Chiesa della Madonna di San Luca
Founded in 1194 by the pious Angelica Bofantini, the Shrine stands on Colle della Guardia (289m asl), close to Bologna and once strategically very important point. Around mid 1200, a group of Dominican nuns began to take care of it and for five centuries they were responsible of the prosperity of the Sanctuary, which in 1707 passed under the rectorate of the Dominican fathers devoted to the Virgin Mary. Today the diocesan priests are in charge of the church. The current shape of the temple is from the architect Carlo Francesco Dotti, who designed the elliptical plan, which extends into a Greek cross until it reaches the main altar, before the chapel of the Blessed Virgin. The first stone was laid on July 26, 1723 while the beautiful central dome was erected in 1747. The simple aesthetic enhances the rounded shape of the dome, a distinctive symbol visible across the entire surrounding plain. Two curved stairways link the pilgrims' path, with the longest Portico in the world, completed in 1721, with more than 600 arches (3.79 km), connecting the Shrine to the Arco del Meloncello and Porta Saragozza. Since almost 600 years, in the days preceding the Ascension celebrations, the image of the Madonna is taken to the city to spend an entire week in St. Peter Cathedral. The Shrine is embellished with works made by great artists: from Donato Creti to Guido Reni and Guercino. The Virgin and Child icon is dated back to the 10th or 11th century: the tradition attributes it to the hand of Saint Luke the Evangelist. According to recent studies it would have come from the middle east during Crusades times. It is located in the main chapel, in a precious marble altarpiece. The shrine is central to Bologna’s people devotion and represents an industrious city nevertheless eye-looking to the sky.