pleasantly surprised - the 17th-century wooden operating theatre, with its statues of flayed bodies, is unexpectedly attractive, and the walls and ceilings are covered with the crests of former students. I also sat for about 20 minutes chatting to an Italian guy who used to live in France and was killing some time having come up from Rome for the day for a 30-minute meeting with someone.
|Me (with salon-fresh hair) in the operating theatre|
|Hallway in the university|
|It's hard to get a good picture of the operating theatre, since it's quite a small space, but the all-wood interior makes it strangely homey|
|Ceiling covered with students' crests|
|Close-up of the anatomical sculptures|