When art and architecture meet

The cathedral in the Italian city of Modena is the perfect harmony of art and architecture. It’s a tribute to designers who thought beyond just structure.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and has travelled the world full time since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.

Updated:

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.

Modena Cathedral, Modena World Heritage Site, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Modena Cathedral, Modena World Heritage Site, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

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.

Modena Cathedral, Modena World Heritage Site, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Modena Cathedral, Modena World Heritage Site, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Modena Cathedral, Modena World Heritage Site, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

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.

Modena Cathedral, Modena World Heritage Site, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

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.

Modena Cathedral, Modena World Heritage Site, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

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.

Modena Cathedral, Modena World Heritage Site, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

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

BACKPACKER

It’s not a typical hostel but the lovely Ostello San Filippo Neri has some great dorm beds.

BUDGET

Just out of town, Country Rooms Modena offers budget rooms in the quiet countryside.

BOUTIQUE

For something special, PHI Hotel Canalgrande is in a former duke’s palace – and is decorated accordingly.

LUXURY

And for modern luxury, I would recommend the five-star Best Western Premier Milano Palace Hotel.

Time Travel Turtle was a guest of the Emilia Romagna tourism board but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

UNESCO logo

This site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
I'm on a mission to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. Only about 800 more to go... eek!

13 thoughts on “When art and architecture meet”

  1. Wow, that really is a stunning cathedral. Thanks for sharing – all I really knew of Modena before is that it’s where Balsamic Vinegar comes from, haha 🙂

    Reply

Leave a comment