Oratorio di Santa Cecilia
15 Via Zamboni, Bologna, Italy
Oratorio di Santa Cecilia Bologna Reviews
Bologna's Hidden Gem May 21, 2012
The term "a hidden gem" is overused but sometimes you stumble upon the real deal. In Bologna, Italy, the Oratorio di Santa Cecilia is a find.
The date the church was constructed is unknown but historical documents first refer to this church in 1267. Inside the church are a series of ten murals with surprisingly bright coloring depicting the life of Saint Cecilia. These paintings, which were begun in 1505, were commissioned by Giovanni II Bentivoglio and the Bentivoglio family, which were one of the noble families of Bologna. Different court artists (some known and others unknown) painted various scenes tracing Saint Cecilia's wedding to Saint Cecilia's marytrdom and burial.
Enthusiastic church staff are very proud of their church and will try to help visitors in Italian. I was immediately asked "Inglese?" and directed to a guide in English for five euros, which explained the history of each mural. Unfortunately, like most churches in Bologna, pictures inside are forbidden and a sign will be posted at the door stating "No Foto".
Hours at the church are limited and like most of Bologna, the church will be closed for lunch. Admission to the church is free.
While the murals are beautiful, the one-hour evening classical concerts are what make this church a find. Be sure to check the board outside the Oratorio for times, as the performances are magnificent. Tickets for the roughly 90 assigned seats are first come/first serve and are based on a donation. Most people were contributing five euros for a ticket. I went two nights in a row and heard music from Brahms to Chopin. The musicians, dressed in black tie or evening gowns, are obviously professionals and hearing opera or a pianist in such historical surroundings was moving. Most of the attendees are Italian (it's always a good sign when the locals attend) and it was exciting hearing the locals clapping and shouting "bravi, bravi" during curtain calls.
Sometimes you find something great that locals only seem to know about. If you are visiting Bologna, the Oratorio is one of those places that is highly worth a visit.
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