Bologna Museo Civico Medievale
About Museo Civico Medievale
Since 1985 the Museo Civico Medievale has been situated inside this building known as Palazzo Ghisilardi-Fava. Various architectural features leave the visitor in no doubt that this was indeed a home for nobility during the dominion of the Bentivoglio family from the 1400-1500’s.
The objects in the museum come from several important private collections that date back as far as the seventeenth century.1
The whole museum is divided into four areas and then subdivided into rooms. This ground floor section highlights ‘The history of the Museum’. Exhibits here are from the Cospi, Marsili and Palagi Collections and include ceramics and French and Italian ivory samples.
This next area is dedicated to ‘The Middle Ages in Bologna’. For example, these 13th century exhibits are made from Carrara marble.
In the adjoining room are even greater examples of sculptured works. During the Middle Ages it was a common practice in Bologna, as in other major university cities, to dedicate sculpted funerary monuments to the professors who taught at the institution.2
This sculpted vault was created for Carlo da Soliceto and placed in the church of San Martino. Furthermore, it was dedicated to his grandfather Roberto and great grandfather Riccardo who were both respected lecturers.
In the same room are these figures which represent the figure of ‘Justice’ and saints Domenico, Pietro, Floriano, Ambrogio, Petronio and Francesco. They were completed around 1382 and believed to have been influenced by the Venetian sculptor Pier Paolo Dalle Masegne.
Going through into room 7 is this fabulous water font illustrating four figures of Atlas. The artist is unknown and is believed to date to the early part of the 13th century.
In the corner is this huge statue of Boniface VIII made of gilded copper plate by Manno Bandini da Siena in 1301. It’s said to have been the first statue erected in public in Bologna in order to commemorate the Pope’s efforts to end the war between Bologna and Ferrara.
Equally impressive and rare is this next item on display. In fact, it’s one of the few still in existence. The large cape illustrates stories of the Life of Christ and this particular one is the most significant surviving examples of opus anglicanum.
In this next room are more examples of funerary monuments brought here from local churches. Many of them which belong to the 14th and 15th centuries portray the teacher as he lectures to his students. This one at the end of the room still retains traces of the original colours used, as seen by the blue and yellow on some of the figures.
Upstairs in room 21 are beautiful figurines, religious objects and intricate boxes probably used by women of nobility for jewellery or trinkets.
The next set of rooms are dedicated to ancient weaponry and armoury. There is no shortage of highly decorated examples of craftsmanship shown on the handle grips of guns. Even the trigger mechanisms demonstrate a fine degree of artistic endeavour to create unique and prized treasures.
Another surprise here are the various tools of war; some appear as frightening weapons of torture judging by their brutal and sadistic designs. However, set against another back drop are more gallant looking protective suits for ‘Knights in shining armour’. Shields, swords and even fancy guards for horses are also on display in these rooms.
In room 17 is this very valuable monument by Francesco del Cossa from the 1400’s. Created for the tomb of Domenico Garganelli, it’s a marble slab with obvious bronze elements added for decorative effect. This was originally placed in a chapel in San Pietro that unfortunately no longer exists.
And finally, one of the greatest artists to work in this city, Jean de Boulogne, otherwise Giambologna, created this bronze bust of Mercury in honour of the Austrian Emperor Massimiliano II. Although this bust was probably only the first working model for the final project.
1 Information taken from booklet published by Musei Civici d’Arte Antica
2 As above.
Costa, Tiziano – Poli, Marco. Conoscere Bologna, Bologna 2005, pp257-258.