Shrine of Santa Maria della Vita

The shrine of Santa Maria della Vita can be found amidst the busy shops in the heart of Bologna, a few steps from San Petronio cathedral, entering Vicolo Clavature that connects Piazza Maggiore with the historic “Quadrilatero”, rich in the fragrances and flavours typical of the city market.

The origin of this important place of worship dates back to the 1200s, when the society of the same name was founded to take care of the sick, prisoners, those condemned to death, and pilgrims.

Indeed, the history of Bologna’s Ospedale Maggiore is linked to Santa Maria della Vita for next to the religious building stood the “Spedale Maggiore”, which operated here until 1725. For logistic reasons it was then rebuilt in Via Riva di Reno and later in Via Saffi, where it is currently based.

During cleaning of the shrine in the early 1600s an image of a Virgin and Child was discovered on the outer wall, on the Via Pescherie side. The work was later attributed to Simone de’ Crocifissi (Bologna 1355–99) and its discovery aroused much interest, soon becoming one of the most venerated in the city. At the end of the seventeenth century, following a disastrous collapse, the image was moved to a safe place and returned to public view only after 1787, when Giuseppe Tubertini’s handsome dome was built. Since then it has enjoyed pride of place in the sanctuary, on the high altar.

The church – with its large dome, the refined interior and six side chapels – represents the most important example of Late Bologna Baroque.

A considerable collection of sacred works is present in the shrine, including the famous Lamentation of the Dead Christ sculptural group (c. 1463), located in the room to the right of the presbytery. Sculptor Nicolò dell’Arca instilled the seven figures in the work with such vigour and expressiveness that is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Italian sculpture. Your unique journey of devotion, art and folk culture will begin with this deeply moving oeuvre and continue to cast its spell until the very end.

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