The Anatomical Theatre of the Archiginnasio can be found in Europe’s oldest university, Bologna University in Italy which was founded in the C11th. The building that houses it, the Palace Archiginnasio, used to house the medical school and is a stunningly decorated building with a wonderful collection of wall memorials.
The purpose of this visit however is to take a look at the anatomical theatre, the building of which started in 1636 and took 100 years to complete. It was not the first anatomical theatre in Bologna though, a theatre had been built sixty years prior to this one but in a different location.
In this period of enlightenment a much more scientific approach was being taken towards medicine and the dissection of corpses critical in this progression. Indeed such was the demand for bodies that criminals stole them from newly dug graves.
Here in the Anatomical Theatre of the Archiginnasio, the marble dissecting table sits central stage with the teachers chair at one end. The tiered seats gave the audience the best view. The walls and ceiling are faced with spruce wood and the whole has a lovely warm glow to it. It is all elaborately carved and is a lesson in medicine simply to sit and observe.
In the corner niches stand figures of physicians like Hippocrates and then alongside the central teacher’s chair are two ‘Spellati’, anatomical models with their muscles exposed.