Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, Bologna

Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin
of San Luca
Santuario della Beata Vergine di San Luca (Italian)

The sanctuary of the Virgin of San Luca
on the top of the Colle della Guardia
Basic information
Location Bologna, Italy Italy
Geographic coordinates 44°28′48″N 11°17′53″E / 44.480°N 11.298°E / 44.480; 11.298Coordinates: 44°28′48″N 11°17′53″E / 44.480°N 11.298°E / 44.480; 11.298
Affiliation Roman Catholic
Ecclesiastical or organizational status Minor basilica
Architectural description

Carlo Francesco Dotti
Donato Fasano
Giovanni Antonio Ferri
Giovanni Giacomo Dotti

Angelo Venturoli
Architectural style Baroque
Groundbreaking 1194
Completed 1765
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The Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca is a basilica church in Bologna, northern Italy, sited atop a forested hill, Colle or Monte della Guardia, some 300 metres above the city plain, just south-west of the historical centre of the city.

While a road now leads up to the sanctuary, it is also possible to reach it along a (3.8 km) monumental roofed arcade (Portico di San Luca) consisting of 666 arches, which was built in 1674-1793. It was meant to protect the icon as it was paraded up the hill. A yearly procession from the Cathedral of San Pietro in the centre of Bologna to the Sanctuary goes along this path. Originally the arches held icons or chapels erected by the patron family.


The icon of the Virgin Mary, allegedly painted by Luke the Evangelist.

A church or chapel existed on the hill for about a thousand years. Tradition hold that in the 12th-century, a pilgrim from the Byzantine empire came to Bologna with an icon of the Virgin from the temple of Saint Sofia in Constantinople. In 1160, the bishop of Bologna Gerardo Grassi assigned the icon to a small hermitage-chapel atop the hill that was tendered by two holy women, Azzolina and Beatrice Guezi. Construction of a church began in 1193. In 1294, some monks of the Dominican order from the monastery of Ronzano came to the site, and the order remained here until the Napoleonic suppression of 1799.[1]

The present church was constructed in 1723 using the designs of Carlo Francesco Dotti. The lateral external tribunes were built by Carlo Francesco's son, Giovanni Giacomo, using his father's plans. The centrally planned sanctuary has painted artworks by Domenico Pestrini, Donato Creti (second chapel on right); Guido Reni (Assumption in the third altar on the right), Giuseppe Maria Mazza in chapel of St. Anthony of Padua, Vittorio Bigari (frescoes) and Guercino (sacristy). Stucco works are by A. Borelli and G. Calegari and statues by Angelo Piò.

Cable car

Image of cable car approaching top station with sanctuary in background
Cable car approaching the mountain station

From 1931 to 1976 an aerial cable car operated from the base of the hill on the outskirts of Bologna, to the summit. The total distance covered in the 7 minute travel time was 1328m with a vertical difference of 220m. The operation was closed due to increased usage of private transport to ascend the hill. The top station is abandoned but intact, the bottom station has been converted into apartments but remains structurally the same, and the single pylon remains intact in a field.[2]


  1. History of the Church.
  2. "Funivia di San Luca". [im]possible living. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
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