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Modena is a city and a province on the south side of the Po valley, in Emilia-Romagna, Italy.

An ancient town, the seat of an archbishop, it 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 the birthplace of the legendary operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti.

The University of Modena, founded in 1683 by Francis II d'Este , has traditional strengths in medicine and law. Modena also hosts the Italian Military Academy, where Italian officers are trained, partly housed in the Baroque ducal palace, begun by Francis I in 1635 from the designs of Avanzini, and finished by Francis Ferdinand V with a fine courtyard. The Biblioteca Estense houses historical volumes and 3000 manuscripts.

Modena is also well known in culinary circles for its production of balsamic vinegar.

There is a strong sporting culture, linked mainly to motor racing and association football (soccer). The town's football club, Modena F.C., play in Serie B, the Italian second division.

The province of Modena has 47 communes, including Campogalliano, Nonantola, Soliera, Bastiglia, Castelnuovo Rangone, Formigine, Castelfranco Emilia, San Cesario sul Panaro, Carpi, Castelfranco Emilia, Fiorano Modenese, Finale Emilia, Formigine, Maranello, Mirandola, Sassuolo, Vignola, and Pavullo nel Frignano.



Roman times

Modena (Roman Mutina) sits squarely on the Roman Via Aemilia; its ancient center lay to the southeast of the present historical center, but there are no Roman remains. The ancient Mutina became part of Roman territory in the war of 215-212 BC and in 183 it was refounded as a Roman colony. The Roman town appears to have been a place of importance under the empire: its vineyards and potteries are mentioned by Pliny. The 4th century AD found Mutina in a state of decay; the ravages of Attila and the troubles of the Lombard period left it a ruined city in a wasted land.

Middle Ages

In the 7th century, perhaps owing to a terrible flood, its exiles founded a new city a few miles to the northwest, still represented by the village of Cittanova. About the end of the 9th century Modena was restored and refortified by its bishop, Ludovicus.

East end of the Romanesque Duomo with the Ghirlandina Tower
East end of the Romanesque Duomo with the Ghirlandina Tower
The "Duomo" (cathedral) of Modena is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (illustration, right). Begun under the direction of the Countess Matilda of Tuscany with its first stone laid June 6, 1099 and its crypt ready for the city's patron, Saint Geminianus , and consecrated only six years later, the Duomo of Modena was finished in 1184. The building of a great cathedral in this flood-prone ravaged former center of Arianism was an act of urban renewal in itself, and an expression of the flood of piety that motivated the contemporary First Crusade. Unusually, the master builder's name, Lanfranco, was celebrated in his own day: the city's chronicler expressed the popular confidence in the master-mason from Como, Lanfranco: 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 program of the sculpture is not lost in a welter of detail: the wild dangerous universe of the exterior is mediated by the Biblical figures of the portals leading to the Christian world of the interior. In Wiligelmus' sculpure at Modena, the human body takes on a renewed physicality it had lost in the schematic symbolic figures of previous centuries. At the east end, triple apses express the articulation into nave and wide aisles (illustration, right) in bold and clear masses. Modena's Duomo inspired campaigns of cathedral and abbey building in emulation through the valley of the Po. The Gothic campanile (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 the Countess Matilda of Tuscany; but by the time the edifice was consecrated by Pope Lucius III in 1184, it was a free commune. In the wars between Emperor Frederick II and Pope Gregory IX Modena sided with the emperor.

Other churches in Modena, the church of San Giovanni Decollato ("the Baptist Beheaded") contains a polychrome terracotta Pieta by Guido Mazzoni (1450-1518). The Baroque Este Pantheon (the church of S. Agostino, containing works of sculpture in honor of the house of Este) is by Bibbiena .

The Duchy of Este

The Este family were identified as lords of Modena from 1288 (Obizzo d'Este ). After the death of his successor (Azzo VIII, in 1308) the commune reasserted itself but by 1336 the Este family was permanently in power: for them Modena was made a duchy (for Borso d'Este 1452), enlarged and fortified by Ercole II, made the primary ducal residence when Ferrara, the main Este seat, fell to the Pope (1598). Francis I d'Este (1629-1658) built the citadel and began the palace, which was largely embellished by Francis II . In the 18th century Rinaldo d'Este (died in 1737) was twice driven from his city by French invasions, and Francis III (1698-1780) built many many of Modena's public buildings, but the Este pictures were sold and wound up, many of them, in Dresden. Ercole III (1727-1803) died in exile at Treviso, having refused Napoleonic offers of compensation when Modena was made part of the Napoleonic Cispadine Republic . His only daughter, Maria Beatrice d'Este, married Ferdinand of Austria, son of Maria Theresa, and in 1814 their eldest son, Francis, received back the estates of the Este. Quickly, in 1816, he dismantled the fortifications that might well have been used against him and began Modena's unhappy years under Austrian rule, reactionary and despotic, using the Austrian army to put down a rebellion in 1830. His equally reactionary son Francis Ferdinand V, was temporarily expelled from Modena in the European Revolution of 1848, but was restored by Austrian troops. Ten years later, on August 20, 1859, the representatives of Modena declared their territory part of the Kingdom of Italy, a decision that was confirmed by the plebiscite of 1860.

See also

External links

  • Introduction to Modena cathedral, illustrated
  • Description of the cathedral

Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55