A big construction site

Palazzo del podestà

It is the duty of the people of today to save the past and make it available for all the citizens. The renovation of the Podestà Palace is part of process undergone by the building throughout the centuries; the restoration work brings to light the various stratifications dating to different periods.   

At work in the Palace
The ambitious restoration of Palazzo del Podestà and Palazzo della Ragione, beautiful examples of medieval and Renaissance architecture in Mantua, has a long and complex history. Although the renovation of the buildings had been talked about for a long, the first actual steps were taken in the early 2000s, when the city council defined a plan for the funding of the project. Later, this idea was deeply reviewed, and it was decided that public administration would bear the whole costs of the project. In 2009 an overall plan was outlined, which lead to a competition announcement for the selection of the companies who would be responsible for the work. In 2011 the competition was carried out, but only a year later the earthquake that hit the south-eastern part of the Po Valley completely changed the situation. It was necessary to first complete works to structurally stabilize the buildings, for the protection against seismic risks.

From late 2012 to late 2013 the first part of the project was carried out. Subsequent works were divided into two different phases, which would have restored splendour and functionality to the buildings. Everything was then organized to create a harmonic relationship with the initiatives for Mantua Capital of Italian Culture, which the city was awarded in 2016. Guided tours allow visitors to admire the monuments In particular, Palazzo del Podestà is an imposing building on eight floors, covering thousands of square meters, with more than two hundred rooms. Already the first consolidation works have uncovered remarkable frescoes from different eras. The maze of rooms, however, make it very difficult to establish what the main use the building should be. In addition, any intervention must absolutely respect the extraordinary stratification of the rooms, which have undergone continuous renovation over the centuries, until recent years.

With its imposing size, Palazzo del Podestà towers over the city centre of Virgil's native town. Research into the historical documents has brought to light some key points, many doubts and many hypothesis. The whole area, adjacent to the great Cathedral of Sant'Andrea, and that used to be next to the ancient Benedictine monastery in medieval times, in the thirteenth century was scattered with several buildings that played a central role, despite their different functions, in the life of the commune of Mantua, born after the rule of Matilda di Canossa. The plaque below the statue of Virgil on the facade overlooking Piazza Broletto informs us of the year the building was erected. It is written in fact that in the year 1227 the mayor Loderengo Martinengo from Brescia ordered the construction of the palace.

A view of Piazza Broletto and of the beautiful porticos.

A famous story
The year 1227 is only the first milestone in the very long life of the Palazzo. The building suffered several fires, and indeed at the beginning of the fifteenth century the building was in very bad conditions. In 1430, Gian Francesco Gonzaga (1395-1444), Marquis of Mantua from 1433, had already asked for the opinion of illustrious fellow citizens on the need to restore such important and ancient buildings. However, it was his son, the great Ludovico (1412-1478), who decided to take drastic action, designing the new look of the city: in addition to giving orders to begin the famous reconstruction of the church of Sant'Andrea, a reconstruction that was based on a project by Leon Battista Alberti, Ludovico had a great many streets paved in the old town, and radically changed what remained of the palace. Luca Fancelli (1430-1502), a Tuscan pupil of Brunelleschi, was placed in charge of the complex reconstruction, which deeply modified what at the time was known as the Palace of Virgil.

The mullions on the sixth level, above the vault, completely rebuilt.

The imposing work site.

The renovated staircase in the courtyard of the Lattonai.

This view, which shows Piazza Erbe today, Palazzo della Ragione and the fifteenth century Astronomical Clock Tower, gives an idea of the functional, artistic and historical twine of the buildings that today have survived the continuous series of renovations and constructions. If on the one hand still today it is possible to admire the grace and character given to Palazzo del Podestà by architect Fancelli, despite the radical alterations made by Aldo Andreani, on the other hand the viewer must keep in mind that the building is a synthesis, unique of its kind, of divergent architectural perspectives. These different influences are visible if we look at the facades, the interior, along a fascinating walk that is also a journey into the past. It must also be noted that the facade on Piazza Erbe, the work on Fancelli, is juxtaposed to the pre-existing medieval facade, of which we can still see the frescoes painted on the once exterior walls.

Credits: Story

Ideato e promosso da / Founded and Promoted by:
Mattia Palazzi (Sindaco del Comune di Mantova)
con Lorenza Baroncelli (Assessore alla rigenerazione urbana e del territorio, marketing urbano, progetti e relazioni internazionali del Comune di Mantova)

Coordinamento Scientifico / Scientific Coordinator:
Sebastiano Sali

Curatore testi e immagini / Superintendent texts and images:
Giovanni Pasetti

Foto di / Photo by:
Gian Maria Pontiroli

Redazione/ Editors:
Erica Beccalossi
Sara Crimella
Carlotta Depalmas
Veronica Zirelli

Un ringraziamento speciale a / A special thanks to:
Emma Catherine Gainsforth
Elisa Gasparini
Paola Menabò
Ciro Molitierno
Paola Somenzi

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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