Urbino and Cagli
The “Ideal City” utopia constitutes one of the most fascinating and evocative themes of the whole Renaissance, when the city takes back the role of central basic place for man’s activity. In fact, the 1400s ideal cities architectural design was supposed to be able of arranging and distributing in the urban fabric the key points of political and social life - such as public buildings, squares and fortifications - in a modern and harmonious manner. Prime examples of city’s idealization are still observable in the cities of Urbino and Cagli, two fundamental nucleus of the ancient duchy of Montefeltro, rich in artistic and architectural treasures. Urbino is characterized by a urban structure and an old-town center dating back to mid 1400 and still admirably preserved to be proclaimed UNESCO’s world heritage site in 1998. Among the finest architectural creation of the Renaissance, Urbino’s Palazzo Ducale was the first 1400s royal residence requested by duke Federico da Montefeltro. Built according to the Renaissance frameworks and ideals, on the outside the building presents itself as a majestic clay-brick bulk. From the central body two wings detach; one pushing south towards the University building and the other projected north towards the Cathedral side. The latter forms with the main façade the so-called “two winged façace”, artwork by Francesco di Giorgio Martini.
The most eccentric and evocative part of the building is the “torricini façade”, by Laurana, belonging to the original western façade and reachable by running through the building from Rinascimento square’s side. The Palazzo Ducale is the seat of the renowned National Gallery of the Marche. The latter safeguards international masterpieces such as: the “Flagellation” and “Virgin of Senigallia” by Piero della Francesca, the “Ideal city view” by Laurana, “Portrait of a Young Woman” by Raffaello and the “Blessing of Christ” by Bramantino. Next to the building is located the Cathedral, religious center completed by Muzio Oddi in 1604 and rebuilt between 1789-1801by Valadier in neoclassical style. The building is preceded by a wide staircase and surrounded by the high dome with big windows, buttresses and roof lantern. From the cathedral’s old sacristy there is the access to the Diocesan Museum Albani, composed by seven exhibition rooms safeguarding precious remains of the extraordinary artistic heritage of the Archdiocese of Urbino-Urbania-Sant’Angelo in Vado. Located on the corner of Rinascimento square and via Saffi, nearby the Palazzo Ducale, rises the University Building, ancient Montefeltro’s residence established in 1506 and headquarter of a cultural education giving pride and liveliness to the whole city life. Beyond the Palazzo Ducale, the most celebrated monument of the city is certainly the oratory of S. Giovanni Battista. Characterized by its 1400s pictorial decoration by Salimbeni’s brothers, the building was finished in the last decade of XIV century, even though the façade of gothic imitation, is dated the first 1900s. Populated by umbrians and romans in ancient times, Cagli stood among the strongholds of the mountain byzantine Pentapolis (with Fossombrone, Gubbio, Jesi and Urbino). Located on a spur of Mone Petrano, the ancient nucleus of Cagli includes Ponte Mallio (Mallio bridge), a majestic roman work of probable umbrian origin, renovated in the Augustan era, with a 26 voussoirs’ arch. Another essential element of the ancient nucleus is the Public Building, erected in 1289, rebuilt in 1463 at Federico II di Urbino’s will and on which later on put his hand also Francesco di Giorgio Martini. Within the building, whose façade preserves the remains of the first construction and of the Renaissance remakes, has been re-set and enriched the Archeological and the Via Flaminia Museum which guards the remains derived from the roman Cales. On the main square rises the Cathedral of S. Maria Assunta characterized by a majestic façade with traces of romanesque windows and flanked by the low bell tower completed by an octagonal aedicula. The medieval cathedral was replaced in 1646 by the current one, but few remains of the former building - such as the gate built in 1424 by Antonio di mastro Cristoforo da Cagli - have been preserved. The Cathedral of Cagli has a three naves structure that, with its 54 meters in length, is considered one of the biggest cathedral of the region. On the right of the Theatre is located the majestic Rocca’s fortified tower, part of the great Rocca’s defensive system built in 1481 by Francesco di Giorgio Martini for Federico II da Urbino and destroyed in 1502 by his son Guidobaldo who refused to cede it to the Valentino. Today the building hosts the Center for Contemporary Sculpture, born following the success of the exhibition “Pensieri Spaziali” (Space Thoughts), created in 1989 by Eliseo Mattiacci. With this exhibition, in fact, took shape the idea of allocating the Martinian Tower to permanent seat of an ever changing contemporary art collection.