Palazzo del Podestà, Bergamo
Museum and Palace in Bergamo
In the shadow of the Campanone (Civic Tower), the Palazzo del Podestà houses the Museo del Cinquecento. On the ground floor, you can explore Roman Bergamo with its archaeological excavations, and on the first floor and see the wonderful frescoes of the Renaissance cavaedium.
History of Palazzo del Podestà, Bergamo
The history of the Palazzo del Podestà follows the history of Bergamo. Its position divided between two squares: piazza Vecchia, bureaucratic and administrative seat with the Palazzo della Ragione, and piazza del Duomo , clerical seat with the church of San Vincenzo and Sant’Alessandro , the Congregation of the Misericordia Maggiore , makes it a significant part of the city.
It was built in the twelfth century by the Suardi family of the Ghibelline faction , the notary deeds name it as Palazzo ex Zentilino Suardo and used as a residential building. The palace was built on a previous building of the Bragagnoli family as indicated in an act of 1192: “domo magna que fuit de Braghagnolis”, then demolished for the new building.  In 1222 the house is indicated in an act as the “brolo dei Suardi ” The bloody fights between the city families of faction or Guelph or Ghibelline, led the Suardi family to lose the ownership of the building which became, as indicated in a document of 1298, Hospitium potestatis, owned by the municipality and residence of the podestà until the end of the fourteenth century .  The Palazzo dei Suardi had some shops but as early as 1219 it was in the interest of the municipality to have this building that could be inserted to complete the public places in the city. and in 1237 the tower was referred to as “Turris Nova owned by the municipality”. The podestà Federico de Ponzoni had a fountain with a cistern built in 1294 to serve the palace and the surrounding ones. In 1296 the building suffered damage which required a first reconstruction completed in 1320 by the podestà Borolo di Castelletto, who had a plaque placed in memory of the end of the work, a hardly visible plaque. The buildings that made up the entire building were accessible from an entrance called: “porta Hospitii in quo est turris Comunis Pergami”. A document from 1263 describes the ancient access but in 1320 the podestà obtained permission from the bishop for a new opening through the courtyard of the curia, a necessary step to avoid crossing a construction site.
The shops located on the building are indicated until 1333, also as a consequence of the second great fire in 1360 , which turned out to be devastating and required its restoration, documented by the notary Benvenuto da Bonate: “die 6 madii 1360 in sero hora tertia incepit conurere Hospitatium Comunis Pergami in quo consuerat erat morari Potestas Pergami ”. For this reason the podestà had to live in a house nearby until 1374 when an act was drawn up on 9 March: “Hspicio Comunis Pergami olim conusto, et moviter refecto in quo moratur d. Petrus de Vivecomitibus de Mediolano Pergami Potestas in public council […] ”. With the reconstruction some parts of the previous building were no longer built. The main entrance appears to have been on the south facade towards the bishop’s palace called “Porta curie d. Potestatis ”where many other structures were later built.
In a notarial deed of 1427, the transfer of ownership from Zentilino Suardi to the brothers Giacomo, Felisio and Giovanni Avogadro is recorded, and from this act it is possible to reconstruct the structure of the building.
“Cassete a certain piece of land, be careful, and copate from it with many kilts and curtives and with many stations lying around in the city of Pergamum in the neighborhood of Sancti Maphei, to which the prisons of the Municipality of Pergamum will be connected from the morning either to one side of the street of the new Commune of Pergamum from the south or to the other side from the late or from the other side of the heir of Lord Peter de Suardis, from the mountain or to the other side of the public road”
The Venetian period
The fifteenth century was a century of many changes for the Orobic city and its territory, with the advent in 1428 of the Venetian rule , which changed the appearance of the city and the destination of the different buildings. In 1443 Giacomo Suardi sold his portion of the building to the Mia Foundation for this reason the podestà had to pay a rent of 30 gold ducats to the Avogadri family and the same amount to the Misericordia Maggiore. The palace was enlarged, an entrance on the square was opened and the external staircase was inserted that connected it to the hall of the trusses of the Palazzo della Ragione , and took the name of Palazzo dei Giuristi , with this name the southern part of the civic tower is still identified.
The ground floor of the building became the fiscal chamber, seat of the chamberlain, the podestà and the captain: together they formed the judicial power, there was the judge at the Reason for civil practices and the judge at the Maleficio for criminal cases.
In 1477 the facade was painted by Bramante with the depiction of the Seven wise men called Li philosophi of antiquity and plaques bearing inscriptions, the few traces of these frescoes are preserved in the museum of the Capriate hall .
The palace suffered a major fire in 1770 , in particular the southernmost part, which required a major renovation.
The modern era
During the Napoleonic occupation and the formation of the Cisalpine Republic , the building became the seat of the Court of Justice and the Provincial Court. The location of these institutional headquarters was moved to the lower part of the city in the nineteenth century , to the new buildings , leaving the halls of the building empty and abandoned.
In the twentieth century the premises changed their intended use: in 1926 they housed the Civic Museum of Natural History , which was subsequently moved to the Visconti citadel ; the high school of journalism of the Catholic University of Milan; in 1961 the two-year post-graduate school of journalism and from 16 November 1968 the seat of the consortium for the establishment of university faculties, by the will of the Municipality of Bergamo, the Provincial Administration, and the Chamber of Commerce for the education of university faculties. It then became a state body in 1992 .
In 2001 the palace and the historical monuments underwent research by the municipality and the superintendence of the archaeological heritage of Lombardy with a series of both cartographic and archaeological investigations, designed by Francesco Macario, which led to the discovery of an important archaeological stratigraphy. , up to a depth of 2.50 m, bringing to light the proto-urban environment of the proto-historic period, from the VI-V century BC, of imperial Rome of the pavement of piazza Vecchia. The excavations have allowed the stratigraphic reconstruction of the city from the Roman era to the modern era. The research was able to reconstruct not only the history of the building but also that of its urban context.
Visiting Palazzo del Podestà, Bergamo
10am-1pm & 2.30-6pm Tue-Fri, 10am-7pm Sat & Sun
adult/reduced incl Torre del Campanone €5/3