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Orvieto (Umbria), Italy

Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo

 
 

The Palace of the Captain of the People is historically one of the main landmarks of the civic life of Orvieto, even if over the centuries it has been used for different purposes, not always of institutional importance.

Even today, after all, the building has no public function and is used as a congress and conference centre.

Who was the Captain of the People

The captain of the people was a very important figure in medieval Italy, because he was the representative of the emerging bourgeoisie and workers in the city assemblies, which were held in the large hall on the upper floor. 

It is no coincidence that we can find this figure in all the main municipalities of the time, especially in central northern Italy. In essence, the captain of the people opposed the figure of the Podestà, which was instead an expression of nobles and knights.

The history of the Palace of the Captain of the People

The palace, dating back to the thirteenth century, was originally built at the behest of the Pope, but was soon ceded to the municipality of Orvieto to house the administration.

Thus, the palace housed the captain of the people until this figure had an institutional role in the city administration of the Middle Ages. 

Subsequently, other public offices, including the papal vicars and the mayor, resided there. One of the rooms of the building was assigned to the Studium of Law and Theology in the 17th century for university lessons.

It was in the seventeenth century that the city decided to use the upper floor of the structure as a theatre and probably the rooms on the ground floor also served as a warehouse for costumes and stage material. The opening of the Mount of Piety dates back to more or less the same period, and for several years it was located on the lower floor of the Palace of the People.

Subsequently, at street level, there were shops, boutiques and businesses open to the public and only recently has the Palace of the Captain of the People become a welcoming and well-equipped conference centre for cultural activities.

Today the structure cannot be visited from the inside, but proudly displays its wonderful external appearance to the visitors, which has recently been renovated and restored to its former glory.

Advantages and characteristics of the structure

The Palace of the Captain of the People is a magnificent building on two floors, characterized by large round arches on the ground floor and a series of elegant three-light windows on the upper floor.

The structure is completed by a large external staircase and the bell tower, which was added later on. Among other things, the tower housed the famous bell with the symbols of 25 arts and crafts, later transferred to the Moro Tower, where it is still located.

A jewel that has been restored to its former glory

In its long history, the Palace of the People has gone through periods of splendour, alternating with centuries in which the city has not been able to enhance its immense artistic value. During its darkest periods, the Palace also experienced significant damage, such as that suffered by the three-mullioned windows and the upper battlements.

It is for this reason that great importance must be given to the most recent renovations, such as that of the late nineteenth century (reconstruction of the loggia, renovation of the staircase and the roof) and late twentieth century in which, among other things, has restored the peculiar series of battlements that gives even more grace to the structure as a whole. 

However, during the works, the remains of an ancient aqueduct with a medieval cistern and traces of an Etruscan temple of the fifth century were also found.

Today the Palace of the Captain of the People continues to attract thousands of visitors every year, who love to stop in the People' s Square to admire the beauty and enjoy a relaxing break in the open air, in an atmosphere rich in art and history.