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Modena, Province of Modena, Emilia‑Romagna

An ancient town on the southern side of the Po valley, the seat of an archbishop, Modena is now mostly known as "the capital of engines", given that most famous Italian car factories like De Tomaso, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati were born there or were somehow related to its province. Modena is also the birthplace of tenor Luciano Pavarotti, hosts the Italian Military Academy where Italian officers are trained, and is also well known in culinary circles for its production of balsamic vinegar.

Info

  • Altitude: 34 m a.s.l
  • Population: about 185,000 inhabitants in 2012
  • Zip/postal code: 41100
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 059
  • Patron Saint: St. Geminiano, celebrated on 31 January
  • Frazioni & Localities: Albareto, Baggiovara, Bruciata, Ca' Fusara, Cittanova, Cognento, Collegara, Collegarola, Ganaceto, Lesignana, Marzaglia, Navicello, Portile, San Damaso,Paganine, San Donnino, Tre Olmi, Vaciglio, Villanova
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History

Modena (Roman Mutina, Etruscan Muoina) was inhabited by the Villanovans in the Iron Age, and later by Ligurian tribes, Etruscans and the Gaulish Boii. It was already in existence in the III century BC. As a Roman colony it became the most important strategical centre in Cispadane Gaul, on an important crossroads between Via Aemilia and the road going to Verona.

Cicero defined it "Mutina splendidissima" (=most beautiful Mutina) in his Philippics (44 BCE). Until the 3rd century AD it kept its position as the most important city in the newly formed Aemilia, but the fall of the Empire brought Mutina down with it. It is said that Mutina was never sacked by Attila, for a dense fog hid it (a miracle provided by Saint Geminianus, bishop and patron of Modena), but it was eventually buried by a great flood in the 7th century and abandoned.

In the Middle Ages its exiles founded a new city a few miles to the northwest, still exisiting as the village of Cittanova. About the end of the 9th century Modena was restored and fortified again by its bishop, Ludovicus. The Este family were identified as lords of Modena from 1288 and Modena was made the primary ducal residence when Ferrara, the main Este seat, fell to the Pope (1598). In 1860 Modena became part of the Kingdom of Italy.

What to see

  • The church of San Giovanni Decollato ("John Baptist Beheaded") contains a polychrome terracotta Pieta by Guido Mazzoni (1450-1518).
  • The Baroque Este Pantheon
  • The church of Sant'Agostino, containing works of sculpture in honor of the house of Este, is by Bibbiena.
  • The Duomo of Modena is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Begun under the direction of Countess Matilda of Tuscany on June 6, 1099 the Duomo was finished in 1184. The master builder, Lanfranco, from Como was celebrated in the city's chronicles: by God's mercy the man was found (inventus est vir). The sculptor Wiligelmus who directed the mason's yard was praised in the plaque that commemorated the founding.
  • The Gothic belltower of the Cathedral (1224 - 1319) is called "La Ghirlandina" from the bronze garland surrounding the weathercock. When it began to build its cathedral in 1099, the city was part of the possessions of Countess Matilda of Tuscany; but by the time the edifice was consecrated by Pope Lucius III in 1184, it was a free commune.
  • The Baroque Palazzo Ducale with its fine courtyard, begun by Francis I in 1635 from the designs of Avanzini, and finished by Francis Ferdinand V.

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