The city of Cento changed radically in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with the construction of aristocratic palaces frescoed and decorated with grand staircases, choirs and balustrades.
Churches were renovated in Baroque style and new churches were built with dramatic interiors ornamented with paintings and statues. Cento's most important churches feature masterpieces by Guercino and his school.
Basilica Collegiata di San Biagio
The origins of the church date back to the eleventh century, but its current appearance is the fruit of a complete reconstruction of the Collegiata by Bolognese architect A. Torreggiani between 1730 and 1745.
The interior, in the form of a Latin cross with an elliptical dome where the transept meets the central nave, features important canvases by painters such as Bartolomeo Cesi, Domenico Mona, Marcello Provenzali, Guercino (San Carlo Borromeo in prayer, c. 1614), Lorenzo Zucchetta, Benedetto Gennari (Madonna with Child in glory and saints Gaetano, Francesco da Paola and Rosa), and Antonio Rossi.
In the square in front of the Basilica sculptor Mauro Mazzali recently created a monumental fountain depicting St. Michael the Archangel killing the dragon.
Image description: In the imposing hollow of the apse, where Fra Vincenzo Rossi created his refined wooden choir in the eighteenth century, Antonio Rossi's canvas "Madonna with Child in glory and saints Blaise and Michael the Archangel" triumphs (1751).
Church of the Rosary
Inaugurated in 1645, it was the favourite place of Guercino, who designed its facade and created a number of works of art for its
While the outer facade blends in with the look of the city (with its sobriety, the sunny colours of its masonry and its portico), the interior amazes with its masterpieces of art. In the centre of the vault, suspended from the ceiling, is Guercino's canvas "The Assumption" (about 1622) with its illusioni-stic perspective "seen from below".
The Cento native also painted the four paintings in the 2nd altar on the left, his own chapel: "The Crucifixion", "The Eternal Father in Blessing", "Saint Francis", "Saint John the Baptist".
The high altar designed by Bolognese architect Ferdinando Galli Bibiena has great dramatic impact. It encloses a statue of the Madonna of the Rosary made in Piacenza and then painted by Guercino in 1627.
Image description: "The Crucifixion" are three canvases in the vault of the chapel alluding to Guercino's name: Giovanni Francesco (St. Francis, St. John) Barbieri (the beard of the Eternal Father)