Library of Archiginnasio & the Anatomical Theatre in Bologna

Bologna is very much a shopping city. A multitude of shops and boutiques can be found mostly under the wonderful medieval arches for which the city is world-renowned. In fact, there are some 600 arches (3,796 meters in length) and around 40km of porticoes present in the city. These porticoes are today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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It is evident that this architecture is what makes the city rather special. And an example of this can equally be seen at the Library of the Archiginnasio (Biblioteca dell’Archiginnasio) – a rather unexpected place tucked away in the centre of the city, almost hidden between these arches.

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As one enters the Library of the Archiginnasio, you are immediately drawn to the inner courtyard and colourful decorative wall elements on the ground floor level. It is clear that the walls of the library tell an intriguing story of scientific knowledge through the ages.

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We are firstly told that bicycles are forbidden here, according to the sign below. And one can clearly see why – gold plated plaques and cupids with the names of esteemed medical professionals adorn walls like some kind of shrine to the most intelligent of minds who once lived in this city and who perhaps once attended or worked at the university.

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And the ceilings inside the Library of the Archiginnasio are equally as magnificent and highly detailed.

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One particular passageway/stairwell which I absolutely loved was this one below whereby shields and flower designs are painted in really bright colours on the ceiling and walls

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Moreover, you quickly forget you’re in a library until you stumble upon this room below. Walls here are pretty detailed and colourful and you’ll find books on a range on scientific subjects (although the cheap black chairs ruin the classic appeal of the room in my opinion – I assume the place is utilized for conferences and meetings nowadays).

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But still, the most popular talking point of the Library of the Archiginnasio is the Anatomical Theatre. This was once a medical examination theatre for medical students of the university. Corpses were cut open and experiments were performed here. The white marble tabletop where dissections would take place still exists today in the centre of the room. And the room is designed in such a way that all could see and observe examinations – almost like an amphitheatre. The layout of the room also reminds one of a legal court with the wooden banisters and seats – there is no doubt something very grand and noteworthy about the place.

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Wooden sculptures of human figures as well as other detailed carvings on the walls are also to be found inside the Anatomical Theatre.

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And just outside of the room I came across this bench, half painted onto the wall. One can only imagine the bright minds who may have once taken a seat there.

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The Library of the Archiginnasio, located centrally in Bologna is by far my number one highlight of the city for those interested in history and culture. The Anatomical Theatre equally makes for great viewing, so too do the books and overall magnificent interior design.

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Elizabeth Joss

Elizabeth Joss is the founder and main writer at The Museum Times. She is a content marketer and university lecturer by day and an avid travel blogger and arts and culture enthusiast by night. Elizabeth started The Museum Times out of the need to give smaller, lesser-known museums more exposure.

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