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The Guildhall Grand Staircase and the Municipal Square


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The Estense Ducal Palace

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The Guildhall Grand Staircase and the Municipal Square

Lo Scalone MunicipaleGrand Staircase

This imposing Grand Staircase leads to the main floor of the Guildhall with its elegant halls.
Built by the ducal architect Pietro di Benvenuto dagli Ordini, the project was probably executed in two phases.
The open staircase was built since 1473 while the building with marble columns, vaulted ceiling and the distinctive dome was completed only between 1479 and 1481. Here, architecture of venetian inspiration is fused with the medieval architecture typical of Ferrara.
Already, you can note an evolution in the language of composition, in the typology of elements and decorative details, hinting to the new renaissance shapes that Ferrara will be able to reinterpret becoming in itself a model for them.

Municipal Square

From the Grand Staircase there is an excellent view of the Municipal Square, originally the Ducal ‘court’. Here took place some among the first stage representations of the Reinassance: many classic comedies were put up by the Estensi, like Plauto’s Menecmi, acted in 1487 in its vulgar translation, to which assisted also the teenage Ludovico Ariosto.

The Volto del Cavallo was the original access to the ‘court’ and to the Ducal Palace. On the sides of the great entrance arch are an extremely elegant small arch and a column, on which are placed respectively the marquis Nicolò III on a horse and the duke Borso d’Este sitting on a faldistorio. The two statues, completed in 1927 by the sculptor Giacomo Zilocchi, are copies of the XV Century originals. The originals, executed by skillful artists such as Nicolò Baroncelli, Antonio di Cristoforo and Domenico di Paris, were destroyed in 1796 during the French occupation. Original is Borso’s column, restored several times, as well as the XV Century small arch on which the equestrian statue rests, authoritatively attributed to Leon Battista Alberti and executed by Bartolomeo di Francesco.

Piazza Municipale, prospetto con il portale della Sala Estense, le finestre trilobate del piano nobile e la meridiana ottocentesca - Foto: Clara CoppiniOn the North side of the square is to be noted the Court Chapel, now Estense Hall, built in the latter half of the XV Century by the Duke Ercole I d’Este for his wife Eleonora d’Aragona and in honour of the Virgin Mary.
The monumental portal of this former church was composed with elements of varied origin in 1692, while the two XIX Century statues of Saint George and Saint Maurelio, sculpted by Francesco Vidoni, were here placed during the 1835 restoration.
The ancient church, transformed into a movie theatre in 1916-17, is now employed for conferences and shows.

The portal is inserted in an interesting façade, on which stand out the eight elegant trefoil windows of the main floor (latter half of he XV Century) and the sundial. The latter, recently restored, is dated from 1869 and is a work of the gnomonist Giovanni Zaffi, who also restored the sundial for the first time in 1888.

On the south side of the square stands out the narrow Volto del Cavalletto, one of the original accesses to the ‘court’. The façade at the entrance of via Garibaldi is characterised by the Volto della Colombina and by a reinassance lodge, modified in its upper part at the end of the XIX Century , when the engineer Giacomo Duprà endowed the XV Century building with its current features.

Image credits:

The Guildhall Grand Staircase
photo: Luca Cervi

The Municipal Square, the façade with the monumental portal of the Estense Hall, the trefoil windows of the main floor and the Sundial, dated from 1869.
photo: Clara Coppini

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