Palazzo del Capitaniato
The palazzo del Capitaniato, also known as loggia del Capitanio or loggia Bernarda, is a palazzo in Vicenza, northern Italy, designed by Andrea Palladio in 1565 and built between 1571 and 1572. It is located on the central Piazza dei Signori, facing the Basilica Palladiana. The palazzo is actually used by the town council. It was decorated by Lorenzo Rubini and, in the interior, with frescoes by Giovanni Antonio Fasolo. Since 1994 the palace is part of the "City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto" World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

When one compares the Gothic arches of the Palazzo Ducale in Venice to the loggias of Palladio’s Basilica, inspired by the classical language of ancient Rome (and even more if one compares the 16th century (Cinquecento) palaces of Vicenza with those on the Grand Canal) the Vicentines’ desire to emphasise a cultural autonomy from the architectural models of La Serenissima becomes quite clear. Nevertheless, twenty years later, when the Citizen Council commissioned for the same piazza the refacing of the official residence of the Venetian Captaincy, the military head in charge of the city on behalf of the Venetian Republic, Palladio would still be the protagonist of the undertaking, and the contest, if any, was between two extraordinary architectures rising one in front of the other. It is extremely rare that any architect has the possibility to intervene twice in the same place, with an interval of twenty years. The young architect of the Basilica, then still under the supervision of Giovanni da Porlezza, was by now the celebrated author of several important buildings: churches, palaces and villas for the dominant élite of the Veneto. Palladio chose that the two buildings not converse: confronting the purism of the Basilica’s double-storey arcades (in white stone and devoid of decoration, if one ignores the design of architectural elements like the frieze, keystones and statues) are the Loggia’s colossal engaged Composite columns stemming the tide of very rich stucco decorations. Both the use of the giant order and this decorative richness are twin traits peculiar to Palladio’s language in the last decade of his life. However, the chromatic contrast between the white of the stone and the red of the brick (even though desired by Palladio in the Convento della Caritàin Venice) is only the product of the original surfaces’ degradation: ample remains of the light stucco which once covered the bricks are still quite visible, just below the great Composite capitals. The Palladian loggia substituted an analogous, structure which had stood on the same site from the Middle Ages, and which had already been reconstructed at least twice during the Cinquecento: a covered public loggia on the ground floor and an audience hall on the upper storey. The new construction became economically viable in April 1571 and works began immediately. Palladio supplied the last drawings for the moulding templates in March 1572 and by the end of that year the building was roofed if Giannantonio Fasolo could paint the lacunars of the audience hall and Lorenzo Rubini execute the stuccoes and statues. While the upper hall displays a flat, coffered ceiling, the ground floor loggia has a sophisticated vault covering, certainly to better sustain the weight of the hall. The overall design is extremely sophisticated, as for example the portals which open within the niches and follow their curvature. It is fruitless to engage in the sterile and age-old debate on the hypothesised intentional extension of the loggia to five (or seven) bays. What is altogether more interesting is Palladio’s compositional liberty, designing in a radically different manner the façade onto the Piazza to that on the Contra’ del Monte, thereby somewhat rupturing the building’s unitary logic. On closer observation, however, Palladio limited himself to applying an adequate response to different situations: the piazza’s broad visual frontage (also bearing in mind the dimensional constraints of the narrow façade) made necessary the powerful verticalising of the giant order; the reduced dimensions both of the building’s flank and of the Contra’ del Monte itself obliged the use of a more temperate order. Moreover, the façade onto the Contra’ del Monte would be used as a sort of perennial triumphal arch recording the victory gained by the Venetian forces over the Turks at the battle of Lepanto in October 1571.

  • The Loggia del Capitanio in the CISA website (source for the first revision of this article, with kind permission)

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