The church standing today was built by Carlo Francesco Dotti between 1723 and 1757, as a replacement for the previous 15th century church. The two outside tribunes were completed by his son Giovanni Giacomo in 1774. In accordance with Bolognese tradition, the outside structure looks devoid of any emphatic or vigorous decorations and is characterised by the simplicity of the curved profile supporting the dome. The indoor elliptical structure broadens into a Greek cross ending with the main altar standing before the chapel of the Virgin. Among the artists whose works decorate the church are Guido Reni (third altar on the right), Donato Creti (second chapel on the right), Giuseppe Mazza (S. Antonio da Padova’s chapel), and Guercino (high sacristy)
The museum of the Beata Vergine di San Luca, located in-side the old wall Porta Saragozza, was established in order to make Bologna’s inhabitants and visitors alike aware of the devotional, historical, artistic and cultural heritage linked to the image of the Madonna and Child, said to be ‘of San Luca’, which is kept within the Sanctuary of the same name on Guardia Hill. The museum’s location is an ancient tower-shaped wall which dates back to the 13th century. The complex, which was originally equipped with an avant-corps and a drawbridge, was entirely rebuilt in neo-medieval style in 1858 in order to make the entrance of the procession of the Madonna into Bologna more solemn. In 1859 the architect Giuseppe Mengonirebuilt the medieval Cassero the way it looks now, connecting it to the two side towers by two crenellated porticos
The Neoclassical Villa Spada stands on the Zambeccari marquises’ ancient estate in the part of the building called ‘Casino Zambeccari’, first mentioned in 1774. The villa has housed the Historic Didactic Museum of Tapestrysince 1990. Today the museum houses over six thousand pieces, which amongst them include Italian, Middle Eastern, Asian, and other non-European fabrics. Lace, embroideries, fringes, bows, upholsterer’s tools and accessories, such as sewing machines and upholstery nails, are exhibited on the three floors of the villa.
Measuring 3,796 meters in length, the portico that links the Sanctuary and the town is the longest in the world. Since 1433, this portico has been providing shelter for the annual procession which carries the Byzantine Madonna and Childto the cathedral in town during Ascension week. The construction of the portico began in 1674 with the Bonaccorsi arch by Gian Giacomo Montiat the old gate of Porta Saragozza. Monti is also the architect of the final design of the portico at the foot of the hill, which is characterised by an extremely pleasant and simple style, later imitated by Carlo Francesco Dotti, his successor from the second decade of the 18th century. The final hilly stretch, designed by Dotti, is instead characterised by the dynamic succession of different perspectives and vanishing points up to the final view of the Sanctuary.
One can begin the walk up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca at the Meloncello Arch situated along via Saragozza. The arch was designed by architect Carlo Francesco Dotti, who was most likely assisted by Francesco Bibiena, a stage designer. With its curved plan and massive use of free columns, this arch, together with the open area outside the basilica, is the only outdoor example of baroque architecture in Bologna.
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