Archiginnasio of Bologna – Anatomical Theatre of Bologna:
Unless you’re a medical type, an anatomical theatre is not quite the kind of place that you would normally plan to visit during the holidays. However, a visit to the Bologna Anatomical Theatre is one that should not be be missed. This historical Bologna theatre in the Archiginnasio of Bologna is a pretty amazing site.
Archiginnasio of Bologna
Our surprise visit to the Bologna anatomical theatre was part of our walking tour of Bologna. As we faithfully followed our guide through the Archiginnasio of Bologna, we were already impressed by the lower portico and inner courtyard of this historical building. Once the home of the Bologna University, its walls and ceilings, are covered with thousands of coats of arms. These indicate the home country or city of the distinguished students who had the honour of putting their names on the walls, and there were about seven thousand of them. The staircase leading to the upper level was just as decorated and impressive.
A little along the portico of the upper level, we arrived at the extraordinary Anatomical theatre. This amphitheatre-shaped room, made from fir wood and with a coffer ceiling, was built in 1636 but it is in pristine condition. It actually suffered extensive damage during the Allied bombings in January 1944, but fortunately the people were able to restore it based on pictures and paintings of the Bologna theatre.
The anatomical theatre was used in the teaching of anatomy in universities during the early modern times. The white marble theatre table in the centre was where dissections of human bodies or animals took place. The table is overlooked by the Cattedra del Lettore (teacher’s desk) where the professor sits. This ornate chair is flanked by statues of Spellati (skinned men). The students would observe the lessons from their seats around the theatre. Luckily for squeamish people like me, no one was being cut open during our visit.
Around the room are two rows of sculptures of twelve prominent physicians such as Hippocrates and Galen as well as the most famous anatomists of Bologna University. And if you think that cosmetic surgery is a development of the 21st century, take a look at the statue holding a nose in his hand. This statue portrays Gaspare Tagliacozzi, a Bologna native who was an early pioneer of rhinoplasty.
The busts in the room are of people who are of lesser prominence. The ceiling, with its zodiac sign reflects the belief that astrology was associated with medicine and that every part of the body was placed under the protection of a zodiac sign.
Archiginnasio of Bologna
Piazza Galvani 1