The Roman colony of Mutina was founded in 183 BC where a former prehistoric settlement had been. The town grew and became rich, but the last centuries before the fall of the Roman Empire were for Modena a period of decadence like the rest of Italy. However, it was then that Geminiano became the bishop of Modena. He died on 31st January 397, the day of the town ‘festa’, as he is the Patron Saint of Modena. Rebirth occurred around the year 1000. On the 9th June 1099 the work on the new Romanesque Cathedral began. In 1289 the century-old relationship with the Este family began. The first years were not peaceful, and the Este were even substituted by the ferocious tyrant Passerino Bonacolsi (1312). He lead to the victorious war against Bologna (battle of Zappolino) whose symbol is the well known “Secchia Rapita” (that is the “Stolen bucket”). Anyway, from the middle of the XIV century, the Estense authority over Modena was definitively confirmed.
When, in 1598, Duke Cesare I was forced by the Papacy to leave Ferrara, he moved to Modena: so, it became the Capital of the Estense domains and would stay so until 1859. A State, the Dukedom of Modena, which included lands up to Reggio Emilia and the Tyrrhenian Sea, in a strategic position for commercial traffic. It was the biggest of the minor states, which Italy had always been divided into. The long history of Modena as a Capital had begun, seat of an European Court, heir of one of the richest in the Italian Renaissance. Great building works, illustrious figures, artistic splendour of palaces and churches were the result. The Dukes had to definitively leave Modena in 1859, due to the popular insurrections of the Risorgimento and Modena began part of the new Regno d’Italia. Nowadays, Modena is famous all over the world for the bel canto of Luciano Pavarotti, for the motor tradition of Ferrari, Maserati and so on, for its cookery excellence and for its Duomo, which in 1997 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage.