Le Virtu’ Cardinali

March 24, 2016 / Art & Archaeology
Perugia, Umbria

One entrance of the Palazzo dei Priori (lit. Palace of the First-Citizens, aka town hall)…


…is to the Collegio del Cambio (lit. the College of the Exchange, aka the HQ of the bankers’ guild).


Inside the guild are numerous rooms, one of which is the Sala delle Udienze (lit. the Hearings Hall, aka the conference room)…


…which contains a number of paintings by il Perugino (lit. the Perugian, aka Pietro Vannucci, teacher of Raphael).

As befits the conference room of a bankers’ guild, these paintings are loaded with symbolism, for you to decide whether to serve as inspiration or admonition for the bankers.

In any case, two of the paintings in particular are the topic of today’s note. Each one represents two virtues as idealized figures floating above six historical figures who embody those respective virtues. The painting of Fortitude and Temperance…


…depicts these two virtues above six heroes: Lucius Licinius Crassus, King Leonidas, Horatius Cocles, Scipio Africanus, Pericles, and Cincinnatus.


While the painting of Prudence and Justice…


…instead depicts six sages: Fabius Maximus, Socrates, Numa Pompilius, Marcus Furius Camillus, Pittacus, and Trajan.


They seem curious, folkloric even, straight out of forgotten, musty Classical History class texts. Yet, these are the four Cardinal Virtues of the Western world. Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero addressed them. Later (together with the three theological virtues; faith, hope, and charity) they also become the virtues of Christendom, through the writings of Saints Ambrose, Augustine, and Aquinas among others.

Not so in vogue nowadays maybe, démodé if you will. However, maybe these 2500+ year old benchmarks used by most of our ancestors might yet “serve as inspiration or admonition” for us as well?

(Collegio del Cambio photo courtesy of Georges Jansoone, CC BY 3.0; Palazzo dei Priori courtesy of Geobia, CC BY-SA 3.0)


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

5 Responses to “Le Virtu’ Cardinali”

  1. Marianna Raccuglia

    Thank you for this article. So interesting and photos are beautiful. I love the Umbria region and have taken many tours with the wonderful Anne Robichaud.
    Happy Easter to you and your staff.

  2. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks, GB..for the insight..and the four cardinal virtues are also in sculpture in the guildhall entry way and in gilded carvings in Perugia’s nearby – also stunning – Collegio della Mercanzia. When I offer tours in the guild halls, I always mention that any body undertaking legislation should do so with prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude – and the virtues should be depicted in the US Senate and the Italian Parliament, too! ;

  3. Bob Blesse

    Thanks, GB. Vicki and I must get back to Perugia, particularly since we are now living in Florence. It is so beautiful in Umbria and with spring upon us, it would be a good time to visit. Grazie! Bob

  4. Mairin O'Mahony

    Thank you for this wonderful reminder of a delightful city.
    A friend recently gave me an article from 2012 about the Principality of Seborga. Has there ever been a Note about this place? It sounds like this kind of intriguing place that we Notebookers would like to know more about!

  5. Virginia C. Mars

    These are virtues that we in the US could/should use in today’s toxic environment. The painting are beautiful, and the text is interesting and informative, as always. Thank you, GB


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