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From Paola Foschi, expert in the History of Bologna

The striking beauty of the portico of the Gombruti residence, situated in a rather dark and silent street of Bologna’s city center, surely arouses the curiosity of those who happen to pass by. The careful observer would be eager to know who built it, when its delicate capitals of its columns were carved and why they were not made of wood like most other porticos of the time, and how such a particular creation could have arisen among all of Bologna’s famous porticos altogether.

But one’s curiosity is destined to be satisfied only after painstaking research which, however, just might turn out to be useless: for the moment the only thing to do is to meditate on what we see and what we think lead us to imagine, as well as on what might be cleared up by the scanty historical information that is known about it.

Via de’ Gombruti was called so after a family of the same name. The building is known as “Cam Gombruti” (the Gombruti residence), but the Gombruti family was definitely not very well known in the medieval Bologna: during the Middle Ages there were no towers belonging to the Gombruti family, and during the Renaissance they never became part of the important nobility that dominated the city government. In the 17th century their family lineage ended, leaving no further trace of their name.

Nevertheless, at least two members of the family did have a noble title for a short period of time: Giovanni, who was granted nobility in 1412, and almost two centuries later Francesco Gombruti married Alda, the daughter Lorenzo di Bonifazio, Count of Panico in 1593, and thus inherited the title of “Count.” Two generations later, however, Vincenzo was the last member of his family to bear the Gombruti family name, since he died without leaving an heir. The last member of the Gombruti family was Isabella. She was the daughter of Giovanni Gombruti, who died in 1605 and wife of Ottavio di Vincenzo Cristiani. Records show that in 1615 she was still alive.

Their house is still the same as it was when it was rebuilt in the 15‘“ century. A fire that broke out after the assassination Annibale Bentivoglio had burned the house to the ground. The building never quite achieved the status of a palazzo its development was certainly brought to a standstill due to the financial decline of the family. It did, however, leave us with a rare example of wooden architecture whose elements are quite unusual for the time, since instead of being simple and essential they are finely denticulated and fluted in order to make the wood appear more refined and precious.

After the family line died off without leaving an heir, records show that in 1647 the house belonged to certain Giacomo Mazzolini or Manzolini, whereas in 1705 the owner was Pirro Malvezzi, who later would sell it to the Bonelli family.

Due to the lack of any detailed historical information regarding this subject, it would be unwise to attempt any conjectures about the events of this family, or about the events that took place during the construction of the house. Only through painstaking research into records and archives would this be possible.
This would be the only way to discover what the building’s silent bricks and walls have witnessed over the ages - family struggles, renovations, transformations, modifications— and only then might it be possible to learn more from the house itself about the family and the families who owned it, what occupations they had, how they lived, why they were important, or simply just who they were.

Font: "The Synagogue of Bologna, the past, present and future of a Jewish presence"