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Reggio Emilia: town of art and culture

Museum Palace Since 1830, the Civic Museums have been housed in “Palazzo San Francesco” (The Palace of Saint Frances). They contain collections dedicated to Archeology and Ethnography (Chierici Museum, Roman Museum, the Museum of Pre history and Proto-history), to the History of Art (Fontanesi Gallery,  Antonio Ligabue Hall, Marble Gallery, medieval mosaics) and to the History of Natural Science (Spallanzani Collection, and many zoological, anatomical, botanical, geo-mineralogical and paleontological collections).

Galleria Parmeggiani Luigi Parmeggiani’s collection of art is housed within an unusual Gothic-Renaissance style building. It includes several valuable collections dating from the 1800’s consisting of paintings, furniture, textiles, works of art by Ignacio Leon Y Escosura and Cesare Detti, as well as a valuable collection of older artwork among which is “Il Salvatore Benedicente” (The Saviour) by El Greco. Also featured is a renowned collection of arms and handcrafted goldsmith’s art reproductions from Marcy’s in Paris dating from the 19th century.

Valli Theatre The theatre, surrounded by the public park, is a distinctive landmark located in the city centre. It was designed by architect Cesare Costa, and built between 1852 and 1857. Dedicated to the Reggio Emilia actor Romolo Valli, it offers a choice selection of opera, concerts and ballet every season.

The Cathedral According to sources of medieval history, the church in Reggio Emilia was not referred to as a Cathedral until just before the turn of the 11th century. Despite this, it is without a doubt that a church existed in this spot in 451, the year in which the Bishop of Reggio Favenzio took part in the Synod in Milan. Over the years, the church was adapted first to the Romanesque style, then to the Renaissance one, according to designs created at the end of the 6th century by Prospero Sogari, also known as “il Clemente”, although the upper portion remained unfinished. “Il Clemente” created the sculpture of Adam and Eve which is found under the lunette over the main door. It was Bartolomeo Spani, active from the late 1400’s to early 1500’s, who created the embossed and gilded copper sculpture of the Madonna sitting in a throne with the Christ child and the husband and wife couple, Fiordibelli, which decorates the octagonal overhanging of the facade. Inside the Cathedral you can find artwork by Guercino, Palma il Giovane, Passignano, Pomarancio, Cavalier d’Arpino, and other famous artists. Of particular interest is the crypt which dates from the 12th-13th century. The cathedral has recently undergone restoration and re-opened to the public with contributions by contemporary artists such as Kounellis, Spalletti, Nagasawa, Parmeggiani, and Pompili.

The “Ghiara” Basilica It owes its name, “Ghiara”, to the gravelly terrain on which is was built after the miracle that took place there: a deaf-mute boy, Marchino, was praying in front of a fresco painting of the Blessed Mother when he was healed. Built in 1597 from a design by the architect from Ferrara, Balbi, and completed by the Reggian, Francesco Pacchioni, it is one of the most interesting examples of Italian Baroque architecture, containing a true anthology of Italian paintings from the 1600’s. Among those whose artwork can be found inside are: Ludovico Caracci, Alessandro Tiarini, Orazio Talami, Alfonso Chierici, and Guericino (The Crucifixion). In the second chapel on the right, you can see the famous fresco of the Blessed Mother of the Ghiara painted by Bertone in 1569 to a drawing done by Lelio Orsi. Since its restoration, it has become a spectacular experience for whoever chooses to cross its threshold. The critic, Federico Zeri, defines it as “The most prominent monument of Reggio Emilia Mannerism”. Adjoined to the Basilica are the cloisters: the largest of which is now home of the youth hostel.

The Basilica of Saint Prospero Built in 997, the church underwent its first major restoration in the early 1500s. It was during this period that the six lions carved out of red marble from Verona were put in place. The 18th century facade is the work by Giovanni Battista Cattani. Inside, with its three naves in the Latin cross form, are housed many paintings done by artists of the 16th century, among which are those by Giovanni Giarola and Ludovico Carracci. Also of interest is the 17th century altar piece done by Alessandro Tiarini. The presbitery is adorned with a noteworthy series of paintings dating back to the last part of the 16th century and done by Camillo Procaccini and Bernardino Campi.