Anatomical Theatre of the Archiginnasio – Bologna, Italy - Atlas Obscura
Unusual adventures and hidden discoveries. Explore our 2018 trips now »

Bologna, Italy

Anatomical Theatre of the Archiginnasio

In the world's oldest university is a stunning 17th century anatomical theater carved from spruce. 

At the world’s oldest continuously operating university is one of the most beautiful anatomical theaters.

The Anatomical Theatre of the Archiginnasio at the University of Bologna in Italy, founded in 1088, is completely carved from spruce with its imposing marble table still in position before the teacher’s chair. The theater was started in 1636 and completed in 1737, and although damaged during World War II still appears much as it did when candlelit for dissections of humans and animals alike.

Each corner of the anatomical theater is elaborately decorated. Carved sculptures of physicians like Hippocrates stand in niches, while alongside the central teacher’s chair are two “Spellati” — anatomical models with their muscles exposed. Up on the ceiling are astrological symbols, and presiding over it all is a representation of anatomy as a woman, who is being offered a thigh bone by an angel.