Vicenza, the city shaped by the genius of Palladio is an unmissable stop for every traveller on holiday in Veneto.
Rich in history, ancient palaces and Palladian villas, as well as delicious traditions, it will fill your eyes with so much beauty. In this article, we will tell you about the Palladian Basilica, the symbol of the city and the masterpiece par excellence of Andrea Palladio.
ThePalladian Basilica in Vicenza: the most important historical monument in Vicenza
Designed by architect Andrea Palladio (1508 - 1580), considered the most important Venetian architect of the sixteenth century, the work was completed in 1614 and is the consecration of the Palladian style, or the recovery of the languageof classical architecture without forgetting the functional needs that a building should possess.
In 1549, the Council of the Hundred, the governing body of Vicenza, entrusted Palladio with the task of rebuilding the old Palazzo della Ragione that was originally a large Gothic brick building and served as the meeting room of the Grand Council.
The first nucleus of the Palladian Basilica was constituted by the Palazzo della Ragione, seat of the city public judiciary and with shops on the ground floor, built recovering some existing medieval public buildings between 1449 and 1460.
Tradition attributes the design to master Domenico da Venezia of the large upper hall with a wooden roof of an overturned ship's hull covered with lead plates.
In 1481, work began to surround three sides of the building with a loggia, while the staircase leading to the upper loggia was built by Pietro Lombardo in 1495.
In 1496 the collapse of the south west corner of the loggias gave rise to a heated debate on the reconstruction involving the most important architects of the time: Jacopo Sansovino, Sebastiano Serlio, Michele Sanmicheli and Giulio Romano.
The approval of Palladio's project in May 1549 marked the artistic consecration of the architect who proposed an innovative solution.
Andrea Palladio wrapped the old walls of the building with a two-story portico characterised by marble columns, making the structure able to take into account the necessary alignments with the openings and breaches of the pre-existing fifteenth-century building.
The idea of Palladio is based on a structure made of overlapping arches and in which the dominant element is an arch flanked by two rectangular lateral openings of varying width, to compensate for the difference in width of the spans.
This structure is named "serliana” and the name comes from the architect Sebastiano Serlio (1475 - 1554/1555) who had described this architectural typology, and known since antiquity, in his "Treatise on Architecture".
With this structure Palladio managed to incorporate the old two-storey building, regularising its shape and creating a new structure inspired by the classic style. It was Palladio in person who gave the building the name of "Basilica” because the term "basilica" did not indicate a church in the 16th century but rather a meeting room or a civil service.
The building is imposing, but it is only inside that you can perceive the enormous dimensions of the loggia and above all of the room on the first floor, where temporary exhibitions are currently taking place.
The Palladian Basilica was included by UNESCO in the list of world heritage assets in 1994 and it became a National Monument in 2014.
Between 2007 and 2012 the Basilica underwent an important architectural restoration, for the conservation of the structure and to make the building functional.
It was reopened to the public on 5th October 2012 and the conservative intervention was awarded the "European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage - Our Europe Awards 2014" in Vienna for the conservation of cultural heritage.
The Basilica’s Terrace is also accessible since 2014 from which you can enjoy an unparalleled view of the city of Vicenza. The terrace houses a bar and offers, during the opening periods, the possibility of an aperitif in the most exclusive location in the city.