Anatomical Theatre of The Archiginnasio

One of the main memories of the ancient medical school in Bologna is the Anatomical theatre, in the magnificent Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio, the first unified seat of the University of Bologna. The palace was built in a very few months, between 1562 and 1563, by order of Saint Charles Borromeo, then pontifical legate in Bologna.


A first anatomical theatre was constructed in 1595, in a different position of the palace, but between 1637 and 1649 it was replaced by a bigger one in the definitive and actual location.

Getting across successive enrichments, the theatre – completely made with spruce wood – reached its final shape and beauty between 1733 and 1736. In this period, Silvestro Giannotti carved the wooden statues which decorate the theatre walls. They represent some famous physicians of the old times (Hippocrates, Galenus, etc.) and of the local athenaeum (Mondino de' Liuzzi, Gaspare Tagliacozzi, etc.). The two famous statues of the “Spellati” (skinned) carrying the canopy surmounting the teachers’s chair, are work of the well-known artist of anatomical wax displays, Ercole Lelli. In the centre of the theatre stands the white table on which the dissection of human or animal bodies took place

The theatre was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War, by an air raid on the 29th of January 1944. After the war, the Theatre has been very carefully reconstructed, using all of the original pieces possibly recovered among the rubble of the building.

  • Photos by Luca Borghi ti.supmacinu|ihgrob.l#| (May 2008)


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