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Santo Stefano or "the seven churches"

Santo Stefano or

The Sanctuary of Santo Stefano is the most unusual place of worship in Bologna. Known as the “seven churches”, it is a combination of several buildings constructed in different periods. Built on the foundations of an ancient pagan temple, it was envisaged as a true copy of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

Over the centuries it underwent a series of additions that brought it to not one but a full seven churches, and an unexpected find made one of these churches so famous that the Pope was forced to intervene. Of the original seven churches, four remain today.

Set along the piazza are the Lombard-era Church of the Crucifix, the church of the Calvary and Saints Vitale and Agricola and the Church of the Trinity. The Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, the finest and oldest of the churches, is built on a temple to the goddess Isis; it has kept the ancient Roman columns and a water fountain required to worship the Egyptian deity.

Leaving the Church of the Sepulcher, one crosses the Courtyard of Pilate, symbolizing the place where Jesus was condemned. A perfect example of Bolognese Romantic construction, at its center is the Catino di Pilato or Pilate's basin. Beside it is the entrance to the Benedictine cloister considered one of Emilia's Romanesque masterpieces (12th-13th c.).

Through the church dedicated to the saints Vitale and Agricola, which houses the remains of Bologna's first two martyrs and saints, the complex opens onto the large piazza by the same name, closing the two rows of arcades in Via Santo Stefano. Lastly, the Museum is worth a visit to see its paintings, sculptures, and other works of art of various periods.