Visit Modena: Cathedral, Civic Tower and Piazza Grande

Author: Roby Ferrari

Modena Churches, Italy

UNESCO world heritage since 1997

A new language: this was the leit motiv that drove Lanfranco and Wiligelmo to create the cathedral and civic tower, the Ghirlandina.
To build it, Wiligelmo stated with an essential premise: the sculpture needed to go beyond simple decorative standards to match the architecture. The sculptures needed to make the cathedral an illustrated book with strong symbolism.
Genesis is narrated in the facade with biblical elements and figures from the representative traditions told in the squares. The three portals (Porta Maggiore, Porta dei Principi, Porta della Pescheria) present a series of grotesque figures in endless conflict, surrounded by mysterious and dangerous woods. Myths and legends are represented on the three portals' architraves like the Breton cycle of King Arthur in the Porta della Pescheria arch vault.
Work began in 1099 and was completed almost a century later. Other elements were added or changed in following centuries like the rose window on the facade and the raising of the apsidal part
The civic tower, or Ghirlandina, erected with the cathedral and about 88 meters high, features five Roman style floors and a top Gothic style one. 
Piazza Grande is the heart of the city, the typical Italian city central square where town life unraveled. The red marble Ringadora stone, used by politicians and orators to capture the crowd's attention, still stands on the North-East side of the square.
On the same side of the square stands the Palazzo Comunale, the town hall which preserves one of the city's symbols, the secchia rapita, a wooden bucket that recalls the battle of the Zappolino against the Bolognesi. The bucket was stolen from a well in Bologna as a war trophy and triumphantly carried into the city.

open daily 7 AM - 12:30 PM; 3:30 PM - 7 PM

from April to October (probably closed in August (7 AM - 12:30 PM; 3:30 PM - 7 PM


Add to your or


Search hotels in

When? (optional)