Delving into the Details at the Modena Cathedral, Italy
The Modena Cathedral offers an elegant canvas onto which to watch the world go by in this enchanting northern Italian city. Commuters pedal past its weathered walls on bikes; a gentleman reads a newspaper on its stairs, made smooth from hundreds of years of wear; children ride sculpted lions, which appear to blush at times because of their pink marble composition; and a couple embraces. We found that it’s also enjoyable to change perspective and look at the bustling piazza and lively cafés while sitting atop the cathedral’s foundation, something we did one sunny afternoon while enjoying a picnic of twisted breadsticks, Sicilian cheese, and Pesto Genovese, which we procured from Modena’s nearby Albinelli Market.
The Romanesque gem’s construction began in 1099, but modifications continued until the 14th Century. The result of this patient construction are stunning decorations that have stood the test of time, and which tell Biblical stories through imagery of saints, flora, fauna, and even imaginary creatures.
The church was designed by Lanfranco, and features work done by sculptor Wiligelmo. Since the cathedral took more than 200 years to complete, Lanfranco and Wiligelmo were succeeded by a series of other workmen. The cathedral was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1997 and inside, its crypt houses the remains of St. Geminianus, Modena’s patron saint.
The cathedral’s main entrance. On the left, you can see the The Ghirlandina Tower, which was completed in 1319. In Italian, its nickname means ‘Tower of the Garlands’ because of its elegant decorations. It provided the vantage point for guards to watch over Modena’s town hall as well as its city center.
On the right, Shawn mingles with one of two sculpted lions which support columns on the cathedral’s entryway. The lion pair dates back to the 2nd Century AD, and it’s believed they were incorporated into the cathedral’s design after being unearthed. Present-day Modena grew out of a former Roman colony named Mutina.
A boy plays hide & seek with a black balloon sword in hand. On the right, one of many saints carved into the cathedral’s exterior.
Detail of the 1,900+ year-old lion sculpture.
The cathedral’s details, such as these wedding-cake like carvings are incredible. On the right, a girl sits atop a lion on the south-eastern side of the cathedral, known as the Porta Regia.
The cathedral’s rose window, which dates back to the 12th Century.
A gold crucifix dating back to the 14th Century. The Duomo’s crypt houses the tomb of Geminianus, Modena’s patron saint.
Where in the World?
- Determine opening hours and other details on the Modena Cathedral website.
- While in Modena, we spent 3 nights at the elegant, historic, and centrally-located Hotel Canalgrande. One of our favorite memories from Modena, in fact, was sitting out on our hotel room balcony just before sunset, looking out over Modena’s rooftops, while enjoying goodies that we’d procured at the Albinelli Market earlier in the day.
- Peruse the Emilia-Romagna Tourist Board and Modena websites for more details about Modena’s and the region’s rich offerings. The tourist board just recently released a free e-book that chronicles Emilia-Romagna’s Art Cities. I wish it’d been published when we were in the region, yet it’s since presented even more excuses to return to this stunning part of Italy.
- If you’d also like to “eat, feel and live local in Italy” as we did in Modena, check out the BlogVille project website.
- Need more inspiration? This link contains an index of all my posts from Italy.
Disclosure & Thanks:
Our Modena visit was supported by the Emilia-Romagna Tourist Board, to which we extend thanks.
An extra special thank you to Nick and Francesca for coordinating the details and making us feel so welcome in Emilia-Romagna.
Photography & text © by Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.