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Cathedral - Modena

Modena Duomo or Cathedral is a major Romanesque monument. In 1997 it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Programme, together with its Ghirlandina Tower and adjacent Piazza Grande. The Duomo was founded on 9 June 1099, in an initiative promoted by the city’s various social classes, as a confirmation of the civic, cultural and religious values of the budding Community of Modena. It is dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption and is the sanctuary of St Geminianus, bishop and patron saint of Modena, who died in 397, and whose remains are buried here. The Saint’s tomb was moved here in 1106 from a previous cathedral. Modena Duomo was consecrated in 1184. The architect Lanfranco and the sculptor Wiligelmus perfected a fusion of ancient culture and new Lombard art, creating a fundamental model for Romanesque civilisation. From the late 1100s until the 1300s, the site was directed by the “Maestri Campionesi”, Lombard sculptors and architects who came from Campione.

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    • Cathedral - Modena
      397 Death of St Geminianus, bishop and evangelizer of Modenese territory.
      570  Gundeberga epigraph (testimony of the first basilica).
      883 (?) Second basilica ad corpus for the worship of the Patron Saint, Geminianus.
      1099 Foundation of the Cathedral (Duomo). Lanfranco architect, Wiligelmus sculptor.
      1106   Translation of the remains of the Saint to the new crypt in the presence of Pope Pascal II and Matilda of Canossa.
      1184 Solemn consecration of the Cathedral in the presence of Pope Lucius III.
      12th - 13th century   Construction of the bell or civic tower.
      1208-25  Bozalino “the saint’s farmer”.
      1231 The Porta Regia gate already existed.
      13th century Anselmo da Campione and his descendents serve at length on the Duomo building site.
      1319 Completion of the tower and spire.
      1435 - 55 Construction of the vaults (over the choir added in 1444).
      1529 Emperor Charles V prays in the Duomo.
      1897 - 1925 Restoration of the Duomo promoted by Tommaso Sandonnini.
      1956 Restoration of the crypt and opening of the Epigraphic Museum.
      1975 - 1990  Completion of the external restoration project.
      1997 The Duomo and Piazza Grande are declared part of the UNESCO World Heritage Programme.
      1997 - 99  Millennial celebrations (397,1099).
      2000 Inauguration of the Duomo Museum and reopening of the Epigraphic Museum (Musei del Duomo) in the year of the Great Jubilee.
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    Architecture and Furniture

    • Cathedral - Modena To the sides and on the secondary doors, four slabs narrate the Stories of Genesis: Wiligelmus’ masterpieces and the peak of Romanesque art, illustrating episodes from the Creation of Adam to Noah leaving his Ark. The splendid rose window is a 1200s work by the “Maestri Campionesi”, who worked on the Duomo from the late 1100s until the 1300s.
      The Piazza Grande entrances are the Romanesque Porta dei Principi, with its Stories of St Geminianus, and the great, rosy marble Porta Regia, built by Anselmo da Campione in about 1200. Copies of the famous metopes, fantastic figures crafted by a pupil of Wiligelmus, can be seen on the roof risers. On the left side, beyond the three majestic apses, there is Porta della Pescheria, the door that once led in from the old fish market, carved with illustrations of the Months and Stories of King Arthur.
      The Cathedral is flanked by the bell tower, an opus by Lanfranco and the “Maestri Campionesi”, known as La Ghirlandina, with its balustrade crowning the spire like a garland.

      The façade
      The gabled façade, with two sloping wings, is opposite Palazzo Arcivescovile. It has Vicenza and Verona stone facings, with frequent use of recovered Roman marble brought to light in the foundations. The façade is skirted by a gallery of three-light windows that enhance the entire building and act as a unifying feature. The portal sculpted by Wiligelmus is set in the centre: here he has used a plant motif of an “inhabited vegetation” evoking woods populated by monsters and symbolising life and the ongoing battle against evil; in the upper section of the portal, the vegetation becomes a vine, the “Lord’s Vineyard”, the symbol of salvation. In the door stiles there are carvings of 12 Prophets. The door is preceded by an arch supported by two lions, copies of Roman sculptures. On the sides of this portal and on the two side doors, opened in the 1200s by the Campionesi, there are four reliefs, masterpieces by Wiligelmus, with Stories of Genesis, the Creation of Adam, Noah’s Leaving of the Ark. The story of man’s falling prey to sin and his subsequent reconciliation with God. The language used by Wiligelmus here appears in all its powerful expression, yet extremely refined, combining a homage to Roman and Byzantine art with more contemporary Provencal and Rhine Valley sculpture. To the left of the main door, set high, the Duomo’s foundation plaque, sculpted by Wiligelmus. The façade is dominated by the Gothic rose window, a thirteenth-century work by Anselmo da Campione. Above the rose window, a relief of Christ enthroned by the “Maestri Campionesi”, surrounded by the symbols of the Evangelists, attributed to the school of Wiligelmus.

      On Piazza Grande
      The southern side of the Duomo is on Piazza Grande and offers a sort of secondary façade towards Palazzo Comunale. The left-hand door, Porta dei Principi or del Battesimo, has sculptures by the Wiligelmus school: in the architrave, the journey of St Geminianus to the Orient, and his death. The “inhabited vegetation” along the stiles is carved with human figures: farmers, blacksmiths, sculptors ...; the 12 Apostles are carved inside the stiles. The other great door is called the Regia, from “reza”, the ancient Italian word for door; the Community commissioned the lavish rose-hued marble carvings from Anselmo da Campione, who worked on them from 1175 to 1231. Almost at the end of the flank there are four stiacciatos, dated 1442, very low bas reliefs of Stories of St Geminianus, by the Florentine Agostino di Duccio, a pupil of Donatello. Observing the nave roof it is possible to discern copies of the metopes at the end of the beams. The originals – sculpted by a stone carver from Wiligelmus’ workshop – are now in the Epigraphic Museum. The metopes are fantastic monsters who were believed to live at the Antipodes, but who would nevertheless receive the Word of God.

      The apses, Porta Pescheria, the Ghirlandina Tower
      From here the three magnificent apses can be observed. In the centre apse, on either side of the decorated window, Modena’s ancient measuring units are etched into the stone: “mattone”, “braccio”, “pertica”, “coppo”; in fact, this was the market square and the public measuring units were used in the event of disagreements.
      Porta della Pescheria, on the left side, is thus called as it faced the ancient fish market. Wiligelmus’ assistants carved the door with illustrations of human activities for all of the Months; the arch is sculpted with Stories of King Arthur, some of the oldest depicting the famous Breton legend; the architrave illustrated Aesop’s Fables. An interesting combination of daily human toil, medieval legends and traditional fables from the ancient world.
      Next to the Cathedral there is its soaring bell tower, called La Ghirlandina for its balustrade garland. It was erected by the Community as a defence and lookout tower. The 88-metre building is by Lanfranco as far as the penultimate floor of the square-plan layout, the rest is by the “Maestri Campionesi”.
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    Regular guided visits

    • Admission Fees
      for free

      Guided Tours
      Guided tours in the cathedral and equippment with audio-guides; requests in the tourism information office.
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    • The Middle Ages in Modena
      A journey to the Middle Ages of Modena: discover the Cathedral with its Ghirlandina tower and the nearby museums!
    • Around the Cathedral in Modena
      Find out more about the Community Palace, the Piazza Grande and the public market of Modena.
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Corso Duomo
41100 Modena

Tourist Information:

Via Scudari 12
41100 Modena
+39 059-206659

Highlight UNESCO Cathedrals

Opening Hours:

Consulting hours for group visitations
Week days
7.30h - 8.00h; 8.30h - 9.00h; 9.30h - 10.00h; 10.30h - 12.00h; 15.30h - 17.30h

7.50h - 8.20h; 9.20h - 9.50h; 11.50h - 12.10h; 15.30h - 17.30h

Cathedral - Modena

Cathedral - Modena