Della Corgna Palace

Vista grandangolare di una stanza di palazzo della Corgna. Sopra le luminose finestre sulla parete di destra, si erge un soffitto maestosamente affrescato con varie scene e numerosissime grottesche.

Della Corgna Palace: The Historical Context

Right in front of the Cathedral, one of the most beautiful lordly mansions in Città della Pieve rises, the Della Corgna Palace. A study on this building cannot make without the personality of its first owner, Ascanio Della Corgna, and the time period he lived in.
After 1527 – the year of the Sacco di Roma, the raid of the German Imperial army against Rome – French troops raided and ravaged in retaliation Città della Pieve, that had always been pro-Emperor. Two years later, the town was directly subjected to Papal power by having its governors chosen by the Pontiff himself. So, in 1550, Pope Julius III (whose statue can be seen on the staircase of Perugia's Cathedral) chose his nephew Ascanio della Corgna as a governor. He would distinguish himself in the Battle of Lepanto, 1571, against the Turkish fleet.
So, at the same time as the main church in Città della Pieve became a true Cathedral, the building site of the imposing Della Corgna Palace was started.

Home, Sweet Monumental Home

The works were supervised by an architect from Perugia, Galeazzo Alessi, and obviously mirrored the new architectural trends of the 16th century.
As a matter of fact, many private palaces were built in Italian towns during the 16th century. They still maintained the order and regularity of 15th century architecture, but were also enriched with classical-like elements such as half pilasters, pillars, trabeations, cornices, so as to make them monumental. These features are easy to detect on the façade of the Della Corgna Palace – as well as in several buildings in Rome, e.g. the Farnese Palace and Villa Giulia.
Externally, the palace looks like a firm, steady block, strongly asserting its emblematic and aristocratic status.

The Interiors

The Grotesques

Inside, both walls and ceiling are covered with wonderful frescoes whose subject matters come from mythology and the Bible. They are further embellished by so-called grotesques, that Giorgio Vasari termed “painted oddities.” This kind of decoration became very successful in Italian art after the discovery of Nero's Domus Aurea (Golden Palace) in Rome, whose walls were covered with thin drawings that created complex architectures, or botanic and animal motifs. Immediately, many artists took the habit of going down into those “grottoes,” actually the underground remains of the Roman palace; and would spread this ornamental style everywhere. Among them was Perugino, who reproduced it in the “Noble College of the Exchange” in Perugia.

The Frescoes

Among the scenes painted in the palace rooms, well known is a fresco made by Nicolò Circignani in the Governor's Hall. It is called The Concert because it shows a group of Muses who play different instruments; actually, it exalted the Della Corgna family, whose leaders had recently obtained the title of Marquises.
Staircases and arcades are frescoed with personifications of Virtues, cardinal (prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance) and theological (faith, hope, love/charity). In the main hall, the pictures of gods and goddesses are apparently taken from the mythological tales in Ovid's Metamorphoses. 

A New Life for an Unfinished Work

The building of the palace was interrupted, and never completed, especially because of the hostility between Ascanio Della Corgna and the local population. In 1643 the palace was confiscated by the Camera Apostolica (Papal Administration). It would first belong to a Roman family named Amidei, then another, named Mazzuoli. The latter had beautiful Venetian floors made in the Sala Grande (main hall) and Sala Rossa (red hall).

The Francesco Melosio Library

Since 1985, the first floor of the palace has been housing the Francesco Melosio Library, belonging to the Town Hall. It vaunts an important book patrimony: 48,000 volumes, many of which can be consulted online. The most noticeable part is represented by the Old Stock (Fondo Antico), that includes many manuscripts; among which, a precious 15th century Antiphonary, a book for Church choir songs. Its pages are embellished by fine miniatures.
Just at the library entrance, visitors will be welcomed by a surprising archaeological object – an imposing Etruscan obelisk. It was probably an element in a temple that existed near a place now called Poggio Cavaliere, Lazio.

The Natural History Museum

At the second floor you may want to visit a Museum for Natural History and the Territory, where many kinds of specimens are on exhibition, minerals, rocks, fossils, etc. The specimens were gathered by a geologist, Antonio Verri, and an agronomist, Paolo De Simone, who worked in this area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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