Modena: motors, food and music
Modena medieval universe, the Renaissance terracotta, and the Baroque splendor of Emilia Romagna region. First of all Roman colony as Mutina, the Via Emilia divides the town into two parts: the medieval section and the Renaissance area created by the Este family dominated by the Ducal Palace. In the centuries following the Roman Empire, Modena risks to cease its existence after a devastating flood. But around the church that preserves the relics of Saint Geminiano the patron of the town, it forms a new settlement. And Modena rises again under the dominion of the Bishops. In 1099 starts the construction of the cathedral, one of Romanesque architecture masterpieces.
Modena and the domination of the Este
After continuous struggles with Bologna, Modena passes under the domination of the Este of Ferrara (1288-89). However, in 1306 a revolt against the Este restores the Municipality. But in 1336 Modena returns definitely to the Este and the history of the city will be the same of Ferrara for almost three centuries. The Modena of that time is a city grown in river economy, crossed by canals that feed its factories.
The Ducal Palace
In 1598 the Ducal Palace becomes the new headquarter of the Este court after the cession of Ferrara to the pope. Modena remains the capital of the Duchy until 1859 when becomes part of the forthcoming Kingdom of Italy.
Piazza Grande, Unesco World Heritage
This square is the heart of the city and has always been the fulcrum of the public life. Hence, it widens out to the southern side of the cathedral and develops between the XII and XIII century. In 1997 they declared it as Unesco World Heritage together with the Duomo and the Ghirlandina. In spite of the name, the Piazza Grande does not stand out for its size if compared to other Italian squares.
Modena and its cathedral
Modena is an ideal city for the visitor. The center is concentrated around the cathedral and the streets surrounding the Via Emilia. Often these roads are curvilinear and with the porticoes. Because they follow the paths of the ancient canals made for the land reclamation. However, the best way to visit the city is to stroll through its streets. Between restored palaces and churches that often host interesting events. The Via Emilia crosses the city from east to west, as the roman Decumanus Maximus, of which it is the most important axis. Along the main street, you will find valuable buildings, both public and private.
The construction works of the Cathedral began in 1099. Hence they ended in 1319 with the crowning of the majestic Ghirlandina bell tower. However, the local authorities commissioned the Duomo and it houses the tomb of the Saint Geminiano, bishop and then the patron saint of the city. The church is one of the most important works of the north Italian Romanesque style, with the cathedral of Ferrara and the church of San Zeno in Verona. Both for its shapes and for the exceptional sculpture cycle of Wiligelmo that adorns the façade and the monumental doors. The exceptional collection of sculptures, alone, justifies a visit to Modena. In fact, the cathedral in its entirety arouses great emotion. We can admire small sculptures embedded between the windows and the buttresses, as well as the size of the Ghirlandina tower. And also the beauty that is captured by the wide space of the Piazza Grande.
The Este Dynasty and the Baroque splendor
Francesco I d’Este worked on the Baroque aspect of the Ducal Modena. Worth a note, in the Estense Gallery of Palazzo Dei Musei, we find his portrait that Velazquez painted, as well as a bust of marble that Bernini made to the Duke. The Ducal Palace of the city is one of the most important Baroque residences in Italy. Hence today it is the seat of the Military Academy. Worth a visit the Palazzo Dei Musei that houses the Galleria Estense, a collection of the paintings and the artworks of the Este Dukes.
Modena as art city
Today Modena is one of the most important art cities of the Emilia Romagna and also known as the motors capital. In fact, the most important Italian sport car factories have their headquarters in this area. Some names are Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati. As a food valley, we find a product known all over the world: the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar. As a result, it represents the culture and the history of Modena.