PIAZZA VECCHIA, Palazzo Della Ragione And Campanone

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Palazzo della Ragione was one of the first public buildings to be erected in the Middle Ages, with the ground floor open like a portico, where the local people would gather during moments of community life.

It was built between 1183 and 1198, and once looked onto Piazza del Duomo, but when this square was built in 1453, the main entrance was moved to this side, and the monumental covered staircase was built.

The most elegant elements can be seen on the façade: take a moment to admire the triple-arch windows and the Venetian-style loggia. The lion of St Mark, the symbol of Venice, is present here because Bergamo was under the control of Venice from 1428 to the end of the 18th century.

You can see other lions of St. Mark on the gates into the city. These are not originals, however; in 1958, the Municipal Council of Bergamo decided to replace them there as part of a project to restore and enhance the gates into Upper Bergamo. Take another admiring look at the Campanone, as the locals call the Civic Tower.

Built in the early decades of the 11th century, the tower was home to the Suardi noble family, one of the most powerful in the city.

In those turbulent times, in which the various factions in the city would do battle with weapons in the streets, it was not uncommon among wealthy families to build towers to live in, to guarantee their safety: the taller the tower, the greater the prestige it brought the family.

For this reason, Bergamo was known at the time as the city of a hundred towers. To give you an idea, try imagining a sort of medieval Manhattan!

The tower was purchased by the Municipal Council, raised to a height of 56 meters, and the bells were installed, including the large bell, or campanone from which the tower takes its local name.

 

Before I go, an interesting fact: on the pavement outside Palazzo della Ragione, there is a sundial installed in 1728; if you go there at 12 noon GMT on the dot and follow the ray of light that filters through the hole in the disk hanging from the arches of the building until it hits the pavement, you’ll see that it points to the date and the zodiac sign of the day.

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