Palazzo Ducale, Modena

Palace in Modena

Palazzo Ducale, Modena
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Teo Pollastrini

The majestic Baroque palace, commissioned by Duke Francesco I d’Este in 1634, was conceptualized by Bartolomeo Avanzini, with insights from celebrated architects of that era. Notably grand, it ranks among Europe’s most esteemed palaces and served as the Este court’s home until its last duke, Francesco V of Asburgo-Este in 1859. Today, the illustrious Military Academy of Modena resides within.

Historically, this edifice replaced a castle constructed in 1291 by Obizzo d’Este, Marquis of Ferrara, and renovated roughly fifty years after. This castle was a convergence point for Modenese canals, flowing towards the Po, encircling the fortress. Modena emerged as the Este duchy’s capital in 1598 post-Ferrara’s devolution to the Pope. Duke Cesare d’Este, finding the castle inadequate for a European court’s demands, had his successor, Duke Francesco I d’Este, commission the new palace in 1634. Esteemed architects like Girolamo Rainaldi, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Francesco Borromini, and Pietro Da Cortona contributed to its design.

The palace’s facade features three aligned tiers of windows, adorned with statues on balustrades, and varying elevations in its central and side sections. The Cortile d’Onore is a paragon of Baroque design, boasting a two-story loggia. This courtyard leads to the Scalone d’Onore, embellished with Roman statues, opening up to the state rooms.

After the Estensi dynasty’s departure and the former duchy’s merger with Piedmont, the Savoy Royal House inherited the Palace. King Vittorio Emanuele II, during his inaugural visit to Modena in 1860, bequeathed it to the Military Infantry School. Following the World Wars, which saw the palace endure damage, President Enrico De Nicola reinstated the Palazzo Ducale to the Military Academy in 1947, its current inhabitant.

About the Military Academy:

The Military Academy, evolving from the 1678-established Military Academy of Savoy, grooms prospective officers for the Italian Army and Carabinieri. Initially catering to young European elites, it pivoted in 1756 to exclusively training officers. Modena’s Military Academy was established in 1757 by Duke Francesco III d’Este. However, its trajectory underwent multiple shifts—ranging from Napoleon’s appreciation during its phase as the Military Engineering and Artillery School to its 1947 resettlement in Palazzo Ducale post the Republic’s inception. In 1950, President Enrico De Nicola conferred upon the academy a coat of arms with the motto “Una acies” (Unified Front).

The Palazzo Ducale, Modena appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Modena!

This website uses affiliate links which may earn a commission at no additional cost to you!

Visiting Palazzo Ducale, Modena


The visits take place on Saturday and Sunday and are organized and coordinated by Modenatur.



Address: Palazzo Ducale di Modena, Piazza Roma, Modena, Province of Modena, Italy
Duration: 1 hours

Nearby Attractions