The cathedral in Modena, Italy
When the cathedral in the Italian city of Modena was put on the World Heritage List, UNESCO described it as “a masterpiece of human creative genius”.
It’s a big call but, then again, over the years this part of Italy has been the birthplace of some of the world’s most famous musicians, painters and scientists. Perhaps it should be no surprise that it would be home to a building like this.
The UNESCO description goes on. Apparently the Modena cathedral is a masterpiece “in which a new dialectical relationship between architecture and sculpture was created in Romanesque art”.
It seems you have to be a creative genius human to understand what that means.
The best way to understand is with your eyes, not with your brain.
Entering the cathedral, bumping into a young man who’s standing in the doorway crossing himself, apologising in a whisper, and then looking up for the first time to see the interior of the church… that’s when it starts to make sense.
The building is a joint creation of architect Lanfranco and sculptor Wiligelmus. Because of this relationship, the cathedral is not so much a construction as a sculpture.
The figures, the patterns, the scenes which are carved into the walls and the columns seem organic.
The very structure of the interior seems in harmony with the artwork and you can’t imagine one without the other – at one point I even consider whether the whole place would collapse if you tried to remove some of the statues.
Presumably it wouldn’t (in case you were actually wondering too).
The cathedral has stood on this same spot since the 12th century and had many alterations over the years. The numerous changes and the even more numerous tests of time have not damaged the cathedral.
It’s not on the typical tourist trail but it’s definitely worth a visit while you’re in the Emilia Romagna region.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN MODENA
Although some people visit as a day trip from Bologna, I think it’s worth staying overnight in Modena to explore everything properly
It’s not a typical hostel but the lovely Ostello San Filippo Neri has some great dorm beds.
Just out of town, Country Rooms Modena offers budget rooms in the quiet countryside.
For something special, PHI Hotel Canalgrande is in a former duke’s palace – and is decorated accordingly.
And for modern luxury, I would recommend the five-star Best Western Premier Milano Palace Hotel.
This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more info click here. You can see all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites I’ve visited here.
Time Travel Turtle was a guest of the Emilia Romagna tourism board but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT EMILIA-ROMAGNA?
To help you plan your trip to Emilia-Romagna:
- It may not be Italy’s most famous city but here’s why you should visit Bologna
- The mosaics in Ravenna are some of the most stunning you’ll ever see
- Find out why Modena Cathedral is a World Heritage Site
- The best things to see in the historic city of Ferrara
- Rimini is known for its beaches, but don’t miss this colourful neighbourhood
- Learn some Italian cooking at the home of the country’s first cookbook’s author
- You haven’t truly tasted balsamic vinegar until you’ve tried it in Modena
- With famous local ham and cheese, Parma has to be one of Italy’s best food cities
- Learn more about the Ferrari car company at these excellent museums
- The experience of a lifetime – driving a Lamborghini on Imola racetrack!
Let someone else do the work for you:
You may also want to consider taking a tour in Italy, rather than organising everything on your own. It’s also a nice way to have company if you are travelling solo.
I am a ‘Wanderer’ with G Adventures and they have great tours of Italy.
You could consider:
When I travel internationally, I always get insurance. It’s not worth the risk, in case there’s a medical emergency or another serious incident. I recommend you should use World Nomads for your trip.