Palazzo della Ragione-2012.07.13

Posted: July 13, 2012 in 7.13, Architecture & Place-Making, Bearing Masonry, Medieval, Padua, Urban

The Palazzo della Ragione is a Medieval town hall building in Padua, in the Veneto region of Italy. Located just south of the historic Caffè Pedrocchi, and a necessary destination for those meandering about the historic center of town, the picturesque open-air markets of Piazza delle Erbe (Square of the Herbs) and Piazza della Frutta (Square of Fruit) frame this massive 13th-century palazzo and have stood as the town’s political and commercial nucleus for centuries.

The building, with its great hall on the upper floor, is reputed to have the largest roof unsupported by columns in Europe; the hall is nearly rectangular, its length 81.5m, its breadth 27m, and its height 24 m; the walls are covered with allegorical frescoes; the building stands upon arches, and the upper storey is surrounded by an open loggia.

The Palazzo was begun in 1172 and finished in 1219. In 1306, Fra Giovanni, an Augustinian friar, covered the whole with one roof; originally there were three roofs, spanning the three chambers into which the hall was at first divided; the internal partition walls remained till the fire of 1420, when the Venetian architects who undertook the restoration removed them, throwing all three spaces into one and forming the present great hall, the Salone. The new space was refrescoed by Nicolò Miretto and Stefano da Ferrara, working from 1425 to 1440.

The interior is as impressive as its exterior. The two-story loggia-lined “Palace of Reason” is topped with a distinctive sloped roof that resembles the inverted hull of a ship, the largest of its kind in the world. Inside the building, a large wooden sculpture of a horse attributed to Donatello. The 15th-century frescoes are similar in style and astrological theme to those that had been painted by Giotto, and comprise one of the very few complete zodiac cycles to survive until modern times.

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