La Basilica Palladiana

October 30, 2012 / Art & Archaeology
Vicenza, Veneto
Widely considered to be the most influential individual in the history of Western architecture, Renaissance master builder Andrea Palladio created an architectural style known the world over as Palladianism.

The epicenter of his life’s work is stunningly on display in Vicenza — “City of Palladio” — in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.

Within the historic city walls, 23 individual buildings or sections of buildings were designed, reconstructed or attributed to Palladio. Among these is the just-restored Basilica Palladiana (f.n.a. Palazzo della Ragione).

Standing ornate alongside Vicenza’s “living room” — Piazza dei Signori — the Basilica was originally constructed in the 15th century and served as the seat of government. When part of the building collapsed, Palladio was commissioned, in 1549, to breath new life into it.

He redesigned the structure, adding a new outer-shell of columns and arches in the classic Roman style, a loggia and a portico. These refinements covered completely the building’s original Gothic style. Unfortunately, the renovation project was not finished until 1614, nearly 35-years after Palladio’s death.

Fast-forward 500 years, and today the Basilica is as good as new. After a five-year restoration project, at a cost of nearly $30 million dollars, Vicenza recently reopened the master’s palace to much fanfare.

In honor of Palladio, a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of 90 pieces of priceless art – Raffaello verso Picasso – is on display inside the Basilica until January 20, 2013. Along with works from the two headliners, the exhibition also features masterpieces by Botticelli, Veronese, El Greco, Rembrandt and Van Gogh, just to name a few.

It’s really hard to imagine that before Palladio’s passage through Vicenza, it was arguably one of the more downtrodden and esthetically lacking cities of the old Republic of Venice. Today, thanks to the young stonemason, the “City of Palladio” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

by Tom Weber

Tom is a veteran print-broadcast journalist who resides in the Colli Euganei (Euganean Hills) in the province of Padova in the Veneto region of northestern Italy. He hosts the eclectic travel/foodie/photography blog The Palladian, is a regular contributor to Los Angeles-based, and is a member of the International Travel Writers Alliance. Feel free to follow Tom as he “meanders along the cobblestone to somewhere.”

11 Responses to “La Basilica Palladiana”

  1. Pat Carney-Ceccarelli

    I like this too! >Noticed that Ruth Pellegrini and Anna Darah like it,Tom, so want to say hello to them!! What a nice community italiannotebook has!!Regards fromme in Campiglia. Oh incidently, I queried my local farmer about why our red onions were not sweet but have a bit of a”bite”- he says it’s the difference in the soil….

  2. Hi Pat,

    Everything, it seems, depends on the soil. Next time at the supermercato just pick up a small bag of the Reds of Tropea.

  3. Wish I were there to take in all the wonders of Palladio,and on top of it the great exhibition

  4. Louise – Next time you come to Italy, if you’re not already here, you should plan to come to Vicenza. Sure, the art exhibit is over in January, but all those 500-year-old Palladian buildings and villas will be here when you come.

  5. Hello Tom, Thank-you for your story of Palladio and Vicenza. We were lucky enough to have made a special trip to Vicenza to see some of Palladio’s buildings, whilst in Venezia a couple of weeks ago. Apart from the the amazing architecture, we were also very impressed with the cleanliness and the way the city was so well organised, with regards to not allowing cars into the old part of town. This shows foresight by the local commune. It was a city that we will revisit and spend more time exploring.

    • Ave – Happy that you had a nice side trip to Vicenza during your stay in Venezia. Come back whenever you like. Tom


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