The doorknocker (battiporta or picchiotto in Italian) is a common door feature found around the world. In Bologna a wide range of styles can be seen, adding interest to a walk around the porticoes.
The origins of the doorknocker go back at least to ancient Greece and examples of the ring and hand styles have been found from this period. These styles remain popular today.
The hand style is popular in Muslim countries where it’s known as “Fatima’s Hand”, but these can also be found in European cities such as Bologna.
In places such as Pompeii, ancient Roman examples featuring lions and fearful figures like Medusa have been found.
Lions have remained popular over the centuries.
The use of fierce animals and menacing figures had the added value of protecting the house from evil spirits.
From the 12th century, both bronze and cast iron were commonly used for the manufacture of doorknockers in Europe. The delightful Museo Davia Bargellini has some examples manufactured in Bologna from various centuries.
From the Renaissance period, doorknockers started to assume a more artistic and decorative role with an elongated form. Later, with the introduction of electric door bells, the transformation to decoration was complete.
Animal figures became popular.
Maritime themes were popular in cites such as Venice, but examples can be found also in Bologna.
In 18th century Europe, there was an increased awareness of the artistic and architectural legacy of ancient Egypt, generated in part by Napoleon’s conquest of that country. For example, there are examples of Egyptian influenced tombs at the Certosa Cemetery discussed in a previous post ( The Certosa of Bologna ). This spread even to doorknockers.
Finally, whilst not doorknockers but door handles, you might come across this splendid art deco pair wandering around Bologna.
Over the years, I’ve collected a large number of photos of doorknockers in Bologna. On every visit I discover new ones.
This post will give you just a small taste of the variety that exists. Whilst you’re walking around the old city, keep your eye out – you never know what interesting piece of doorknocker history you’ll come across!