What's a Palazzo della Ragione?
The origin of the name
In Italy there are about ten buildings called “Palazzo della Ragione”. What does it mean? What are Palazzi della Ragione?
These are large public buildings of medieval origin used for the administration of municipal cities. They house large halls, often richly decorated, dedicated to the meetings of the government offices at the head of the cities.
They were also often the seat of the courts where citizens turned to plead their “reasons” hence the name of the buildings. Another version derives the etymology of the name from the fact that the buildings also housed the tax offices. These offices were also called accountancy, hence “Reason”.
The Palazzo della Ragione in Verona
In 1117 a devastating earthquake razed the city of Verona to the ground. In addition to collapsing the outer ring of the Arena, giving it the shape that can still be seen today, the earthquake destroyed what was the ancient Roman forum. On those ruins the first nucleus of the Town Hall was built which in the fourteenth century, under the Scaligeridynasty, became the court. With the Venetian domination the palace assumed more and more this role; at the end of the 1400s it housed only the court, judicial offices and prisons. It was in that period that it began to be called Palazzo della Ragione.
In the following centuries it housed a market, in the internal courtyard, shops, houses and warehouses of salts and tobacco. At the beginning of the 19th century, the first nucleus of the Academy of Fine Arts. Today, after a long restoration, it houses the Achille Forti Modern Art Gallery.
Architecture and curiosities
The building as we see it today is the result of a series of alterations. The oldest part was an austere building with at least three towers of which today only the Torre dei Lamberti remains. The Tower stands 84 meters high and housed the first bell of the city. It was raised in the 1400s by the Venetians after a lightning bolt damaged it. A large clock has been showing the hours since 1779.
The rest of the building has undergone significant interventions following three devastating fires, in 1218, 1541 and 1723. The oldest parts are visible on the side of Via della Costa, where the walls are decorated with a motif of alternating lines of stones and bricks. A curiosity: entering Via della Costa from Piazza delle Erbe you pass under an arch connecting with the adjacent building. Under the arch hangs a gigantic bone tied to a chain. Maybe a whale rib or an ancient ichthyosaur fossil? A war prey brought back by soldiers returning from the Crusades in the Holy Land? The sign of an old pharmacy? Or the mortal remains of the Devil who fell to earth?
The Palazzo della Ragione in Padua
This Palace was built as the seat of the city court in 1218, on an area already densely urbanized. At a depth of 7 meters, under the street level, a Roman domus was discovered and today the ancient mosaics that decorated its floors can be visited.
A century later, at the beginning of the 14th century, Giovanni degli Eremitani modified it, raising it and building the roof that can still be seen today.
The Palace is located between two squares, of herbs and fruit, the commercial center of the city for centuries. The building is also connected, by a suspended corridor, with the adjacent Palazzo Comunale, the Torre degli Anziani and Palazzo Moroni, the seat of the Municipality.
A floating roof!
The roofing of the Palazzo della Ragione was entrusted to Giovanni degli Eremitani in 1306. Giovanni had developed a very particular cover called the “overturned ship hull”. It is a self-supporting vault with pointed wooden arches covered with lead plates. This solution made it possible to cover the hall with a roof without columns or pillars. If you turn your head up in the lounge, you will feel like you are inside a ship!
Don’t get too distracted though, because the hall also houses two Egyptian sphinxes brought by Giovan Battista Belzoni, a Paduan adventurer who was the first to enter the Pyramid of Chefren. And if you avoid the sphinxes, pay attention to the Pietra del Vituperio where, since the 1200s, insolvent debtors dressed only in shirts and underwear sat to give up all their assets in favor of creditors.
In our shopyou will find the series of 3D Postcards of Verona and Padua. To create perfect models you can follow our tips.