Madonna Of St. Luke Church – Bologna

The Church of the Madonna of St Luke; so named, as being the repository of the painting representing the Virgin and Child, said to be executed by that Apostle. The church is situated on the summit of Monte Guardi, commanding a most extensive and beautiful prospect. In one direction the view is bounded by the long range of Appenines, seen rising dark and green in the distance far towards the east, the Adriatic, or Gulf of Venice, opens to the view, while, in rich and varied grandeur, spread out in the plains below, the eye distinguishes in numerable fine cities, Ferrara, Modena, Mantua, and part of Tuscany, with villages, convents, and churches interspersed, the whole relieved by the brightest verdure, gay and sparkling under the influence of the clear blue of a serene sky. A portico, composed of more than seven hundred arcades, forms a noble covered gallery, reaching from the walls of the city to the church, a distance of three miles, renders the ascent towards it every way delightful. The singular erection, the enchanting prospect, and fresh breeze, inhaled on reaching the summit of Monte Guardi, is, however, the chief reward offered to the traveller for visiting the church of the Ma-donna of St Luke. The painting, which is carefully locked up in a recess above the great altar, was shown with much appearance of mystery, and such haste, as to have caused some difficulty in discovering either the beauty of the Madonna, or value of the case in which she was enclosed, which (we were told) was of gold set with diamonds. A painting, in another part of the church, represents this picture when on its journey here in a large wooden box, as flying self impelled.

The most splendid procession of Bologna is that held in honour of this Madonna, the miracles performed by her having been very surprising, and more so than those imputed to any other in the city.

In this slight survey of works of art in Bologna, I must not omit mentioning the statues of the celebrated artist of that name, preserved in his native city as a memorial of him, although I must acknowledge that on this their chief claim to notice rests. Neptune, who presides over the fountain, is a colossal heavy figure in the attitude of preaching, and wondering at, rather than commanding, the waves of the ocean; boys in the four corners are represented as having bathed small dolphins, which they are holding by the tail to make them spout water, while four female Tritons fill the space beneath; these fold their marine extremities between their limbs, and press their bosom with their hands, to cause the water to flow. The whole composition and manner is quaint, somewhat in the French style, and such as I should have been less surprised to find at Versailles than at Bologna. The principle of thus adorning the squares or public edifices of a, city is good, but the accomplishment offers many difficulties. The designs being necessarily colossal, faults, whether in general composition or in anatomical accuracy, are easily detected, while, at the same time, the facility of viewing the work from every direction, calls for a double portion of knowledge and attention from the artist. A statue, opposite to this fountain, of Pope Gregory the Fourth, is good, but strangely disfigured from a whimsical accident: his crozier is like a Goliah’s spear or a weaver’s beam; and on inquiring into the cause of this inconsistency, I was informed that the French, offended with the pastoral shaft, had taken it and the cap away, and now the municipality thought they could not do too much to restore him, and so gave him one as thick as his leg. They took down the old inscription, substituting this, ” Divus, Papa, Patronus.”