A Month in Bologna

Sunday, June 26, 2011 2:46 AM

Bizzaro Bologna Part 2

Sometimes, Ronnie likes a challenge. There were the Due Torri to be conquered. These are two towers that were built by nobles in the 12th and 13th centuries for their homes/palaces. Bragging rights between the families of the time was measured by who had the tallest tower. Estimates vary, but at one point, there were between 100 to 300 torri. Time and urban planning put an end to most of them. The smaller existing one has a definite lean to it like its more famous cousin in Pisa. The larger one is undergoing repair, but still dominates the center's skyline. To get to the top of it, you have to climb an internal staircase of more than 400 steps. This was a challenge that Ronnie couldn't resist, so one clear day she headed out and made it to the top. She has the pictures to prove it. The video of the towers is probably the best way to show just how big they are.

The Basilica of Santo Stefano is in our neighborhood, a short walk away. We have passed it many times, but have never entered until just recently. They say it is seven churches in one, which doesn't make a lot of sense, but that's exactly what it is. The original basilica was built over a pagan temple around the year 500. Over the next 6 centuries, it was continually expanded until it really did have seven separate churches, all connected in some way, shape or form. Today, part of it serves as the monastery for one of the local orders. Most of the churches are more like chapels than the elaborate Gothic cathedrals that we often encounter in Europe. It's pretty spooky inside since there's little outside light entering and is sort of a labyrinth as you pass from one room to the next. There are some very strange structures, including a monolithic altar of sorts. At least, I think that's what it is. It looks like it could have been used for human sacrifices. One open area has the basin where Pontius Pilate washed his hands after condemning Christ to death. Anyway, that's the claim since the basin itself dates from around the 9th century. There is one statue which I believe is the only one ever made of a real live Klingon (cf. Star Trek - The Next Generation). All in all, it's a walk through a very strange and distant past.