Course  |  Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites  |  Italy Online Training

Lesson 6:

Art and Religion

Italy is the country where Catholicism is from. Religion has always had an important role in Italy over the centuries. Popes and other important figures in the church financially supported the construction of important religious sites. Among them there are: 

  • Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie with “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci
    The Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, situated in the heart of Milan, is an outstanding work of architecture, and an emblem within the Catholic tradition. Santa Maria delle Grazie is perhaps even more famous for its indissoluble connection to Leonardo Da Vinci’s fresco of “The Last Supper,” preserved inside its refectory (dining hall). The Church is one of Renaissance art’s most important testimonies and a shining symbol of creative human genius -  thus it became a UNESCO World Heritage List in 1980. 
  • Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna
    It is one of the Region of Emilia Romagna’s most fascinating cities, a perfect mix of art, culture, relaxation and fun: Ravenna, magnificent and ancient place attracting visitors from all over that come to discover this Capital of Mosaics. This city of art, also a maritime hub, boasts more than 18.6 miles of coastline, and a rather lovely port. In 1996, UNESCO named Ravenna to its World Heritage List, declaring that the city preserves a religious monumental complex from the Paleochristian epoch, extremely important in terms both artistic and historic.
  • Assisi, the Basilica of San Francesco
    Assisi is an eternal destination for pilgrims wanting to see the places where was born, where he worked, and where he died. In this small centre – propped up on the slopes of Mount Subasio – everything in sight seems to refer to the Saint, even if it is only remotely relevant to his life. Together with almost all its surrounding territory, Assisi was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. UNESCO describes Assisi as constituting a unique example of continuous history, as a city-sanctuary, from its Umbrian-Roman origins, through the Middle Ages and up to today. 
    Assisi the Basilica of San Francesco, © UNESCO,

  • Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy
    The Sacri Monti (Sacred Mountains) of Piedmont and Lombar are often a destination for the religiously devout: here, groups of chapels and other architectonic structures (churches, calvaries, and niches containing statues) dot the landscape and often preserve sculptures, frescoes and paintings that recall episodes from the Sacred Scriptures. Inserted onto the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Sacri Monti, lying between the subalpine valleys, were originally conceived as a place to offer a safer pilgrimage experience in respect to that made to the Holy Land.
  • Longobards in Italy: Places of the Power 
    In 2011 the UNESCO World Heritage Committee named the "Longobards in Italy and Their Places of Power" a UNESCO World Heritage Site, given their historical and artistic status. These “places of power” and the monuments realized during the rule of the Longobards in Italy; they are now protected under the tutelage of the Committee. Dispersed all the way from Udine to Foggia, the buildings, churches and monuments they left behind narrate the influence the Germanic tribe had on Italy during the High Middle Ages.
  • Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale
    Three churches, three cathedrals, two buildings, a bridge: these are the nine wonders of the Arab-Norman Palermo listed by UNESCO as World Heritage in 2015. Built during the Norman Kingdom of Sicily (1130-1194), these buildings result from a combination of different architectural and artistic traditions: Byzantine, Islam and Western, their fusion has given life to a unique style, proof of the fruitful coexistence between people of different origins.
  • Piazza del Duomo, Pisa
    The four masterpieces of medieval architecture – the cathedral, the baptistry, the campanile (the ‘Leaning Tower’) and the cemetery – had a great influence on monumental art in Italy from the 11th to the 14th century. Pisa, located in the Italian region of Tuscany, is famous worldwide for its monumental piazza del Duomo, included by UNESCO in the World Heritage List in 1987. Symbol of the power of the Repubblica Marinara in Pisa, it was renamed “Prato dei Miracoli” by the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio for the extraordinary beauty of its architectural jewels.  The popular definition of “Piazza dei Miracoli”  (square of miracles) derives from the nickname attributed by D’Annunzio.
  • Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena
    Capital of Romanesque art, Modena was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, attributed to its wealth of monuments, from Piazza Grande to the Ghirlandina Tower and its Cathedral, Medieval Christian masterpieces, unique representatives of a 12th-Century cultural-artistic tradition.

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