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Piazza del Duomo is the main square, built in the XII century. It was renamed Piazza Grande (Great Square) in the second half of the XVII century and has been considered the heart of Modena ever since. The square is magnificently framed by the historical symbols of political and religious life, such as the Cathedral and the Bell Tower, and the airy arcade beneath the Town Hall
For many centuries this square was the seat of both spiritual and temporal power: all rules and values of social life were laid down from the steps of the magnificent Porta Regia, or from the balcony of the Town Hall. The Pietra Rigadora, an enormous marble rock, is a reminder to this day of the strong civic function of the square. It was used during the communal age both as stage for orators to address the crowd, and as a stone of dishonour for insolvent debtors.
The square was also where justice was administered. It was here that executions were carried out and criminals severely punished as a warning to the community. At the same time it was the place where parties, games and Carnival parades were held. It was also an evocative setting for traditional horse races.
Piazza Grande was for centuries the place where the market and all financial trading took place. On the walls of the Cathedral apse we can still see the ancient measurements used by merchants such as the perch, the roof tile, the brick and the arm.
During the Middle Ages the Ufficio della Buona Stima existed to ensure fair trading. Its symbol was a small female statue known as the Bonissima by the inhabitants of Modena, which can still be seen today in the corner of the square.
Source: local Staff of Modena