Ideal cities

Urbino and Cagli

The utopia of the "Ideal City" constitutes one of the most fascinating and evocative themes of the entire Renaissance, when the city regains its central role as a fundamental place for human activities. The architectural design of the ideal 15th century cities had to be able to organize and arrange the key points of political and social life in the city layout - such as public buildings, squares and fortifications - in a harmonious and modern way. Exemplary models of cities idealizations can still be found today in the cities of Urbino and Cagli, two essential nuclei of the ancient Dukes of Montefeltro, rich in artistic and architectural treasures. Urbino is characterized by an urban layout and a historic center dating back to the mid-15th century and still admirably preserved, such that it became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1998.

Among the sublime creations of Renaissance architecture, Palazzo Ducale of Urbino was the first princely residence of the 15th century, commissioned by Duke Federico da Montefeltro. Built according to Renaissance ideals and schemes, on the outside the building appears as an imposing brick palace with two wings that detach from the central body; one pushes south towards Palazzo dell'Università, the other projects north towards the side of the Cathedral. This last wing forms the so-called "two-wing façade" with the main façade, made by Francesco di Giorgio Martini. The most suggestive and original part of the building is the "façade of the little towers" realized by Laurana, which belongs to the western façade and can be reached by skirting the building on the side of Piazza Rinascimento. The Ducal Palace is home to the well-known National Gallery of the Marche. The latter displays masterpieces of international level, such as: "Flagellation" and "Madonna of Senigallia" by Piero della Francesca, "View of the ideal city" by Laurana, "La Muta" by Raphael and "Blessing Christ" of Bramantino. Beside the palace there’s the Cathedral, the religious center of the city, built by Muzio Oddi in 1604 and rebuilt between 1789 and 1801 by Valadier in a neoclassical style. Before the building can be found a wide staircase, and the palace is crowned by a high dome with large windows, buttresses and a lantern. From the Old Sacristy of the cathedral, you can access the Albani Diocesan Museum, made up of seven exhibition rooms that display the precious remains of the extraordinary artistic heritage of the Archdiocese of Urbino-Urbania-Sant'Angelo in Vado. Located on the corner between Piazza Rinascimento and Via Saffi, not far from Palazzo Ducale, stands Palazzo dell'Università, the ancient residence of the Montefeltro family. Founded in 1506, is now the head office of the cultural education that gives value, tone and vivacity to the entire city. After Palazzo Ducale, the most famous monument in the city is obviously the oratory of S. Giovanni Battista. Characterized by its 15th century pictorial decoration made by Salimbeni, the construction was completed in the last decade of the 14th century, although the façade, of Gothic imitation, was completed during the first years of the 20th century.

Inhabited in ancient times by the Umbrians and the Romans, Cagli was one of the citadels of the Byzantine mountain pentapolis (along with Fossombrone, Gubbio, Jesi and Urbino). Located on a spur of Mount Petrano, the ancient nucleus of Cagli includes ì Ponte Mallio, a mighty Roman structure presumably of Umbrian origin, restored during the Augustan era, with an arch composed of 26 wedges. Another fundamental element of the ancient nucleus is Palazzo Pubblico (of the Municipality), built in 1289 and remade in 1463 due to the will of Federico II of Urbino, which was later modified by Francesco di Giorgio Martini. The façade preserves the remains of the first construction and the Renaissance renovations; on the inside, the Archaeological and Via Flaminia Museum, has been rearranged and enriched, and collects finds from the Roman Cales. On the town’s main square stands the Concathedral of S. Maria Assunta (Duomo) characterized by an imposing façade with traces of Romanesque windows and flanked by a low bell tower, ending with an octagonal aedicule. The medieval cathedral was replaced by the current one in 1646, such that only a few traces remain of it, including the portal built in 1424 by Antonio di mastro Cristoforo da Cagli. The Cathedral Basilica of Cagli has a three-nave structure which, with its 54 meters in length, is counted among the great cathedrals of the Marche region.

On the right side of the Theater there’s the massive fortified tower of the Rocca which is part of the great system of fortifications of the fortress. It was built in 1481 by Francesco di Giorgio Martini for Federico II of Urbino, and destroyed in 1502 by his son Guidobaldo, who didn’t want Valentino to have it. Today, the building houses the Center for Contemporary Sculpture, born after the success of the "Pensieri Spaziali" exhibition, conceived in 1989 by Eliseo Mattiacci. As a matter of fact, with this exhibition was formed the idea of using the Martiniano Tower as the headquarters for the permanent exhibitions of an ever-expanding contemporary art collection.

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