The Palazzo Comunale is located in the central square Piazza della Repubblica in Orvieto. The building has undergone several restorations over the centuries and is actually still not completely finished. The architect who made the greatest contribution was Ippolito Scalzo. The arch beneath the Palazzo was added in the 19th century by Virginio Vepsignani.
Palazzo Comunale Orvieto
Address, opening times and ticket price
Address: Piazza della Repubblica – Orvieto. The building is not open to tourists.
History and description
Already in the 12th century there was a building on this spot, but it was only between 1270 and 1276 that it was transformed into the rudiments of the present Palazzo Comunale. Remnants of this first transformation include the Gothic arches supporting the roof on the second floor. The vaults on the ground floor and the Gothic windows at the back of the palace also date back to this period.
Lorenzo Maitani supervised further restoration work in the early 14th century. The paintings in the Salone of the building were carried out between 1345 and 1347. This happened after a popular uprising had brought Matteo Orsini to power.
The capitals are alternately adorned with the coats of arms of the Orsini family and of the city of Orvieto (the eagle).
From 1485, the Palazzo Comunale was in such a bad state that the city council was forced to hold their meetings in the Palazzo Vescovile.
The entrance to the palace dates back to the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries.
Second big renovation
In 1515, the municipal tower collapsed and the then Piazza Maggiore lay in ruins for months. A year later, Pope Leo X gave the building to the city to be used for ecclesiastical envoys. It was decided that renovation of the Palazzo Comunale became a necessity. It was not until 1532, however, that Sangallo was commissioned to design the work. In exchange, he was given a number of houses, which he was to turn into a palace of his own. Should he die without having heirs, this building was to return property of the municipality.
Lorenzo da Viterbo, also in 1532, designed the basalt door to the central hall.
Ippolito Scalza was responsible for the stone decorations of the arches and windows of the building. He partly used Sangallo’s design.
The work only started in 1573. In 1581, it was interrupted, so that by the 19th century the building was still not completely finished. Even now, four arches are still missing from the loggia on the west side.
From 1597, Scalza was in charge of the work on the well on the terrace of the Palazzo Comunale. The sculpture is by Curzio Testasecca, who was also responsible for the staircase of the building.
Scalza’s design for the entire facade is kept in the Museo dell’Opera. The most striking feature of the facade is the balustrade covering the entire wall.
In 1857, on the occasion of a visit by Pope Pius IX, Virginio Vespignani was commissioned to build a neoclassical arch for the southern facade. This marble gate was to serve as the entrance to the square from the Porta Romana.
In the 18th century, people used to watch a festival of wild boar hunting and slaughter from the loggia of the palazzo.
What to see
On the facade there are three commemorative plaques. The first one refers to the annexation of Orvieto to the just founded country Italy in 1860. The second commemorates the silver wedding anniversary of Umberto and Margerita of Savoy in 1892 and the third the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the city on 11 September 1910.
The paintings gracing the meeting room of the Palazzo Comunale show the castles that used to be subject to Orvieto: Civitella d’Agliano, Monteleone, Montegabbione, San Venanzo, Ripalvella, Palazzo Bovarino, Collelongo, Poggiovalle and Bandita del Monte, San Vito and Benano.
In the wall of the central hall of the palace, there is a fragment of a Roman sarcophagus. It shows a relief with a wedding scene.