Seven Churches and the Basilica of Santo Stefano

Basilica in Bologna

Basiica Di Santo Stefano Bologna
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Vanni Lazzari

Among the fascinating churches adorned with art in Bologna, the Basilica of Santo Stefano stands out as the oldest and most evocative.  It is mainly known as “sette chiese” (“seven churches”) because it is the merger of multiple buildings erected in different eras. This complex, consisting of eight buildings, could be considered the birthplace of faith in Bologna. It was constructed by the Benedictines between the 10th and 13th centuries with the purpose of housing the relics of the city’s early martyrs, Saints Vitale and Agricola.

The Origins of the Basilica of Santo Stefano

The origins of the complex are surrounded by controversy and debate. The most widely accepted theory suggests that it was constructed by Petronius atop the remnants of a pre-existing pagan temple, accompanied by a replica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Adjacent to the sacellum containing the remains of Bologna’s protomartyrs, Vitale and Agricola, stand the structures erected by the Benedictines between the 10th and 13th centuries.

The main church, Chiesa del Crocifisso, features a 12th-century external pulpit and a crypt that dates back to 1019. The octagonal Santo Sepolcro leads to a pillared courtyard connected to a two-story cloister, adding to the serene ambience. In the unassuming third church, visitors can marvel at the capitals of diverse styles, repurposed from previous Roman and Byzantine structures, as well as admire the mosaic floors from the 6th century.

The Piazza Santo Stefano

Overlooking the square are several notable churches, including the Church of the Crucifix of Lombard origin, the Church of the Calvario, the Church of Saint Vitale and Saint Agricola, and the Church of the Trinity (Chiesa della Trinità), which underwent restructuring during the 12th and 13th centuries. Inside these churches, visitors can admire various artistic treasures.

One captivating feature is the Courtyard of Pilate (Cortile di Pilato), adorned with a marble basin generously donated by Liutprand and Hildeprand, Kings of the Lombards. Another remarkable sight is the Benedectine cloister, boasting a dual loggia and showcasing exquisite architectural craftsmanship in the Aemilian Romanesque style. This cloister, constructed between the 10th and 13th centuries, stands as one of the most splendid creations of its kind.

Furthermore, the square is home to a museum that houses an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and other artworks from diverse periods, providing visitors with a comprehensive glimpse into the artistic heritage of the region.

The Seven Churches and the Basilica of Santo Stefano appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Bologna!

This website uses affiliate links which may earn a commission at no additional cost to you!

Visiting Seven Churches and the Basilica of Santo Stefano



Address: Piazza Santo Stefano, Via Santo Stefano, Bologna, Metropolitan City of Bologna, Italy
Duration: 20 minutes

Nearby Attractions

Tours and Activities from Bologna