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Architecture and civic identity in late sixteenth-century Bologna: Domenico and Pellegrino Tibaldi's projects for the rebuilding of the cathedral of San Pietro and Andrea Palladio's designs for the façade of the basilica of San Petronio

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The implementation of Tridentine reforms throughout Italy often accompanied the physical rebuilding of churches – with special emphasis given to the repair and reconstruction of cathedrals. Despite the widely recognized need for the material renovation of these structures, however, there were at times bitter debates over financial responsibilities, programmatic criteria, and aesthetic guidelines. Consensus between bishops, capitular clergy, and community leaders was frequently difficult to obtain due to competing interests and priorities. In Bologna, resistance to Cardinal Archbishop Gabriele Paleotti's plan to expand episcopal control of the diocese and elevate the prominence of the cathedral affected the design and execution of renovation plants for both the cathedral of San Pietro and the civic basilica of San Petronio.

Paleotti aimed from the beginning of his episcopate to repair or rebuild San Pietro. The chapter's opposition to the cardinal's jurisdictional and financial reforms delayed reconstruction plans for ten years; its opposition to the explicit Roman references of the project's architectural features and the emphasis on the bishop's commanding position forced a redesign which consciously imitated the traditional layout of the old basilica. Cathedral rebuilding was part of a larger strategy of shifting the centre of the city's religious ceremonies back to the cathedral from San Petronio. Fronting the main square, San Petronio had come to symbolize Bolognese autonomy, and projects for the completion of its façade entered into direct competition with Paleotti's ecclesiastical and architectural program. Drawing extensively on archival documents, this study connects these debates over the style of San Pietro and the façade of San Petronio, locating both in the civic and ecclesiastical politics of the later sixteenth century.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 1999

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