The Basilica of St. Luke and the World's Longest Portico
Hill and city united by the embrace of St. Luke's
What it is and where it is
From Porta Saragozza to the top of the Colle della Guardia, there is a 3.5-kilometer-long serpentine, 666 arches and 439 steps. A truly impressive work, so much so that it constitutes the longest colonnade in the world. Where does it lead? To St. Luke's, what a question!
Why it is special
"If it goes as it should, I'll walk to San Luca." A typical Bolognese phrase for making friends with fate. Because San Luca here in the city, it is not just a basilica. It is a feeling, it is someone at home, a constant presence, even when you don't think about it you know it is there. It's an expletive, St. Luke's is a sigh, a companionship, a presence, a faith. If you ask 100 different people what St. Luke's is they will look at you as if you were aliens and say, "St. Luke's is St. Luke," what is there to explain? And the portico is an integral part of this, a friendly path, almost an extension of home.
Not to be missed
Every year, on the Saturday before the fifth Sunday after Easter, the icon of Our Lady, which is kept in the basilica, is brought to Bologna by a solemn procession and, passing through the streets of the center, reaches the cathedral. On the Wednesday before Ascension, the image is taken to the basilica of San Petronio, from whose parvis a solemn blessing has been imparted to the city since 1588. The icon remains a week in the valley, after which, on the Sunday following the Thursday of the Ascension, it returns to the Basilica, making the same journey back. A celebration for the whole city.
A bit of history
The history of the Basilica is lost among legends and quasi-official documents. It seems that in the hermitage, already present on the Colle della Guardia, a hermit from Constantinople found refuge with a wooden tablet with an effigy of Our Lady, painted by St. Luke. Later the hermitage and effigy became the property of two sisters who expanded the structure and together with other Bolognese women went to occupy what was to become one of the most important monasteries in the city. In 1700 the structure was renovated in Baroque style with the imposing facade that we can still admire today in all its splendor.
Since 2003, on a Saturday in mid-October, students, associations and citizens of Bologna have joined together in a symbolic gesture called "Passamano per San Luca," a reminder of the solidarity that allows us to face common problems together. This event commemorates the construction of the hillside part of the colonnade, which began on Oct. 17, 1767, with the collaboration of the workers, city bondsmen, who united in a gigantic passamano that allowed materials to get to the construction site that climbed the hill quickly and very efficiently.
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