The church of San Girolamo della Certosa

Founded in 1334, the Church of San Girolamo della Certosa was the physical and ideological heart of the Carthusian monastery to which it belonged, until the suppression of the monastic building occurred in 1796 and the subsequent reutilization of the edifice as an urban cemetery since 1801.

The most intense construction phase is the result of the privileges that Pope Niccolò V granted the Chartreuse, in acknowledgement of Nicolò Albergati, prior of the monastery and a key figure of international diplomacy of that period, who was his master and supported his ascension to the papal throne in 1447.

Two centuries after its foundation, the building, initially characterized by a very simple structure, was enlarged by new works, which made it one of the most important in the Order: the usual eleven monastic cells became nineteen, the church was enlarged in the transept by adding two side chapels, and new cloisters and shared spaces enriched the monastery. The main construction phase ended there and after basically only maintenance works were executed, except for the erection of the second and more massive bell-tower, at the beginning of the seventeenth century. The last significant work dates back to 1768 with the building of the monumental entrance, as per the Gian Giacomo Dotti’s project. In 1792, the general prior of the Order was admitted. He came from the Grand Chartreuse, abandoned because of the events following the French Revolution. This way, the Certosa of San Girolamo became the Main of the whole Order, until its suppression in 1797, after the French troops entered Bologna. A very small part of the whole artistic heritage contained in its buildings had survived and only the church, saved from the Napoleonic suppressions, remained as an evidence of ancient prosperity.

At present, the church still has a wide collection of pictorial, sculptural and high-quality craft works, covering a period ranging from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century.

Among the most remarkable examples, there is the pictorial and stucco decoration of the presbytery, by Bartolomeo Cesi (1566-1629) and datable to the end of the last decade of the sixteenth century, as well as the fittings, among which the outstanding inlaid choir, dating back to 1539 and realized by Biagio De Marchi.
The great cycle of paintings dedicated to some episodes of Christ’s life and placed along all the walls of the church has been completely preserved to date. In the mid of the seventeenth century, the most important Bolognese painters were commissioned to realize such works, so that they now represent a fundamental element to reconstruct the cultural atmosphere of that period. The two Sirani, Giovan Andrea and his daughter Elisabetta, Giovan Francesco Gessi, Giovanni Maria Galli Bibiena, Lorenzo Pasinelli, Domenico Maria Canuti and the Neapolitan Nunzio Rossi were asked to paint the large canvasses of about 450x350 cm.

In April 2007, after a cataloguing, degradation analysis and restoration activity that took years, the integral renovation of the eleven canvasses ended, which was possible thanks to the joint engagement of the Municipality of Bologna, the Office for the Art - History and Ethno-anthropological Heritage for the Provinces of Bologna, Ferrara, Forlì, Ravenna and Rimini, the Fondazione del Monte di Bologna e Ravenna, UniCredit Banca, the Order of the Padri Passionisti and HERA-Funeral Services.

Even though such works represent the most remarkable element from a visual and artistic point of view for those entering the church, they belong to a wider group of works of art: their renovation must therefore be included within a wider project of renovation and enhancement of the whole church, assigned to the custody of the Passionisti religious missionaries.

In the same framework are to be considered the restoration works of other important paintings that followed in the years between 2001 and 2008, and especially the renovation of the three side chapels started on 2nd February 2009 and ended in February 2010.