International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International judicial Academy of the International Law Institute, Washington, D.C.
with circulation assistance from the American Society of International Law

Spring 2017 Issue

Judicial Tourism


Bologna – A Must-See City in Italy for the Judge/Jurist Traveler

James G. Apple
By: James G. Apple, Editor-in-Chief, International Judicial Monitor

There are two reasons why I wanted to visit Bologna. The first was that it contains the oldest university in the world (founded 1088) and is the birthplace of Western legal culture. The second is that I wanted to experience walking among the city’s many beautiful arcades, or porticoes, so admiringly described in John Grisham’s novel, The Broker.

On a recent trip to Europe I was able to fulfill my fond wish. After conducting a judicial seminar on international human rights law in Strasbourg, France, my wife and I traveled to Venice and then settled in a nice hotel in the ancient city of Padua to visit several cities in the Po River Valley of Italy, including Bologna.

On the fourth day of our Italian journey, we set out early in the morning from the old city of Padua, also the site of one of the oldest universities, traveling on one of the excellent trains that serve this region of north-central Italy. The train ride from Padua to Bologna was comfortable (clean, upholstered seats), relatively short (one hour) and inexpensive (less than eight dollars per person). And, as with all the Italian trains we experienced, it ran on time.

On arrival in Bologna we stopped first at the tourist information center adjacent to the train station. A city map and a helpful tour guide, Tourist Itinerary for Half a Day in Bologna, suited our needs perfectly. Very soon we were walking under the first of the many rose-red arcades that we would experience during the day, this on the main street leading from the train station, the Via dell Indipendenza, to the main square of the city, which is in almost the exact center of Bologna. In experiencing the arcades lining the sides of the streets, it is difficult to improve on one description of them: arcades that “create fantastic light and shade lacings and spectacular views” of the many ancient rose-colored buildings that characterize Bologna.

There are so many arcades in Bologna that it can proclaim world records about them – more than in any other city in the world. Their length within the city center totals 38 kilometers (24 miles) and totals 45 kilometers (28 miles) in the entire city. One is longer than any other in the world – 3 kilometers (1.6 miles). The Portico di San Luca connects the Porta Saragozza, one of the 12 original gates of the city, with the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca,. Located on a hill overlooking the city it has 666 vaults and is four kilometers long. Walking through the arcades is an inspiring activity that by itself makes a visit to Bologna desirable.

We arrived after a short walk at the center of the city – a large square with ancient buildings on three sides, the Pallazo Commune, which is traffic free due to concrete posts that bar entry of vehicles. Entering the square, on the right is the Municipal Palace, parts of which date to as early as 1287. To the left is the Podessa Palace, built in the 13th Century and reconstructed in the late 15th. Across the square is the Basilica di San Petronio, an enormous cathedral built in the Romanesque style of architecture rather than in the high gothic that characterizes so many cathedrals in other parts of Europe. It is one of the largest churches in Europe.

After a visit to the interior of the Basilica, my wife and I skirted the side of the building to reach our first destination in its rear, the Piazzo Galvani and the Archiginnasio, built in 1563 near the site where the first university in Europe was founded in 1088, and law was first taught in the 12th Century. Famous personages who attended the University are Petrarch, Erasmus, Pope Nicholas V and Copernicus.

One of the events that gave rise to the teaching of law in Bologna was the discovery of a copy of the Corpus Juris Civilis (CJS), the great treatise on Roman law created at the direction and during the reign of the Roman Emperor Justinian in 353 C.E. Legend has it that a soldier, rummaging through a refuse dump in Amalfi in 1130, came upon a brightly colored manuscript that proved to be a near complete edition of the CJS. It was that event that sparked the revival of Roman law in Italy and the beginning of the teaching of law at Bologna as early as 1170.

The university in the city, or Studium, as it was then known, consisted of a group of professors teaching students in their homes; there was no single building or group of buildings which served as a center of learning. The teaching of law became so important in Bologna that it attracted students not only from other places in Italy, but also from other locations throughout Europe, including what is now France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, and England. The Bolognese School

of Roman Law became so famous in England that the Archbishop of Canterbury sent Thomas Becket to the Studium to study under one of its famous jurisconsults, Gratian. The consequences of this influx of students from other lands to study law was enormous – the students carried back to their home countries the teaching of the Bolognese law professors, and planted the legal seeds that eventually developed into the civil law systems of Europe and international law.

The Studium in Bologna did not have a permanent home until the 16th Century, when the Archiginnasio was built near the house where one of the early Bolognese jurists, Bulgaro, taught his students. The Palace housed two schools, or faculties, the Legisti for the study of civil and canon law, and the Artisti, which offered courses in philosophy, mathematics, physics, medicine and the natural sciences.

The Archiginnasio is open to the public, and can visited between 9 am and 7 pm, Monday through Friday, and on Saturday from 9 am to 1:30 pm. The entrance to the Palace is from the Piazzo Galvani.

The Archiginnasio no longer serves as the seat of the University of Bolgna. It was transferred to another palace, the Pogi Palace, which also can be visited. The Palace currently serves as the city library and holds today 800,000 books and manuscripts, including15,000 books written in the 16th century. It is also a major historic site and even now reflects, in its various rooms, the uses which it served many centuries ago.

The outside of the Archiginnasio is characterized by a long portico containing 30 arches. On the first floor are several rooms, one of which is very near the place where some of the earliest law classes were taught. There is a central courtyard on the perimeter of which can be found two large staircases leading to the second or main floor. This floor was designed with ten classrooms and two large halls. Some of the classrooms are still used by the Medical Surgical Society and the National Academy of Agriculture.

Of special interest to the visitor however, is the Anatomy Theatre, admirably preserved so that the visitor can experience the activities in it for medical students who were trained there, observing the dissection of corpses under the direction of the anatomy professor to learn human anatomy. The two interesting parts of the Theatre are the elevated lectern from which the anatomy instructor presented his lecture, and a large white marble slab in the center of the Theatre where the corpse was laid for dissection.

The Archiginnasio is perhaps unique among academic buildings in Europe, and possibly the world, because of the decorations on and along the second story walls and staircases: inscriptions and “memorial monuments of prominent professors” surrounded by a vast multitude of coats of arms and names of students. There are in fact 7000 coats of arms on the walls.

There are many other sites worth visiting in Bologna. Bologna’s development included, as mentioned earlier, city walls. It is one of the few remaining walled cities in Europe. The City Centre consumes 350 acres and is Europe’s second largest. In addition to the red arcades. there are 20 medieval defensive towers left from the 180 built during the 12th and 13th Centuries. I noted that several of them are “leaning,” calling to mind the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. Some of the original city gates are also preserved.

The University maintains a major botanical garden, the Orto Botanico dell’Univerista di Bologna, the fourth largest in Europe.

There are also many churches to visit in the city; it boasts no less than seven major basilicas including the Basilica di San Pretronio mentioned earlier. From the top of this church, one can view the dome of the Santuario di Santa Maria della Vita, similar in style to the famous Duomo in Florence.

My wife and I, during our walk around Bologna stopped at one shop to look at the works of some local artists. I engaged the proprietor in a conversation; she was a native of the city. I remarked about the beauty of the city, especially the arcades. She agreed and commented that Bologna was not one of the major destinations of tourists traveling in Italy. “Not so many tourists visit here,” she said with a sigh. I agreed that it was a shame that such a beautiful and important place should be missed by so many foreign tourists.

Bologna, because of its history and contributions to the development of higher education in the world, its importance in the founding of law and legal institutions in the Western world, and also because of its beauty and culture, should definitely be a destination on the list of the judicial traveler.

ASIl & International Judicial AcademyInternational Judicial Monitor
© 2017 – The International Judicial Academy
with assistance from the American Society of International Law.

Editor: James G. Apple.
IJM welcomes comments, suggestions, and submissions.
Please contact the IJM editor at