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Basilica of San Petronio

See one of the largest churches in the world and learn the story behind its magnificent yet unfinished marble façade.

The Basilica of San Petronio is among the most important churches in Bologna and one of the city’s top attractions. Despite never being fully completed, the church is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture. It is dedicated to Bologna’s patron saint, San Petronio.

Construction of the basilica began in the late 14th century, but the ambitious project, which aimed to outdo the scale of St. Peter’s in Rome, was stalled many times. It remains unfinished to this day.  

From the street, you’ll notice that the bottom section of the façade is covered in marble, while the unfinished top section is made of exposed brick. Look closely at the marble façade to see the beautiful carvings depicting biblical stories from the Old and New testaments. 

Walk down Via dell'Archiginnasio and look for the semi-constructed apses, which protrude clumsily. Admire the church’s stunning 15th-century central portal designed by Jacopo della Quercia, an important artist in Italian Renaissance sculpture. 

Inside, don’t miss the 222-foot (67.7-meter) brass sundial stretching down the eastern aisle in the form of a meridian line. This sundial is a rare example of a scientific instrument in a religious building. Designed by Gian Cassini and Domenico Guglielmi in 1656, the sundial is extremely precise and has helped identify several inaccuracies in the Julian calendar. 

Check out the gorgeous frescos decorating the chapels. Be sure to see the 15th-century cross found at the main altar, as well as the basilica’s organ, which is one of the world’s oldest organs still in use. 

Save some time for the Chapel of San Petronio, which contains the head of San Petronio, as well as the tomb of Napoleon’s sister. Take a look at the Gothic marble railing and the brilliant colors in the windows in the Kings Magi's Chapel, one of the best preserved of the basilica’s 22 chapels.

The Basilica of San Petronio is located in the city’s main square, Piazza Maggiore. It’s open daily, except for an hour in the afternoon, and admission is free. Check ahead of your visit to find out when mass is held.


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Lodging Near Basilica of San Petronio

See all 295 Hotels near Basilica of San Petronio
$96
Starhotels Excelsior

Starhotels Excelsior

Viale Pietro Pietramellara 51, Bologna
4.3
of 5, from 555 reviews
4.5 out of 5.0

Across the street from Bologna Centrale railway station, this Bologna hotel is less than 1 km (0.4 mi) from Parco Montagnola. Via Rizzoli and Fontana del Nettuno are just over 1 km (0.8 mi) away.

$146
Al Cappello Rosso

Al Cappello Rosso

Via De' Fusari, 9, Bologna
4.6
of 5, from 380 reviews
4.5 out of 5.0

Located in Bologna City Centre, this luxury hotel is steps from Palazzo d'Accursio, Communal Collection of Fine Arts, and Museum of Giorgio Morandi. Palazzo Comunale and Piazza Maggiore are also within 5 minutes.

$183
Hotel Corona d 'Oro

Hotel Corona d 'Oro

Via Oberdan 12, Bologna
4.5
of 5, from 103 reviews
4.5 out of 5.0

Located in Bologna City Centre, this luxury hotel is steps from Tower of the Asinelli and Tower of the Garisenda. Fountain of Neptune and Basilica of San Petronio are also within 10 minutes.

$336
Grand Hotel Majestic già Baglioni

Grand Hotel Majestic già Baglioni

Via dell'Indipendenza, 8, Bologna
4.8
of 5, from 118 reviews
5.0 out of 5.0

Located in Bologna City Centre, this luxury hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Civic Museum of the Middle Ages, Communal Collection of Fine Arts, and Museum of Giorgio Morandi. Palazzo Comunale and Piazza Maggiore are also within 5 minutes.

$169
Art Hotel Commercianti

Art Hotel Commercianti

Via De'Pignattari, 11, Bologna
4.5
of 5, from 41 reviews
4.0 out of 5.0

Located in Bologna City Centre, this hotel is steps from Palazzo dei Notai, Basilica of San Petronio, and Archaeological Museum. Communal Collection of Fine Arts and Museum of Giorgio Morandi are also within 5 minutes.

$89
Hotel Palace

Hotel Palace

Via Monte Grappa, 9/2, Bologna
3.1
of 5, from 114 reviews
3.0 out of 5.0

Located in Bologna City Centre, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Salaborsa Library, Communal Collection of Fine Arts, and Museum of Giorgio Morandi. Palazzo Comunale and Piazza Maggiore are also within 5 minutes.

$97
Best Western Hotel San Donato

Best Western Hotel San Donato

Via Zamboni 16, Bologna
4.2
of 5, from 129 reviews
4.0 out of 5.0

Located in the heart of Bologna, this family-friendly hotel is steps from Jewish Museum, Tower of the Asinelli, and Tower of the Garisenda. University of Bologna and Basilica Santo Stefano are also within 10 minutes.

$54
Grand Hotel Elite

Grand Hotel Elite

Via Aurelio Saffi 36, Bologna
3.6
of 5, from 193 reviews
4.0 out of 5.0

Located in Bologna City Centre, this hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Porta San Felice and Stadio Renato Dall'Ara. Communal Collection of Fine Arts and Museum of Giorgio Morandi are also within 2 mi (3 km).