Santuario di Santa Maria della Vita


In the heart of the Quadrilatero, this 17th-century shrine is one of Bologna's most beautiful and important, not only for its 13th-century foundation by the Congregation of Flagellati (named for their custom of flagellating themselves for penitence), but also as the home of Compianto del Cristo Morto (Lamentation over the Dead Christ), a masterpiece of Italian Early Renaissance sculpture by Niccolò dell'Arca.

The haunting work was created during the second half of the 15th century. It features six life-sized terracotta figures hovered around a dead Christ, their faces in various stages of grief, turmoil, pain and torment, none more so than Mary Magdalene, whose anguish is magnified by her howling expression upon entering the scene, her robe and veil flapping in the wind. It is at the very least uncomfortable to observe, regardless of one's religious views. The Compianto is the highlight here, but the worthwhile Oratorio dei Battuti (priced separately) features exquisite baroque frescoes and Alfonso Lombardi's Il Transito della Vergine (Death of the Virgin), another life-sized terracotta sculpture representing the 12 Apostles surrounding the Virgin's tomb.

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