Italy Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio

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Sue Wolfe

About this spot
Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio was the first permanent seat of Bologna’s (and Europe’s) oldest university. Originally the schools of law and sciences were scattered around the city. Once the Archiginnasio was built (1562), the schools moved to their new location. They remained there until 1803 when the university moved to its current location on via Zamboni.

Its construction was commissioned by Pope Pius IV during the years of the Council of Trent. Today the palace houses the Sala dello Stabat Mater (a lecture hall) and the Teatro Anatomico (Anatomy Theatre). This amphitheater contains wooden statues depicting some of the famous anatomists and doctors who practiced there. At one time the Church forbade regular sessions of dissections but when they did take place, they were popular events, open to the public.

Two large staircases lead up to the second floor which features classes and lecture halls (now closed to the public). The staircases and halls are decorated with 6,000 student coats of arms which include the student’s name and hometown. The honor of putting your coat of arms on the wall was reserved for students who were elected as heads of the student organizations.

The palace was heavily damaged by bombing during WWII and was later rebuilt using all the surviving materials retrieved from the rubble.

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