Palladio’s Vicenza

Charles Hind looks at the work of one of the most influential architects in the world, in his home city of Vicenza, northern Italy.

Next year will be the 500th anniversary of the birth of the world’s most influential architect. Some twentieth-century architects such as Le Corbusier might seem to have a better claim than Andrea Palladio (1508-80), but the Italian’s buildings and his influential book I Quattro Libri del’ Architettura (1570) have the advantage of age.  In his lifetime Palladio’s opinion was sought from Constantinople to Madrid.  Buildings reflecting his thoughts on architecture could be seen all over Europe in the seventeenth century and his influence had reached North America and India by the eighteenth.

It all started in a small city in northern Italy. Vicenza is situated in the Veneto, about 65 kilometres from Venice, under whose sway it had passed in 1404. Venice maintained close control over its subjects, who were constantly reminded of the presence of their masters. In the Piazza dei Signori of Vicenza stand smaller replicas of the two columns outside the Doge’s Palace in Venice bearing statues of St Theodore and the Winged Lion of St Mark, while opposite the Basilica, meeting place of the Vicentine nobles, is the Palazzo del Capitanio. This was the seat of one of the two Venetian governors, responsible for the administration of taxes and finance. But while the columns were erected in the fifteenth century by the Venetians, both Basilica and Palazzo were designed by Vicenza’s most famous son, who went on to become, in effect, state architect of Venice.

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