Spanish-born St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican order and patron saint of astronomers, lived only 3 years in Bologna, but he rests forever here in a shrine designed by the 13th century’s greatest sculptor, Nicola Pisano. Raised in wealth, Dominic aligned himself with the poor as a young student. To feed the starving he sold his belongings, including his manuscripts, saying, "Would you have me study off these dead skins, when men are dying of hunger?" In Bologna he encouraged his many followers “to have charity, to guard their humility, and to make their treasure out of poverty.” The saint, who died in 1221 on a bed of sackcloth, lies beneath elaborate carvings of his colorful life, in which he traveled from one end of Europe to the other, by Arnolfo di Cambio. In the 15th century Nicolo di Bari added a canopy, carved with images of saints and evangelists, and was so proud of his work that he changed his name to Nicolo di Arca. A young Michelangelo, arriving in Bologna in 1495 when his patrons, the Medici, were expelled from Florence, added translucent renderings of two other Bologna saints, Petronius and Proculus (who, though clothed, appears to be the prototype for his “David”). Bologna-born Guido Reni topped off the shrine in 1615 with a ceiling fresco depicting Dominic entering heaven amid legions of pious saints and swirling putti.
- Frommer's Staff