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Court Square (Piazza di Corte)


Court Square (Piazza di Corte)


After a long economic and social decline, Ariccia underwent a new golden age under the Chigi and was completely redesigned by Gian Lorenzo Bernini on behalf of Pope Alexander VII Chigi (1655–1667).

Bernini worked in Ariccia between 1662 and 1673, assisted by Carlo Fontana, Mattia de Rossi, his younger brother Luigi Bernini, and Giovan Battista Contini. Not only did they build Chigi Palace, but they oversaw the redesign of Chigi Park, the city road system and the infrastructural network, as well as the restoration of the Complex of Saint Nicholas, of the Sanctuary of Galloro, and the construction of the Roman Gate. Moreover, they designed the Piazza di Corte (Court Square) which was to resemble a sumptuous and spectacular Baroque court. At the end of the work, Piazza di Corte hosted the complex of the Collegiate of the Assumption with the two lateral guest houses (Casini), the Chigi Stallions, two fountains with basins and the Neapolitan Gate. This makes Chigi Palace and the Court Square one of the most exceptional and unitary architectural complexes of Roman Baroque.

The chronology of the restoration work in Piazza di Corte is very well-documented and precise: the Collegiate of the Assumption was built between spring 1662 and spring 1664. The construction of the two Casini, symmetrically placed on the two sides of the Church, Casino del Ministro (House of the Minister) and Casino del Governatore (House of the Governor), was carried out in the same period and at a rapid pace, since it would have hosted not only the families of senior officials, but offices for administration of justice and prisons as well. The two buildings are introduced by an elegant arcade of massive coupled columns, inspired by Michelangelo's arcades of the Campidoglio in Rome and connected to the church through a theatrical exedra behind the church itself.

In 1664 the architects levelled the square and enriched it with decorative elements such as the two fountains in front of the Casini facades. By demolishing older buildings and using clever architecture to support the Piazza, Bernini managed to transform a steep surface into a plain square.

In 1665 the renovation of the Fountain of the Three Spouts and the Stallions’ (the stables) construction began.

The last monuments to be finished were Chigi Palace and the Neapolitan Gate, which were completed in August 1673 and remained the main access to the town until the Monumental Bridge was built in the 19th century. The Gate also offers a spectacular view of Vallericcia, the site of ancient Aricia.

Near the Neapolitan Gate one can also see the Casino Stazi, which was transformed in the 19th century into the famous Martorelli Inn, and the 18th-century Antonini Palace with its facade framed by pilasters with impressions of ionic capitals, a smooth ashlar base and a trapezoidal three-arched portico housing the Fountain of the Three Sprouts.

Prepared by

Museo Senza Frontiere, Saverio Capozzi, sulla base di materiale fornito da:
arch. Francesco Petrucci; © Museum With No Frontiers (MWNF).

Piazza di Corte, veduta dal Ponte Monumentale © Palazzo Chigi Ariccia

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