The first part of this study opens with a brief presentation of the political, spiritual, and legal organization of Bologna in the seventeenth century; it is followed by a historical overview of musical life in Bologna, focusing on sacred music and the musical activities in the various Bolognese churches in the Baroque period. Since the music written for the basilica is strongly related to the structure of the building and to the celebratory traditions surrounding Bologna's patron Saint Petronius, the second chapter deals with the architectural history of the building. In conclusion this chapter offers observations on the particularly reverberant acoustics of this spectacular basilica, which have of course their effect on the compositions created for it.
The first part of the book is concluded with a third chapter, based mainly on archival research, on the origins and development of the Cappella Musicale as an institution.
Part Two is a study of the two decades of musical activities of the chapel under Giovanni Paolo Colonna's direction from 1674 to 1695. The fact that this is a study of a city's sacred music, and not exclusively of liturgical music, is a direct consequence of the significance (from a music historian's point of view) of the numerous extra-liturgical motets and instrumental compositions which constituted an important part of the musical productions of the basilica in this period.
The epilogue contains some thoughts on performance practice of this repertoire concluding the book are the various appendices, including an anthology of documents to which the text refers, the vast majority of which are published here for the first time, and a catalogue of the complete works of Giovanni Paolo Colonna.
"In conclusion, Marc Vanscheeuwijck has given us a fascinating narrative, an invaluable set of documents, and most of all, has presented an important syncretic and contextual analysis of late seventeenth-century sacred music in Bologna. It should go far in illustrating the essential role of sacred music in our knowledge of late Baroque style." (Anne Schnoebelen, in: Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music, Vol. 12, No. 1)